An infectious disease called toxoplasmosis is brought on by a parasite that travels from animals to people. It is a widespread illness that is rarely diagnosed because the majority of infected individuals show no signs or symptoms. When a person has disease symptoms, their condition is often mild, with swollen lymph nodes and some discomfort.
What is toxoplasmosis caused by?
Toxoplasmosis is brought on by the bacterium Toxoplasma gondii. Infected animals include birds, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, sheep, and other domestic and wild animals. The Toxoplasma protozoa that infect humans and other animals most frequently come from cats. Toxoplasma gondii comes in three different forms: tachyzoites, which reproduce quickly, bradyzoites, which reproduce more slowly and are seen in tissue cysts, and sporozoites (contained in oocysts). The type that can enter body cells, multiply quickly, and potentially kill cells is called a tachyzoite. The tachyzoites are liberated and spread to other cells when the cells die. Tachyzoites are therefore visible throughout the body's tissues and organs that are afflicted during this acute stage of the illness. Since all cells outside the intestines of all affected animals are susceptible to this illness, it is also known as the extraintestinal phase of the infection. However, the intestinal phase of the illness primarily affects cats (see below). The Toxoplasma bacteria divides more slowly and builds a protective layer around the parasite cells two or three weeks after the first infection. The parasite-containing cyst is known as a zoitocyst, and the cyst's cells are known as bradyzoites. The brain, eye, heart, and skeletal muscles are where the tissue cysts occur the most frequently. Bradyzoites can remain in the host's tissues for the rest of their lives. The small intestine of cats becomes infected with Toxoplasma parasites, which then proliferate asexually there. The cells undergo a sexual transformation, unite, and form an oocyst after a few days of fast replication. The Toxoplasma parasite's sporozoite form is present in oocysts. Wild and domestic cats both have oocysts, but no other animals or birds do. Cats catch the disease by eating food contaminated with tissue cysts (zoitocysts) from diseased animal flesh or oocysts from excrement. During the two-week intestinal phase of the infection, infected cats excrete millions of oocysts in their stools (i.e., when asexual reproduction of the Toxoplasma microorganisms occurs). These oocysts are the main cause of infection and can remain alive in soil for several months. After being ingested, the oocyst bursts in the intestines and spreads through the circulation to the rest of the body.
How is the toxoplasmosis disease spread?
Humans can contract toxoplasmosis by consuming undercooked meat, particularly lamb (mutton), hog, and venison, or by consuming unpasteurized milk that has been tainted with Toxoplasma gondii. Meat that has been cooked (internal temperature of around 70°C or 160°F) or frozen (about -18°C or 0°F) should be able to rid itself of parasites. In addition, toxoplasma gondii can be spread by handling infected animals, eating undercooked or raw meat, touching contaminated water, dirt (soil), or dust that has been exposed to cat excrement. Open wounds present the possibility of direct contamination. If individuals don't wash their hands after coming into contact with infected objects or before consuming food or beverages, the organism will move from the hands to the mouth and eventually be eaten. Although it is uncommon, infections following organ transplants and blood transfusions from infected donors have been documented. Human infected individuals have toxoplasma gondii in their kidneys, bladders, and intestines. Rare instances of toxoplasmosis infections occurring in organ transplant patients have been reported. Although transmission through contaminated human urine and feces has not been proven, they may be a source of infection. Only mother to child transmission happens between people. If a pregnant woman contracts toxoplasmosis, the placenta can transmit the virus to the growing fetus. What stage of pregnancy the mother contracts the infection during determines the risk to the fetus and the severity of the illness. The third trimester is when the woman is most at danger of contracting the illness, but the baby's prognosis is worse the earlier in pregnancy the infection happens. Many early infections result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Infants who do survive may experience problems like seizures, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, or severe eye infections. Some consequences may not be apparent at birth and develop in the teen years or later.
What toxoplasmosis symptoms and warning indications are there?
Due to the lack of symptoms or signs in the majority of individuals with a healthy immune system, toxoplasmosis is rarely identified or reported. Fever, muscle aches, sore throats, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and toxoplasmosis are some of the short-term side effects that may occur. Unless tests are carried out to confirm a Toxoplasma infection, these symptoms can be mistaken for the """"flu"""". The long-term or chronic effects of the infection result when the cysts spread to the brain and muscle cells. The cysts, which can stay in the body as long as the person lives, can rupture and cause severe illness including damage to the brain, eyes and other organs. Another form of the disease (ocular toxoplasmosis) can also affect the eyes leading to partial loss of sight or to blindness in one or both eyes. In individuals with a compromised immune system, toxoplasmosis may cause serious illnesses.
