A contagious collection: infectious disease research

Enjoy this collection of stories on Whitehead Institute’s recent infectious disease research, from apicomplexan parasites to zika virus—just remember to wash your hands well after reading.

Parasites in white, hlue, and magenta

Pathogens including viruses, bacteria, and parasites are all around us. They are humanity’s frequent foes, and the fight against them has led to many innovations in public health. They are also fascinating sources of lessons about biology, including our own. Pathogens must survive in extremely hostile conditions—human bodies that want to destroy them—and they have evolved ingenious solutions to stay alive. They can also co-opt their hosts’ biology to turn it from hostile to helpful, using human cells to make more copies of themselves, something many pathogens cannot do on their own. Explore the stories below to learn more about some captivating pathogens, the diseases they cause, and how Whitehead Institute research could help lead to prevention strategies, treatments, and cures.


Climate change and economic development are increasing our risk of being infected by parasites and harmful viruses and bacteria. Whitehead Institute researchers are leveraging their expertise to better assess where pathogens will spread and evaluate their risk to humans.


Whitehead Institute Member Sebastian Lourido and colleagues identified key parts of the pathway that enables apicomplexan parasites to exit one host cell, and travel to infect others, including the important role of a molecule they called HOOK. This finding illuminates how signals can move in cells and could inform drug development against the parasites.