Toxoplasmosis is an infection due to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
Toxoplasmosis is found in humans worldwide and in many kinds of animals and birds. The parasite lives in cats.
Human infection may result from:
Toxoplasmosis also affects people who have weakened immune systems.
The infection may also be passed from an infected mother to her baby through the placenta. This results in congenital toxoplasmosis.
There may be no symptoms. If there are symptoms, they usually occur about 1 to 2 weeks after contact with the parasite. The disease can affect the brain, lung, heart, eyes, or liver.
Symptoms in persons with otherwise healthy immune systems can include:
Symptoms in people with a weakened immune system can include:
The doctor or nurse will perform a physical exam. Tests that may be done include:
Persons without symptoms usually do not need treatment.
Medicines to treat the infection include an antimalarial drug and antibiotics. AIDS patients should continue treatment for as long as their immune system is weak to prevent the disease from reactivating.
With treatment, people with a healthy immune system usually recover well.
The disease may return.
In people with a weakened immune system, the infection may spread throughout the body, leading to death.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of toxoplasmosis. Immediate medical care is needed if symptoms occur in:
Immediate medical treatment is also needed if the following symptoms occur:
Tips for preventing this condition:
Pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems should take the following precautions:
Pregnant women and those with HIV should be screened for toxoplasmosis. A blood test can be done.
Montoya JG, Boothroyd JC, Kovacs JA. Toxoplasma gondii. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 279.
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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