General Practice 2022

Toxoplasmosis: what é, transmission, types, and how to prevent

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Toxoplasmosis: what é, transmission, types, and how to prevent
Toxoplasmosis: what é, transmission, types, and how to prevent

Toxoplasmosis, popularly known as cat disease, is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), found in cat feces, water or undercooked meat such as pork or lamb, contaminated with the parasite. Most of the time, the infection causes no symptoms, however, in people who have a weakened immune system or babies born to mothers who had the infection during pregnancy, they can have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness or mental confusion, for example. example.

This disease is transmitted mainly by eating food contaminated by the parasite's cysts or through contact with the feces of infected cats.In addition, toxoplasmosis can be transmitted from mother to child, however this only happens when the disease is not diagnosed during pregnancy or the treatment is not done correctly.

Although it does not cause symptoms, it is important that toxoplasmosis is identified and treated correctly according to the doctor's advice to avoid complications such as blindness, seizures and death, for example.

How the transmission happens

Toxoplasmosis is transmitted through the ingestion of water or raw, poorly sanitized or undercooked foods, such as pork, beef, lamb or venison, that are contaminated with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In addition to the consumption of raw meat, the ingestion of smoked meat or sausages prepared with animals contaminated with the parasite and that have not been processed according to adequate hygiene conditions can also transmit toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis parasite can be present in cat feces or manure used as fertilizer. However, contact with infected cats is not enough for transmission of toxoplasmosis, it is necessary for the person to have contact with the feces of these cats, which can occur through accidental ingestion of the parasite present in the feces. Thus, when cleaning the litter box for cats with toxoplasmosis, it is important to have protective measures such as wearing gloves and masks, and washing your hands well after cleaning, for example.

Transmission of toxoplasmosis can also happen during pregnancy through the passage of the parasite through the placenta. However, transmission depends on the immunological status of the pregnant woman and the stage of pregnancy: when the woman is in the first trimester of pregnancy and has a compromised immune system, there is a greater chance of transmission of the disease to the baby, however the consequences are considered more light. See more about toxoplasmosis in pregnancy.

Main symptoms

In most cases, toxoplasmosis does not cause symptoms, however when the person's immunity is more compromised, it is possible that symptoms similar to those of other infectious diseases, such as flu and dengue, for example, may appear. the main ones:

  • Line on the body, especially in the neck region;
  • Fever;
  • Muscle or joint pain;
  • Tiredness;
  • Headache and sore throat;
  • Red spots on the body;
  • Difficult to see.

Symptoms appear more often in people who have a weakened immune system, such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, who have recently undergone transplants, are HIV positive, or in women who contract the infection during the pregnancy.

In more severe cases, toxoplasmosis can impair the functioning of organs such as the lungs, heart, liver and brain, causing difficulty breathing, coughing, severe headache, dizziness, excessive tiredness, drowsiness, delirium and decreased strength and body movements. Learn about other symptoms of toxoplasmosis.

How the diagnosis is made

The diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is made by the general cynic or infectologist by evaluating the symptoms and performing a blood test to detect the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies in the body, which are produced to fight the parasite that causes the disease. Learn more about the IgG test for toxoplasmosis.

For pregnant women who test positive for IgG and IgM antibodies, the obstetrician may recommend an amniocentesis after 15 weeks of pregnancy to confirm that toxoplasmosis has been transmitted from mother to baby. In addition, although it does not serve to diagnose toxoplasmosis in the fetus, the doctor should request an ultrasound to check if the baby has changes caused by toxoplasmosis, such as hydrocephalus, for example.Understand how amniocentesis is performed.

Types of toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasma gondii can be classified into some types according to the organ affected by the parasite, the main ones being:

1. Ocular toxoplasmosis

Ocular toxoplasmosis happens when the parasite reaches the eye and affects the retina, causing inflammation that can lead to blindness if not treated in time. This disease can affect both eyes, and the damage to vision can be different for each eye, and there may be decreased vision, redness or pain in the eye.

This complication is more common in the baby as a result of infection during pregnancy, especially if the fetus is infected early in pregnancy, but also occurs in people with a more compromised immune system, despite being infrequent.

2. Congenital toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy causes congenital toxoplasmosis, which is when the baby is infected by this disease while still in the mother's womb.Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can lead to serious consequences such as fetal malformations, low birth weight, premature birth, miscarriage or death of the baby at birth.

The consequences for the baby vary according to the gestational age at which the infection occurred, with a greater risk of complications when the infection occurs closer to the end of pregnancy, with a greater risk of eye inflammation, intense jaundice, liver enlargement, anemia, cardiac changes, convulsions and respiratory disorders. In addition, there may be neurological changes, mental retardation, deafness, micro or macrocephaly, for example.

3. Cerebrospinal or meningoencephalic toxoplasmosis

This type of toxoplasmosis is more frequent in people diagnosed with AIDS and is usually related to the reactivation of T. gondii cysts in people who have a latent infection, that is, who have been diagnosed and treated, but the parasite it was not eliminated from the body, allowing it to travel to the nervous system.

The main symptoms of this type of toxoplasmosis are headache, fever, loss of muscle coordination, mental confusion, convulsions and excessive tiredness. If not identified and treated, the infection can lead to coma and be life-threatening.

How the treatment is done

Most he althy people do not need treatment for toxoplasmosis, as the body is able to fight the parasite naturally. However, in the presence of symptoms, treatment should be done with drugs that must be prescribed by the doctor, such as pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine and folic acid, used at the same time, according to medical advice.

In pregnant women, depending on the stage of pregnancy, treatment can be done with the antibiotic spiramycin, or with pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine and folic acid, as directed by the obstetrician.

Toxoplasmosis prevention

To prevent toxoplasmosis it is important to take some precautions, such as:

  • Consume drinking water, filtered or mineral;
  • Cook meat well and avoid eating undercooked meat in restaurants;
  • Wash kitchen utensils well in hot soapy water, such as cutting boards or knives, after seasoning or cutting raw meat, to avoid contamination of other foods;
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well with soap and water, or using a prepared solution with 1 liter of water and 1 spoon of sodium bicarbonate or bleach, and leave for about 15 minutes;
  • Wear gloves when gardening or caring for plants;
  • Avoid contact with cat feces and wear a glove and mask when cleaning the litter box and collecting feces;
  • Cover the litter box where the child plays, to prevent cats from using the litter box to eliminate feces.

People who have pets should take them to the vet to have tests done to identify the toxoplasmosis parasite and treat the animal, preventing the possible transmission of toxoplasmosis and other diseases.

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