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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Gut-Brain Communication: How a Resident Microbe in the Brain Prevents Weight Gain in Animals Fed a High Fat Diet

Obesity is widespread in the United States, occurring in 37 percent of adults and 18 percent of children.  Causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial. This project funds research to look at asymptomatic infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which occurs in about 33 percent of the world’s population (but used to occur in nearly 100 percent. Toxoplasma results in fat malabsorption and reduced weight gain irrespective of diet.

Understanding the mechanism through which Toxoplasma, a member of the human biota that resides primarily in the brain, protects against weight gain could lead to the development of novel therapeutics to reduce fat absorption and obesity, a significant and costly clinical problem. The research plan incorporates data from both animal models and patient databases/specimens.

Laura Knoll, Associate Professor of Medical Microbiology


Federico Rey, Assistant Professor of Bacteriology


Kristen Malecki, Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences


Daniel Amador-Noguez, Assistant Professor of Bacteriology