Intended for healthcare professionals


Sources of Toxoplasma gondii infection in pregnancy

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 15 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:127

Until rates of congenital toxoplasmosis fall, control measures are essential

  1. J P Dubey, microbiologist
  1. Parasite Biology and Epidemiology Laboratory, Livestock and Poultry Sciences Institute, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Building 1001, Beltsville Agricultrual Research Centre East, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA

    Papers p 142

    Humans commonly acquire Toxoplasma gondii infection by ingesting food and water contaminated with the resistant stage of the parasite (oocyst) shed in the faeces of infected cats or by ingesting the encysted stage of the parasite (tissue cysts) in infected meat.1 Cats can rapidly shed millions of oocysts after eating rodents, birds, or other animals infected with T gondii, and these oocysts can remain viable in the environment for many months.1 Toxoplasma, listeria, and salmonella are the three most important pathogens carried by food in terms of illness and death in the United States and perhaps in Europe. Pork, lamb, and mutton are the most important sources of T gondii infection, along with game meats such as bear and feral swine.24

    There is no test to distinguish infections from oocysts as opposed to tissue cysts. Therefore, epidemiological surveys remain the most useful way of assessing the relative importance of different …

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