Adipose Tissue: A Safe Haven for Parasites?

Trends Parasitol. 2017 Apr;33(4):276-284. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 Dec 19.


Adipose tissue (AT) is no longer regarded as an inert lipid storage, but as an important central regulator in energy homeostasis and immunity. Three parasite species are uniquely associated with AT during part of their life cycle: Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease; Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness; and Plasmodium spp., the causative agents of malaria. In AT, T. cruzi resides inside adipocytes, T. brucei is found in the interstitial spaces between adipocytes, while Plasmodium spp. infect red blood cells, which may adhere to the blood vessels supplying AT. Here, we discuss how each parasite species adapts to this tissue environment and what the implications are for pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and therapy.

Keywords: Trypanosoma; adipocyte; adipose tissue; fat; lipid; malaria; pathogen.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / parasitology
  • Adipose Tissue / parasitology*
  • Animals
  • Chagas Disease / parasitology
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Plasmodium / physiology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / physiology
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / physiology
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / parasitology