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How safe are you with your cat?

Have you ever heard of Toxoplasmosis?

It is an infection generally caused due to cats. It is believed that 30% to 65% of the world population has this disease. It is most prevalent and most widely spread parasitic infection, yet one of the most ignored of all the human infections.

Did you know that 10% of abortions or neonatal deaths are due to this infection??

This article covers:

1) What is toxoplasmosis

2) transmission

3) Effects on humans

4) Symptoms

5) Diagnosis and treatment

What is Toxoplasmosis and why is it a big deal???

It is a parasitic infection and the organism that causes it is toxoplasma gondii, which infects mostly warm-blooded organisms.


Cats play a major role in spreading it because they are the only animals that excrete resistant oocytes into the environment. All the other animals including man serve as an intermediate host in which the parasite may cause systemic infection, resulting in tissue cysts formation.

Whoaaa now what is a cyst?

Cyst is a pocket like membrane which may contain liquid, semi solid, or some times even air.

These cysts are formed by the parasitic protozoan organism Toxoplasma gondii for their easy nutrient uptake and they also store their oocytes.

Now is this Oocyte now??

Oocytes are pouches that contain parasitic zygotes. Zygote is an embryo.

Systemic infection means the infection can affect the whole body instead of a specific type of cells or an organ. This toxoplasmosis is also caused when somebody consumes under cooked meat.

Why should I be bothered?

Effects on Humans: During the first few weeks post exposure the infection typically causes a mild flu or illness or no illness at all. In a very healthy human, it may not show any symptom.

A weaker immune system such as AIDS condition or cancer patients or pregnant women, may become seriously ill and occasionally may be fatal .

Toxoplasma gondii are characterized for having a very thick cell wall and the tissue cysts having a great predilection for infecting the central nervous system and skeletal muscles. It is believed that the incidence of psychiatric disorders is increasing due to this infection. This is a clear proof that the brain is an immune privileged site for the infection for our life time. Meaning that we will not have any symptoms of the presence of infection is our body. Because of the cyst wall, which acts as a biological barrier preventing the interaction of drugs with intracystic bradozoites (oocytes or embryos present inside the cysts) and as a result we cannot kill the organism.

Tachyzoites or bradozoites are fast multiplying infectious cysts and they love to affect brain, liver, lungs and skeletal muscles.

Oocytes induced infection (through a cat) may be severe than that induced by ingested by tissue cysts (1% deaths of infants and still births). Infection in infants may cause death within a few days of birth. In 70% to 90% of cases it may lead to visual impairment, learning disabilities, mental retardation will be apparent.

Ohh No! I feel like I have it? What to do?

Diagnosis and Treatment: Immunoglobulin (Ig) G- specific antibody determination can diagnose the disease, severity and also indicates if the infection is acute or recent.

Take care of cat litter, hair and eliminate them properly. Microwave oven, cooking, salting and smoking cooking cannot kill the infection. So, meat should be frozen to -12 centigrade for at least 24hours.

Traditional drug therapy consists of a combination pf pyrimethamine and sulfonamides.

Folinic acid may decrease congenital infection and increase proportion of infants asymptomatic at birth.

Spiramycin is the current drug to treat pregnant women.

This may decrease the severity of congenital toxoplasmosis for long-term consequences but not the risk of transmission.


1. Toxoplasma gondii tissue cyst: Cyst wall Incorporation activity and matrix cytoskeleton proteins paving the way to nutrient acquisition. By Mariana Acquarone et al..

2. Weiss LM et al… Toxoplasmosis: A history of clinical observation. International Journal of parasitology.

3. Strain hypothesis of toxoplasma gondii infection on the outcome of human diseases. Xiao J et al…

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