How long does it take to develop toxoplasmosis?
The time between contact with the infected source and the development of the disease is not known. In one outbreak caused by eating under cooked meat, the disease developed 10 to 23 days after exposure. Another outbreak caused by contact with contaminated cat feces occurred 5 to 20 days after exposure.
What is the treatment for toxoplasmosis?
Medical advice should be sought if infection is suspected. The need for and the length of treatment depends on the severity of the infection or the possibility of damage to vital organs. Toxoplasmosis is treated primarily with antibacterial and anti-parasitic drugs for about four weeks. Laboratories can perform blood and tissue tests to confirm infection with Toxoplasma gondii.
What occupations are at risk?
Sources of occupational infection include contact with infected raw meat, infected animals, contaminated soil or water, or contact with contaminated cat feces. Laboratory personnel who have handled contaminated needles or glassware have also contracted toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is an occupational risk for: animal care workers including breeders, keepers, zoo attendants, veterinarians or their associates slaughterhouse workers, meat inspectors, line processors, butchers or cooks agricultural workers landscapers and gardener laboratory workers health care workers
How can we prevent toxoplasmosis?
Animal Care Workers and Zoo Attendants Remove all feline feces daily. Dried litter should be disposed of without shaking. Flush feces down the toilet, carefully bag them for disposal, burn them or bury them deeply. Disinfect litter pans daily by scalding. Wear disposable gloves when handling litter boxes or working in soil or sand that is possibly contaminated with cat feces. Wash hands after removing gloves. House all members of the cat family in a separate room or building to prevent infecting other animals. Autoclave or heat to 70°C (for at least 10 minutes) any brooms, shovels and other equipment that have been used to clean cat cages or enclosures. Do not feed cats raw meat. If this is not possible, feed meat that has been previously frozen as it is less likely to be infected than fresh meat. Where practical, use and store equipment and tools for cleaning up cat feces in the area where cats are housed. Slaughterhouse Workers, Meat Inspectors, Line Processors, Butchers, Cooks and Others Contacting Raw Meat Where appropriate gloves when in contact with raw meat. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Do not touch mouth and eyes when handling raw meat. Wash all cutting boards, knives, sink tops and other materials that come into contact with raw meat with soap and water. Control roaches or other insects that can come into contact with food or areas where food is prepared. They may transfer oocysts to uncovered food. Agricultural Workers Soil can be a source of transmission particularly if it is used by cats. Wash hands after working in the soil or after contacting animals. Confirm the cause of abortion in animals. Send the placenta, fetus and blood samples to a laboratory to confirm the presence of Toxoplasma gondii. Do not handle fetal membranes and dead fetuses with bare hands. Fetal material that is not sent to the laboratory should be buried or incinerated. Remove placentas and aborted material from access by cats or rodents as a potential source of further infection. Do not allow cats access to stored feed. Remove all cat feces from feed. Keep only adult barn cats by spaying females and driving new cats away. Adult cats are likely to have acquired resistance and are thus unlikely to shed oocysts in their feces. Landscapers and Gardeners Wear gloves to avoid exposure to Toxoplasma gondii when contacting soil contaminated with infected cat feces. Wash hands after removing gloves. Laboratory Workers Pregnant women should be discouraged from working with the Toxoplasma species. Protective clothing should be worn by workers exposed to contaminated materials. Contaminated clothing should be labelled with a biohazard warning and washed using laundry procedures for disinfection. Production and exposure to aerosols from animal tissues should be minimized. Acceptable laboratory techniques as outlined in """"Canadian Biosafety Handbook"""" should be used. Health Care Workers Transmission of the disease from contaminated human urine and feces has not been proven. As a precaution, always wear disposable gloves when handling patients who have poor bowel control. Wash hands and nails thoroughly with soap and water after removing gloves. General precautions Pregnant women should avoid cleaning litter pans and contact with cats of unknown feeding history. If no one else can clean the litter, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Wear gloves when gardening or cleaning litter boxes. Wash your hands with soap and water after these activities, and before eating or drinking. Feed pet cats only dry, canned or cooked food. Try to keep pet cats indoors to discourage scavenging for food. Cover children’s sandboxes to keep cats from using it as a litter box. Eat meat that has been thoroughly smoked, cured or cooked. Wash fruit and vegetables before eating. Do not eat raw eggs. Do not drink unpasteurized milk or other dairy products."""