Toxoplasmosis (Toxo)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is meant by a baby developing "a more severe case of toxo"?

Children born with toxoplasmosis can be afflicted with intellectual disabilities, convulsions, spasticity, cerebral palsy, deafness, and severely impaired vision. The infant's head may be abnormally small (microcephaly) or abnormally large due to increased pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus).

How is toxo diagnosed in the lab?

A toxoplasmosis blood test checks for the presence of Toxoplasma gondii in the blood. The results can determine if the patient has had toxo and whether the infection is recent ("acute") or not.

How can toxoplasmosis be prevented?

Since toxo usually causes mild to no symptoms, and a healthy immune system prevents any remaining parasites in the body from causing further symptoms, most people don't need to worry about getting this disease. Currently there is no vaccine for toxoplasmosis in humans.

However, if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, there are several steps you should take to prevent exposure to toxoplasmosis.

  • If you have a weakened immune system, get a blood test for toxoplasmosis. If your test is positive, your doctor can tell you if and when you need to take medicine to prevent the infection from reactivating.
  • If you are planning on becoming pregnant, you may consider being tested for toxo. If the test is positive, there is no need to worry about passing the infection to your baby (since you should have immunity against the parasite).
  • If you are already pregnant, you should discuss your risk of toxoplasmosis with your doctor who may order a blood sample for testing.
  • Wear gloves when you garden or do anything outdoors that involves handling soil since cats often use gardens and sandboxes as litter boxes. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water after outdoor activities, especially before you eat or prepare food.
  • Have someone else handle raw meat for you. If this is not possible, wear clean latex or nitrile gloves and thoroughly wash with soap and hot water any cutting boards, sinks, knives, and other utensils that might have touched the raw meat. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water afterward.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly, especially pork or veal.
  • Take note of the recommendations listed below regarding cats.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/11/2015

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