2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 18:44
Toxoplasmosis is a relatively mild disease except in pregnant women who are not immune. The consequences of contamination can be really serious for babies.
What is it
Toxoplasmosis is an infection transmitted by a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii) that lives in the soil and in the intestines of animals, especially cats.
How do you get the disease?
Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by changing cat litter, gardening, or eating contaminated meat or vegetables.
At worst, the infected person will show flu symptoms, but in the majority of cases, no symptoms are observed.
After an initial contamination, you are immune for life thanks to the presence of antibodies in the blood.
In most people, the disease is harmless, even for the pregnant woman herself. However, contamination during pregnancy carries real dangers for babies: the parasite can cross the placenta and infect the foetus.
The risk with toxoplasmosis is to cause fetal malformations: ocular, cerebral,neurological… and even, in some cases, cause death in utero. Most of the time, the child will develop cysts in one eye or lose the use of one eye during childhood.
The risks are greater during the first trimester since the baby's immune system is not yet developed. Towards the middle and especially the end of pregnancy, the baby's immune system being more efficient, the possible infection is less serious. But in any case, it is better to prevent infection than to run the risk of contamination.
During the first medical visit, the doctor will have the future mother take a blood test to check all kinds of parameters, including the presence of antibodies. If the mother has already been in contact with the parasite, she is immune for life and the fetus is not at risk. If the mother-to-be has never been in contact with the parasite, she remains at risk of contracting toxoplasmosis during her pregnancy and will have to undergo blood tests throughout her pregnancy to ensure that she has not been contaminated since the last test.
If they have been in contact with the parasite, antibiotic treatment will be prescribed and the development of the fetus will be carefully monitored to look for possible malformations.
- Eat well-cooked meat. This is really the most important precaution since undercooked meat is a major source of contamination
- Wash your hands regularly andnails. It is enough to touch contaminated soil, while gardening for example, to clean the cat litter (big source of contamination), to clean shoes (they may have touched contaminated soil or cat excrement) so that the parasite infects the future mother
- If you garden, always wear gloves
- Wash vegetables and fruits that come into contact with the ground, even those from the supermarket. If you are unsure whether fruits and vegetables have been washed well, when dining out or visiting someone's home, refrain from eating them
- If you can, let someone else clean the cat litter box. Also be aware that cats living outdoors are more at risk of carrying the parasite than cats living indoors, so avoid contact with stray cats.