Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis

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What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a food-borne infection caused by the protozoo Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infests various species of animals and can pass to a human subject either through contact with feces or contaminated earth, or through the consumption of infected meat.





Normally the immune system of a healthy individual does not have major problems in coping with the disease, but in the presence of particular conditions such as pregnancy, where the entire maternal organism is subjected to great immune stress, then toxoplasmosis can become a fearful pitfall, capable of cause miscarriages o severely damage the nervous system of the fetus.

Read also: I contracted toxoplasmosis in pregnancy

Diagnosis

Il test for toxoplasmosis it is one of the first to which a pregnant woman is subjected. Diagnosis is made by looking for specific antibodies using a blood test. Self the test is negative, it means that the patient has never come into contact with the parasite of the disease, which exposes the woman to the risk of becoming infected during gestation.



In this case, for the whole duration of pregnancy, it is good for the expectant mother to avoid direct contact with some animals, eat raw vegetables and fruit only after careful washing, wash her hands thoroughly (especially after gardening or touching meat raw) and only consume well-cooked meat. It will also be necessary repeat the test every month during pregnancy to detect and treat any infection early.

Read also: Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: 7 things to know

Symptoms and risks

In most cases, toxoplasmosis - which has an incubation period of 5-20 days - takes one asymptomatic form and often you don't even realize you have done it. In the few cases where symptoms occur, they may include:



  • Temperature
  • Sore throat
  • Malaise (exhaustion, muscle aches, bone pain etc ...)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

On the other hand, in immunosuppressed or infected subjects, toxoplasmosis can trigger much more significant reactions such as inflammation of the retina (with related vision problems), encephalitis e pneumonia. In the most serious cases it can even reach the death of the patient.

Pregnant

Toxoplasmosis can cause serious harm if contracted by a pregnant woman, although the fetus is not necessarily infected. 

However, the risks for the baby are very high: they range from spontaneous termination of pregnancy to serious cognitive malformations (mental delay, blindness o severe visual impairment).

Cat and toxoplasmosis

When it comes to the risk of toxoplasmosis for pregnant women, the domestic cat is immediately identified as the first possible carrier of the disease.

In fact, the cat is the only conventional domestic animal whose organism allows the parasite Toxoplasma gondii to become a permanent guest, therefore able to reproduce sexually and infest multiple parts of the body. In dogs and humans, however, Toxoplasma gondii can only be an "intermediate host" where only larval forms of the parasite develop.

This unpleasant feature causes the cat feces can be contaminated and therefore become a vehicle of contagion.

So should a pregnant woman get rid of her cat?

The domestic cat problem arises only in the case of a negative test result for toxoplasmosis. Even in this specific situation, however, it is not absolutely necessary drive away the cat from the house.

In fact, the big problem lies in the treatment of feces, so just take precautions

  • Make sure the cat do not leave the house or is in contact with other animals.
  • Clean the litter box every day. In fact, the parasite's cysts hatch after about 2-3 days at an average temperature of 24 ° C and with a rather high humidity, so getting rid of them immediately can eliminate the root problem.
  • Avoid that it is the future mother ad take care of cleaning of the pupu.
  • Wash your hands often every time you come into contact with the animal.

Compared to the cat, therefore, it could be much more dangerous for a pregnant woman go gardening or to garden care, since the earth may have been contaminated from the excrement of stray cats, mice or infected birds.

Read also: Cats and toxoplasmosis: a myth to dispel

Healing

Toxoplasmosis often does not require any treatment. In the most serious cases, however, it is necessary to resort to a treatment of antibiotic drugs such as pyrimethamine and sulfadiazina.

Pregnant women who contract the disease, on the other hand, usually undergo antibiotic treatment spiramycin, an antibiotic that is normally well tolerated by both the mother and the fetus.

According to the most recent data, 90% of fetuses that develop with congenital toxoplasmosis, if properly treated, are born without obvious symptoms.

SOURCES: ISS Epicenter; Humanitas

Questions and answers

Toxoplasmosis: what are the risks for the baby?

The greatest risks are the onset of malformations of the fetus and spontaneous termination of pregnancy.

What should you not eat to avoid toxoplasmosis? 

The mother should refrain from eating undercooked meat, unseasoned meats, unwashed fruit and vegetables

How to tell if you have toxoplasmosis?

Possible symptoms are fatigue, malaise, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes.

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  • toxoplasmosis
  • toxoplasmosis in pregnancy
  • dictionary of pregnancy
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