A pregnant woman who gets toxoplasmosis for the first time has a 15% to 60% chance of passing it to her unborn child. Active infection usually occurs only once in a person’s life, although the protozoon remains inactive in the body. If a woman has become immune to the infection before getting pregnant, she will not pass the condition to her baby.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. People at risk for having symptoms from toxoplasmosis are:
Babies born to mothers who are first exposed to toxoplasmosis just before becoming pregnant or during pregnancy
People with very weakened immune systems from causes such as:
People with weakened immune systems may develop toxoplasmosis infections in multiple organs. Infection is most common in the brain (
), eye (
), and lung (pneumonitis). Symptoms may include:
In babies, the severity of symptoms depends on when during pregnancy the mother became infected. If infection occurs during the first three months of pregnancy, babies are less likely to become infected, but if they do, their symptoms are much more severe. During the last six months, babies are more likely to become infected, but their symptoms are less serious. Toxoplasmosis can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
About one in 10 babies born with toxoplasmosis has severe symptoms. These include:
Visual defects due to eye infections (chorioretinitis)
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Blood tests are done to look for antibodies produced by the body to fight the toxoplasmosis. Other lab tests are done to look for the protozoon itself.
If a pregnant woman is infected, prenatal tests, including
, are performed to determine if the fetus is infected.
People who are healthy and not pregnant do not need treatment. Symptoms usually go away within a few weeks to months. People with a weakened immune system are treated with antitoxoplasmosis medicines for several months.
If a pregnant woman is infected but the fetus is not, the mother is usually given the antibiotic spiramycin. This medicine can decrease the chance of the fetus becoming infected by about 60%.
Fetuses with confirmed toxoplasmosis infections are treated by giving the mother the following combination of three medications:
These drugs can reduce the severity of, but not eliminate, a newborn's symptoms. Once born, the infant will be given different combinations of medicines.
Women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant should talk to their physician about taking a blood test to determine if they are immune to toxoplasmosis (which would indicate a previous exposure). If they are not, they should take the following steps to avoid sources of toxoplasmosis:
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. If you touch raw meat, do not touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. Wash your hands, cutting boards, knives, and sink with soap and warm water.
Wash all raw vegetables and fruits.
Do not empty a cat’s litter box. Have someone else do it.
Avoid children’s sandboxes. Cats may use them for a litter box.
Do not feed your cat raw or undercooked meat.
Keep your cat inside to prevent it from hunting rodents or birds that could be infected.
Wear gloves when gardening. Keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth, and nose. Wash your hands when done.
These steps also apply to people with weakened immune systems.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a