This article was written in collaboration with veterinary practice Vierbeiner.
Again and again, especially pregnant women hear about toxoplasmosis. But how dangerous is it and what should you know about it?
What is toxoplasmosis?
It’s a single-cell parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It is considered a zoonosis and can therefore be transmitted to humans.
How is it transmitted?
Mammals and birds are considered to be the intermediate host (in which the parasite develops and is excreted). The final host are cats, in whose small intestine they reproduce. The oocysts (early developmental stage of unicellular parasites) are excreted in the cat excrements and thus reach the soil. There it is taken up again by intermediate hosts via food plants.
Humans can therefore become infected by gardening in infected soil, as well as through cat excrments or the consumption of raw meat. Pregnant women in particular must be careful, as the unborn child can also become infected. But also other pets, such as dogs, can be infected by eating cat excrement.
Often no symptoms occur. Mostly only immunocompromised animals show signs of:
- Breathing difficulties
- Eye Inflammation
In this case, have your pet examined by a vet.
Even in healthy people no symptoms are usually to be expected. Immunocompromised people may experience coordination difficulties, joint pain, fever and cramps. For unborn children, an infection can have all kinds of consequences, such as brain damage, or lead to miscarriage.
Diagnosis & Therapy
Toxoplasmosis can be detected in blood or excrements. Symptoms are usually treated symptomatically. Consult your doctor for advice.
How can I minimize the danger?
Tips for especially pregnant women without toxoplasmosis antibodies (when first infected):
- Refrain from eating raw or poorly cooked meat, as well as unwashed fruit and vegetables.
- It is best to have your household pets tested for toxoplasmosis before pregnancy so that you know what to do.
- Cleaning the litter tray and gardening should be done by your partner or with gloves on during this time.
- If you have a cat that has toxoplasmosis, the cat’s excrement should always be removed immediately (only after about 24h contagious) and the litter box should ideally be cleaned repeatedly with a steam cleaner or hot water.
- In general good hygiene and frequent hand washing should be on the agenda.
- These rules also apply to dog owners.
Once you are infected with the pathogen, you are immune. Many people have already been through a toxoplasmosis infection (without knowing it) and cannot get infected again.
If you would like to know more about this topic, you can inform yourself at veterinary practice Vierbeiner.
Many people have already come into contact with the Toxoplasma gondii pathogen in the course of their lives and therefore cannot become infected again. Especially pregnant women or those who want to become pregnant should have a blood test done. If it is positive, there is no need to worry. If it is negative, i.e. there are no antibodies present, a few points should be checked in order not to endanger the unborn child. Particular care should be taken when preparing and eating food, gardening without gloves and contact with faeces. Your pet is therefore allowed to stay with you.