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Growing Brain-Infecting Parasites

Mira Kim, SPU Senior, Research Assistant, Seattle BioMed

Mira KimMira Kim: Biochemistry major

While many Seattle Pacific students spend their summers working at camps and coffee shops, Mira Kim spent hers growing parasites at Seattle BioMed. “I call them my babies,” Kim laughs as she describes crescent-shaped Toxoplasma gondii.

She breeds the parasite to help researchers discover a cure for toxoplasmosis. In the United States, the disease, borne by a bacteria that lives in cat feces, is most commonly known as the reason pregnant women should not clean a litter box. Toxoplasmosis causes flu-like symptoms for most people, but can lead to blindness in severe cases.

More than 60 million people may be infected in the U.S., but most will never show symptoms.

Kim is one of several undergraduate SPU students who work at Seattle BioMed, which strives to eliminate the world’s most devastating infectious diseases. During summer 2013, Kim presented a poster session about toxoplasmosis and met a French woman in her mid-30s who had the disease when she was 8 years old.

“I never thought I’d be able to meet someone who had this disease,” she says. “It was exciting, because I’m doing this research because of people like her.”

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