Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that infects a wide range of animals and causes zoonotic infections in humans. Although it normally only results in mild illness in healthy individuals, toxoplasmosis is a common opportunistic infection with high mortality in individuals who are immunocompromised, most commonly due to reactivation of infection in the central nervous system. In the acute phase of infection, interferon-dependent immune responses control rapid parasite expansion and mitigate acute disease symptoms. However, after dissemination the parasite differentiates into semi-dormant cysts that form within muscle cells and neurons, where they persist for life in the infected host. Control of infection in the central nervous system, a compartment of immune privilege, relies on modified immune responses that aim to balance infection control while limiting potential damage due to inflammation. In response to the activation of interferon-mediated pathways, the parasite deploys an array of effector proteins to escape immune clearance and ensure latent survival. Although these pathways are best studied in the laboratory mouse, emerging evidence points to unique mechanisms of control in human toxoplasmosis. In this Review, we explore some of these recent findings that extend our understanding for proliferation, establishment and control of toxoplasmosis in humans.