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What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by the commonly found Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite may be found in several animals and birds, especially cats.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The infection may remain silent without producing any symptoms. However, the symptoms, if they do arise, may vary depending on the immune response of the person. In individuals with a relatively stronger immune system, the following symptoms may be noted:

In individuals with weaker immunity, the following symptoms may be produced:

  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Vision problems
  • Mental confusion

What are the main causes?

Toxoplasmosis occurs due to the following causes:

  • The parasite is present in many animal species and hence consuming undercooked meat may lead to an infection.
  • The parasite may enter the human body by consuming contaminated water.
  • Contact with infected cat faeces can result in the infection.
  • In a few cases, transmission may occur from the infected mother to the unborn child (congenital transmission) or through blood transfusion with infected blood.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

In order to diagnose toxoplasmosis, the following tests may be conducted:

  • blood tests to look for antibodies against the parasite
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Biopsy
  • Stool examination to look for the parasite

After confirming the diagnosis, the doctor will treat the infection with the help of medications called as antihelminthics like albendazole. However, in most individuals, the symptoms may go away within a few weeks without any treatment.

Medication becomes imperative in persons with a weaker immune system. This infection is easily treatable if it has not resulted in any complications.

In order to prevent the infection, it is highly recommended that one consumes safely cooked meat and maintains hygiene while handling cat litter. Washing hands with soap and water after handling raw meat is necessary to prevent the spread of infection.

  1. Medicines for Toxoplasmosis

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References

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Parasites - Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection).
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Epidemiology & Risk Factors.
  3. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Toxoplasmosis.
  4. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Toxoplasmosis: diagnosis, epidemiology and prevention.
  5. Dubey JP. Toxoplasma Gondii. In: Baron S, editor. Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996. Chapter 84. Toxoplasma Gondii.
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