What Is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that comes from parasites found in animal feces or undercooked meat. Pregnant women and those with a poor immune system should be aware that serious complications may occur.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that comes from parasites found in animal feces or undercooked meat. Many people can come into contact with toxoplasmosis and no serious side effects will occur, in fact they won't even know they were in contact with it. But, pregnant women and those with a poor immune system should be aware that serious complications may occur if they come into contact with toxoplasmosis. Also, the general population may become quite ill depending on their individual system.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by an intracellular parasite called toxoplasma gondii. It affects approximately one third of the population and causes minor illness in most people. It is most commonly contracted by eating undercooked contaminated meat. Some people will carry the parasite in their intestines and not have any symptoms or problems, others won't be so lucky.

People infected with the AIDS virus have an unstable immune system and may have severe complications if they contract toxoplasmosis. Encephalitis, swelling and infection of the brain, is the most common with AIDS patients. The patient will experience fever, headaches, neurological abnormalities, and seizures.



If a pregnant women contracts a toxoplasmosis infection the effects to the unborn baby can be catastrophic. The toxoplasmosis parasite may go through the placenta and infect the fetus. If the infection occurs early in the pregnancy a miscarriage can occur or malformation of the fetus. If the mother gets toxoplasmosis later in the pregnancy severe nervous system damage can occur to the unborn child or the baby may be stillborn. The baby could also be born blind or nearly blind.

A child or an adult that gets infected with toxoplasmosis may feel nauseated and sick and then may recover. But in other cases a person with toxoplasmosis can have the symptoms of a fever, blurred vision, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and an enlarged spleen. Any of these symptoms may last just a few weeks or several months. But, generally a healthy child or adult will have little difficulty recovering from a toxoplasmosis infection.

To diagnose toxoplasmosis a doctor will look for tiny dark spots in the patient's eyes. He will also do a blood test to determine if the parasite is in the patient's blood. A doctor will give the patient a CT scan or an MRI to find parasitic lesions if there is encephalitis. In severe cases a brain biopsy may be called for.

Treatment of toxoplasmosis is usually antibiotics. Different antibiotics will be given to children, adults, pregnant women and those infected with AIDS. Some of the antibiotics given may be: pyrimethamine - an antiparasitic agent, sulfadiazine or clindamycin. Usually the patient will remain on a low dose of an antibiotics for several months because small amount of the parasite usually remain in the intestines. Staying on antibiotics will suppress the regrowth and reinfection of the toxoplasmosis parasite.

To prevent infection from toxoplasmosis avoid eating undercooked meat. Avoid the feces of all animals, especially cats. Pregnant women, and AIDs patients should never change the kitty litter box. Everyone should wash their hands after changing the kitty litter box or cleaning the yard of dog feces.

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