Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, also known as T. gondii.
Toxoplasmosis is found worldwide, and can infect most species of warm-blooded animals. It is often found in cats. Once infected, a cat will excrete the parasite in its feces for a few weeks. The parasite in the feces needs 1 to 2 days to mature before it can infect other animals. Once mature, the parasite causes infection and forms cysts in the tissues of the animal that eat the feces. People can acquire T. gondii by eating undercooked meats with the cysts or by swallowing the parasite in dirt or foods contaminated with cat feces.
Usually this disease has no symptoms. When they do occur, they can include: feversore throatmuscle achesnauseaswollen lymph nodesrashenlarged liver and spleen
Rare complications include inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis, inflammation of the sac that envelops the heart, called pericarditis, and inflammation of the lungs, called pneumonitis. People with damaged immune systems, such as those with HIV, can have more severe infections, such as an infection of the brain, called encephalitis.
Although the disease is usually not serious for children and adults, it can be very harmful if a woman passes it to her fetus during pregnancy. This can happen if the mother becomes infected while pregnant. There usually are no symptoms of toxoplasmosis in a baby before it is born. But sometimes at birth, these babies can be quite ill with rash, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver and spleen, yellowing of the skin, eyes, and other tissues, called jaundice, and problems with the central nervous system. Doctors often find visual problems caused by eye infection, learning problems, and even mental retardation in these children months to several years later.
The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is the cause of toxoplasmosis.
People can acquire toxoplasmosis by eating poorly cooked or raw meat and by caring for cats infected with the parasite.
To prevent this disease: Eat only thoroughly cooked meats.Wear gloves when gardening. The parasite can survive in moist, shaded soil or sand for monthsChange cat litter boxes daily and wash hands immediately afterwards.Minimize your cat's stalking behavior. Cats become infected by eating contaminated preyHave your child remember to always wash her hands after playing with the cat. Fecal matter could be transferred from the cat's fur.Wear disposable rubber gloves when cleaning the litter box. If you're pregnant, have someone else do this chore.Treat any cat bite or scratch immediatelyTry to prevent your cat from jumping onto eating surfacesCover your child's sandbox to prevent your can from defecating in it
People with HIV who have been infected with T. gondii in the past may need to take antibiotics to prevent toxoplasmosis from recurring.
Doctors use a blood test that looks for antibodies to the parasite to diagnose this disease.
An infant that acquired toxoplasmosis before birth can go on to have serious problems, including mental retardation, after birth. Toxoplasmosis can be fatal in people with damaged immune systems.
A pregnant woman who develops toxoplasmosis can spread it to her unborn child.
Medications used to treat toxoplasmosis in an immunosuppressed person include: pyrimethamine (i.e., Daraprim), sulfadiazine (i.e., Micorsulfon), and leucovorin (i.e., folinic acid).
Spiramycin is used to treat a pregnant woman with toxoplasmosis (although the drug is not yet FDA approved for this in the U.S.)
Other drugs are used for CNS toxoplasmosis.
Serious problems are rare. Sometimes use of the drug results in abnormalities in blood cells and/or a folic acid deficiency.