You've Got What?
How infectious diseases are spread and simple and practical advice for preventing the spread of infection in the home and community
Toxoplasma infection is caused by a parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite occurs worldwide and infection is very common.
The parasite is carried by cats and shed in cat faeces. It is also carried in the muscles of infected:
Human infection occurs when the parasite is taken in by mouth. This most often results from eating raw or undercooked meat or unwashed salad vegetables, but also if hands become contaminated with cat faeces during gardening or cleaning cat litter trays. Eggs of the parasite may survive in moist soil for over a year.
Toxoplasma infection usually does not cause any symptoms. Occasionally fever and swollen glands can occur. Following recovery from an infection, a few parasites remain in tiny cysts in the muscles, lung, brain or other organs. If the immune system is severely damaged, for example by advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, organ transplants, or treatment for some cancers, the parasites in the cyst may reactivate and can cause serious illness.
If a woman becomes newly infected with Toxoplasma during pregnancy, the fetus also can become infected and suffer birth defects. Fetal infection occurs when parasites in the infected mother’s blood stream cross the placenta and enter the fetus. Reactivation of a previous Toxoplasma infection can also occur in pregnancy but the fetus is rarely affected.
Diagnosis is made by a series of blood tests, sometimes by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests or by examining tissue with a microscope in a pathology laboratory.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
5 to 23 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
Except for transmission from a pregnant woman to her fetus, person-to-person spread does not occur.
Antibiotic treatment is available for significant infections, including treatment during pregnancy, if necessary.