Infection, symptoms, risks and available treatment: what is toxoplasmosis, and how to fight it?
Definition: what is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused byinfection of a parasite, the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii which “manipulates our brain” according to the CNRS newspaper. Most often mild, it is transmitted to humans by pets, especially cats, or by ingestion of raw meat. It is estimated that a third of the world’s population is infected.
Toxoplasmosis only poses serious risks for pregnant women and patients with weakened immune systems, such as people with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy. However, the recent discovery that the disease abolishes the rat’s instinctive fear of the cat would lead some researchers to think that Toxoplasma gondii could be linked in humans to certain psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia or the Depression.
Few symptoms for toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasmosis is in the majority of cases asymptomatic. The immune defense system prevents the disease from expressing itself. However, some people may experience nonspecific symptoms, similar to those of the flu or mononucleosis : tiredness, swollen glands, headache… These symptoms gradually decrease over time.
Toxoplasmosis in pregnant women
Toxoplasmosis is dangerous in pregnancy. No risk to pregnant women, but the disease can be transmitted to the fetus and cause significant sequelae, as indicated by gynandco.fr. It is estimated that about 1 in 1,000 children are born with congenital toxoplasmosis.
In early pregnancy, a serological examination is done from a blood test to determine if toxoplasmosis has already been contracted before. In this case, the pregnant woman is immune to the disease. If negative, follow up monthly during pregnancy.
The risk of transmission of toxoplasmosis is the lowest during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy according to Figaro Sante (around 5%), but this is where the infection is most serious: death in utero, malformations, psychomotor disorders … After the 16th week, the risk of transmission is higher (90% at the end of pregnancy) but the much less severe repercussions on the fetus.
Prevention of toxoplasmosis
In order to avoid contracting toxoplasmosis, pregnant women are recommended to take certain precautions not to come into contact with the parasite. First of all, don’t not touch cat feces, as Futura Sciences recalls. So avoid changing the litter box and coming into contact with the ground, unless you wear gloves.
Measures of food caution must also be taken. It is therefore advisable to always wash fruits and vegetables in contact with the ground carefully. As the disease can be transmitted by ingestion of raw meat, care must be taken to cook its meat properly.
Treatment against toxoplasmosis
In most cases, in people with normal immune defenses, toxoplasmosis does not require treatment. Medicines to treat the infection are used to treat severe cases or prevent complications in people at risk. Pyrimethamine (also used to treat malaria), sulfadiazine and spiramycin are the main drugs used.
Pregnant women infected with toxoplasmosis for the first time may receive treatment to reduce the child’s risk of also being infected. But its effectiveness is not yet fully known.