All About Toxoplasmosis!By Katie Gillespie
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What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease. It develops by a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii are spore-forming protozoans that infect the blood and lymphatic vessels (Tortora et al.,695). Toxoplasmosis can only be severe in certain cases, which include pregnant women and individuals with weak immune systems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toxoplasmosis can be fatal, and therefore it is “the 3rd leading cause of death attributed to food borne illness in the United States” (CDC).

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Structure of T. Gondii

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Symptoms in most people are little to none. If symptoms are existent, these flu-like symptoms are common with any infection and include fever, night sweats, a rash, and a sore throat (Smith). Symptoms are more severe with those that have weak immune systems.

Life Cycle

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In the life cycle of T. gondii, a rodent is the intermediate host and a cat is definitive host. When a rodent infects the cat, the process of T. gondii’s development inside the cat begins. The first sexual development of T.gondii is present in the cat’s intestinal tract and the infective microbes are “…shed into the cat’s feces for 7-21 days and contaminate food or water that can be ingested by other animals” (Tortora et al., 696). For full life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii, see the diagram below.

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There are multiple ways in which one can get toxoplasmosis. The most common way of contracting toxoplasmosis is by eating uncooked and/or infected meat. If an animal ingests the T.gondii parasite, it is then infect in the animal’s body and can be harmful if the meat is not fully cooked. Also, changing a cat litter box by someone with a low immune system (such as one with AIDS or a woman that is pregnant) can contract toxoplasmosis as well.

Congenital Toxoplasmosis

Congenital toxoplasmosis is a very serious case when Toxoplasma gondii is transmitted to a fetus when in the mother’s womb. It can be very serious when the baby in infected with these parasites and can lead to many complications with the baby. According to American Family Physician Journal, there are anywhere from 400 to 4,000 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis each year in the United States (Jones et al., 2131). In some countries, according to the book Microbiology: an Introduction, a pregnant woman is encouraged to get an abortion if she has tested positive for toxoplasmosis (Tortora et al., 696).

There are many different complications that emerge if congenital toxoplasmosis occurs. According to Stanford University’s website on Toxoplasmosis, some serious symptoms of infants that become congenitally infected with toxoplasmosis include epilepsy, blindness, pneumonitis, and mental retardation (Smith). With these serious symptoms comes ways in which we can prevent congenital toxoplasmosis. The Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology Journal on congenital toxoplasmosis states the ways in which pregnant women can screen for congenital toxoplasmosis. The ways for screening for congenital toxoplasmosis include prenatal and neonatal screening (Lago et al., 526). The best way to prevent congenital toxoplasmosis, however, is to educate women about toxoplasmosis and how it can be prevented.

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Dept. of Health and Human Resources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Toxoplasmosis.11 Jan, 2008. 20 April, 2009. <

Jones, Jeffrey M.D., M.P.H., Lopez, Adriana, M.H.S., and Wilson, Marianna, M.S. “Congenital Toxoplasmosis”. American Family Physician. 15 May, 2003. <

Lago, Eleonor G., et al. "Congenital toxoplasmosis: late pregnancy infections detected by neonatal screening and maternal serological testing at delivery." Paediatric & Perinatal Epidemiology 21.6 (Nov. 2007): 525-531. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. [SSU], [Rohnert Park], [CA]. 26 Apr. 2009 <>

Smith, Scott D. Stanford University. Toxoplasmosis.2006. 20 April, 2009

Tortora, Gerard J., Funke, Berdell R., Case, Christine L. Microbiology: An Introduction. San Francisco. Pearson Education, 2007: 695-696.