Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis occurs in virtually all warm-blooded animals including most pets, livestock, and human beings. A pregnant woman gets the parasite from household pets in whom that occurs. She passes it on to her developing baby in which it may cause severe birth defects Toxoplasmosis is also one of the most common infections in patients with advanced HIV disease, especially in parts of the world where the rate of toxoplasma infection is high.
How do people become infected with toxoplasmosis?
There are 3 principal ways in which Toxoplasma is transmitted:
Directly from the pregnant mother to the unborn child. The only way a woman gets exposed to toxoplasmosis from household pets is through direct contact with faeces
Consumption and handling of undercooked or raw meat from infected animals.
Ingestion of food or water or inhalation of dust contaminated with Toxoplasma.
What are the symptoms?
About 80% of the cats are exposed to the parasite as a result of eating a mouse, mole or infected prey. Some cats show no symptoms, others get diarrhoea, or they become listless. Occasionally pneumonia or eye inflammation occurs.
Like cats, people show no symptoms or appear to have only mild flu like symptoms but they still develop an antibody thus building immunity. The babies have only mild problems like rashes and eye infection. In rare cases the babies develop a condition in which the brain swells and there is mental retardation and anaemia.
What is the treatment?
Pyrimetharmine is the principal drug used in the treatment. When combined with sulphonamides or clindamycin, it is highly effective. Folinic acid is routinely added to prevent bone marrow toxicity that is associated with pyrimetharmine therapy.
How it can be prevented?
Wash vegetables thoroughly before eating, especially those grown in backyard gardens and boil water from ponds or streams before drinking
Wash hands with soap and water after working with soil or after handling raw or undercooked meat
Pregnant women should avoid changing the pet’s litter box or use rubber gloves
Cover sand boxes when not in use to discourage cats defaecating in them
When cooking, avoid tasting meat before it is fully cooked