Toxoplasma gondii infection reduces serum progesterone levels and adverse effects at the maternal-foetal interface

Brito, Carina and Silva, Tânia M. and Castro, Maria M. and Wyrwas, Weronika and Oliveira, Bárbara and Fonseca, Bruno M. and Oliveira, Pedro and Roberts, Craig W. and Teixeira, Natércia and Borges, Margarida (2020) Toxoplasma gondii infection reduces serum progesterone levels and adverse effects at the maternal-foetal interface. Parasite Immunology, 42 (2). e12690. ISSN 0141-9838 (

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Aims: Pregnant BALB/c mice infected with a Toxoplasma gondii type II strain were used to determine how pregnancy interferes with the development of maternal immunity to T. gondii and how infection disrupts pregnancy and foetal development. Methods: Maternal and foetal parasite loads were assessed by amplification of T.gondii SAG1 using qPCR. Adverse effects of infection were evaluated on foetal placental development by quantification of implantation units undergoing resorption and by histopathological analyses. Serum progesterone levels were quantified by immunoassay. The effect of T. gondii infection on maternal immunity was determined by assessing the cellular composition of spleens by flow cytometry. Results: Infected pregnant mice exhibited clinical signs of infection, inflammation and necrosis at the maternal‐foetal interface and decreased serum progesterone levels. In infected mice, there was a clear effect of pregnancy and infection on macrophage cell numbers. However, no differences in the parasite load were detected between non‐pregnant and pregnant mice. Conclusions: Maternal T. gondii infection induced adverse effects at the maternal‐foetal interface. Alterations were found in immune spleen cells, dependent on the day of pregnancy, relative to non‐pregnant animals. The results obtained suggest a pregnancy‐dependent mechanism during T. gondii infection able to interfere with macrophage numbers.


Brito, Carina, Silva, Tânia M., Castro, Maria M., Wyrwas, Weronika, Oliveira, Bárbara, Fonseca, Bruno M., Oliveira, Pedro, Roberts, Craig W. ORCID logoORCID:, Teixeira, Natércia and Borges, Margarida;