Metabolic Brain Disease

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 749–759 | Cite as

The known and missing links between Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia

  • Hany M. Elsheikha
  • Dietrich Büsselberg
  • Xing-Quan Zhu
Review Article


Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular protozoan parasite, has a striking predilection for infecting the Central Nervous System and has been linked to an increased incidence of a number of psychiatric diseases. Several in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that T. gondii infection can affect the structure, bioenergetics and function of brain cells, and alters several host cell processes, including dopaminergic, tryptophan-kynurenine, GABAergic, AKT1, Jak/STAT, and vasopressinergic pathways. These mechanisms underlying the neuropathology of latent toxoplasmosis seem to operate also in schizophrenia, supporting the link between the two disorders. Better understanding of the intricate parasite-neuroglial communications holds the key to unlocking the mystery of T. gondii-mediated schizophrenia and offers substantial prospects for the development of disease-modifying therapies.


Toxoplasma gondii Schizophrenia Mental illness Psychosis Host-pathogen interaction 



We apologize to colleagues whose work we were unable to adequately cite due to space limitation. We thank Dr Carl Stevenson from the University of Nottingham for comments on the manuscript. XQZ is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31230073).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hany M. Elsheikha
    • 1
  • Dietrich Büsselberg
    • 2
  • Xing-Quan Zhu
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine and ScienceUniversity of NottinghamLeicestershireUK
  2. 2.Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Qatar Foundation - Education CityDohaQatar
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Veterinary Etiological Biology, Key Laboratory of Veterinary Parasitology of Gansu Province, Lanzhou Veterinary Research InstituteChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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