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NEI Hosts Conference on Ocular Toxoplasmosis

NEI recently hosted a conference on ocular toxoplasmosis at the Lawton Chiles International House. Scientific and clinical experts from the United States, Europe, Africa and South America assembled to discuss research activities and disseminate information on ocular toxoplasmosis, and to build a framework for future research and therapeutic development.

Chairing the workshop was NEI's Dr. Charles E. Egwuagu, chief of the molecular immunology section, Laboratory of Immunology. The workshop was cosponsored by the NIH Office of Rare Diseases.

Dr. Charles E. Egwuagu

Ocular toxoplasmosis is a potentially blinding inflammatory eye disease that occurs in approximately 1-3 percent of individuals infected by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Transplant patients, patients with AIDS and those undergoing cancer chemotherapy are at increased risk of developing ocular toxoplasmosis. The disease is characterized by damage to optical tissues. Resolution of the infection may require several weeks or months, and unfortunately is followed by a sight-impairing scarring.

Leaders at the conference discussed recent molecular, epidemiologic and basic biological studies that suggest a paradigm shift in our understanding of the natural history of the disease. The conference concluded with the development of guidelines for diagnosis and clinical management of ocular toxoplasmosis. An international working group was also established to study the epidemiology of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil and to genotype T. gondii strains endemic to these regions.

"Overall, the conference was a remarkable success," said Egwuagu. "It fostered a spirit of international scientific collaboration among the participants and brought needed clinical and scientific attention to this potentially blinding disease."

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