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What is Toxoplasma test?

A toxoplasmosis antibody test is used for the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis, an infectious disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite lives in soil and in various animals especially cats. Humans usually acquire it after coming in contact with cat faeces or eating undercooked, raw and uncooked vegetables and meat, and non-pasteurised goat milk that contains eggs of the organism. The infection can be transmitted to unborn babies through the mother, leading to serious birth defects in the central nervous system or eyes and even death. According to a research, 77% of women in the reproductive age and 45% of pregnant women are infected with T. gondii in India.

Toxoplasmosis antibody test includes testing of antibodies (IgG and Toxoplasma-specific IgM) in response to the T. gondii infection in the body. In some cases, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is used for detecting the presence of the genetic material or DNA of Toxoplasma in the lymph node biopsy sample.

  1. Why is a Toxoplasma test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Toxoplasma test?
  3. How is a Toxoplasma test performed?
  4. What do Toxoplasma test results mean?

The toxoplasmosis antibody test is done when the following symptoms are present:

  • Fever with body ache and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, behind the ears or all over the body
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the body with or without fever
  • Soreness in the throat
  • Weakness in the body with no definite cause for fever
  • Frequent episodes of fever with recurrent swollen lymph nodes after recovery from an acute illness
  • Flu-like symptoms with painless swollen lymph nodes in the body in pregnant women, and young children
  • Inflammation in the eyes (retinochoroiditis) in case of young children after birth
  • In rare cases, inflammation in different regions of the body, such as liver, heart, lungs and brain (meningitis), especially in persons with the weak immune system

In pregnant women, toxoplasmosis antibody test is done as a screening test before the 20th week of pregnancy to rule out T. gondii infection.

Fasting is not required before a toxoplasmosis antibody test.

Make sure that you inform your doctor in case you have consumed undercooked (meat, vegetables, etc.) or raw food (vegetables, salads, etc.) recently or if you live in close contact with cats.

A blood sample will be collected for this test from a vein in your arm.

The time taken for reporting the result of the toxoplasmosis antibody test after the sample reaches the laboratory is approximately 3 to 5 days.

An indirect fluorescent antibody test is used to detect anti-toxoplasma IgG and IgM antibodies in blood. High levels or titre of IgM-specific antibodies in the bloodstream indicates recent or acute infection.

A test positive for IgG antibodies signifies past infection.

Toxoplasma DNA test using PCR is done to identify the genetic material of T. gondii in individuals with weak immunity in addition to the toxoplasmosis antibody test.

Normal results: 

Titre < 1:16 indicates that there is no infection.

Abnormal results:

Different titre values may indicate the following:

  • 1:256 or more – current infection or recent infection
  • >1:1024 – acute infection or disease in active form
  • 1:16 to 1:64 – past or previous infection
  • 1:16 or less – indicates toxoplasmosis in the eyes (ocular toxoplasmosis)
  • Any titre value is significant in newborn infants

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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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; Parasites - Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection)
  3. BJ Borkakoty et.al. Prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection amongst pregnant women in Assam, India. Indian J Med Microbiol 2007;25:431-2
  4. Stanley Davidson. Davidsons Principles And Practice Of Medicine. 21st Edition, Elsevier
  5. Drew Provan. Oxford Handbook of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation. Oxford University Press, 2018
  6. Denise. D. Wilson. McGraw-Hill Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 1st Edition; ISBN10: 0071481524