Saturday, September 27, 2014


Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii.  In most healthy people, infection with the parasite causes no symptoms, but for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, toxoplasmosis can have serious consequences.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 60 million Americans have toxoplasmosis.  Most healthy people with toxoplasmosis remain asymptomatic and don't even know they have it.  That's because a healthy individual's immune system is typically able to keep the parasite from causing any symptoms.  Those most at risk for becoming ill with toxoplasmosis are people with weakened immune systems and women who are pregnant.

Symptoms of toxoplasmosis may include:

  • Muscle aches and pains.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Fever.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
Pregnant women and those with a compromised immune system may experience severe symptoms of the condition, such as:

  • Confusion.
  • Headaches.
  • Seizures.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Lung problems.
  • Ocular toxoplasmosis, which may present as eye pain, eye redness, blurred or reduced vision, and tearing. 
A pregnant woman may pass toxoplasmosis to her baby.  Most infants who contract the infection from their mothers won't have any symptoms at birth, but they may experience symptoms later in life.  A small percentage of infected infants present with serious eye infections or brain damage at birth.

Toxoplasmosis symptoms generally arise within one to three weeks after exposure to the parasite and usually resolve within three to four weeks.  

Pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems experiencing symptoms as well as people who experience any of the severe symptoms of toxoplasmosis (i.e., confusion, seizures, vision changes, breathing difficulties, etc.) should see a doctor for testing and treatment.


You can become infected with toxoplasma gondii by:

  • Eating undercooked contaminated meat, especially lamb, venison, or pork.
  • Drinking contaminated water.  Contaminated water is rare in the United States.
  • Cooking with contaminated utensils.  Any utencil that has come into contact with contaminated meat will retain the parasite until the utensil is washed thoroughly with hot soapy water.
  • Accidentally ingesting the parasite through contact with contaminated cat feces.  This can happen when you are cleaning the litterbox or by touching or ingesting anything that has come into contact with contaminated cat feces.
  • Eating unwashed fruits or vegetables.  The surface of fruits and vegetables may contain the parasite.  Thoroughly wash all of your produce before eating it.
  • Though it is rare, you may also contract toxoplasmosis by receiving an infected organ when you have an organ transplant or infected blood if you have a blood transfusion.   
Diagnosis and Treatment

If you think you may have toxoplasmosis, talk to your doctor.  He or she can order a blood test that looks for antibodies to the parasite.  

If you test positive for toxoplasmosis, you can discuss whether or not treatment is warranted with your doctor.  In most cases, toxoplasmosis resolves on its own within a few weeks.  However, in certain cases, treatment may be needed.  Your doctor may prescribe medications like pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, clindamycin, and spiramycin in combination or separately to treat your condition. 


  1. Great article! I'm glad that this is not something that most people have to be overly worried about. Yay for the amazing immune systems that we have! I do feel bad for the poor kitties who fall ill with it though.

  2. Dang, that sounds like a very scary thing all around!

  3. Fortunately, us kitties have really strong immune systems by the time we are grown up. The little ones are more susceptible.

  4. I don't know why humans make such a big deal out of cats and toxoplasmosis when there are so many other ways that they can come into contact with it. Thanks for this post!

  5. Pawsum posty. Yous can also hav yous kitty tested to see ifin they awe carriers fur da disease.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Lexi

  6. Thanks for the info here. Its good stuff to know about.

  7. Great to know, I always thought of it as the reason pregnant women shouldn't scoop the cat box, but there's much more. I especially didn't know that it hangs around on lots of carriers from knives to fruit. This is better info than I get watching House reruns, thanks! :-)

  8. We're glad to see you listing so many more causes than cat poop. This can be a serious ailment, but it has gotten a lot of sensationalized (and skewed) press, and it's good to see the record set straight.

  9. Great and informative article. It's a shame that so many kitties are given up because their mom's get pregnant.