Toxoplasmosis is an infection brought about by a parasite specifically Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is usually found in cat feces and poorly cooked meat, especially lamb, venison and pork. It can also spread via contaminated water.
This condition can be fatal or lead to serious birth defects for a fetus if a mother acquires the infection. This is why doctors instruct pregnant women to avoid washing or scooping up cat litter boxes.
In most instances, there are no symptoms at all. Those who are at risk for serious infections are those who have weakened or compromised immune systems and infants born to mothers who have the active infection during pregnancy.
What are the indications of toxoplasmosis?
Most who have been infected by the parasite do not have any signs or symptoms. Individuals who develop symptoms can experience the following:
- Swollen lymph nodes especially in the neck
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
These symptoms can persist for a month or longer and typically resolve on their own. Toxoplasmosis is considered serious for individuals who have weak immune systems. Among these individuals, they are at risk for developing:
- Lung infections that results to fever, cough and shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain that causes seizures, headaches, confusion and coma
- Eye infection that results to eye pain and blurred vision
If the fetus is affected, the symptoms can be minor or severe. Toxoplasmosis that affects an unborn child can be dangerous right after birth. Many newborns who have congenital toxoplasmosis might appear normal at birth but later on develop symptoms as they age. It is vital to check for the involvement of the condition in their eyes and the brain.
The doctor will not require treatment if there are no symptoms. Healthy individuals who acquire the infection do not have any symptoms or develop mild symptoms that are self-limited.
As for severe cases that involves the eyes or the internal organs, the doctor will prescribe pyrimethamine which is used to treat malaria and sulfadiazine which is an antibiotic.
The treatment during pregnancy is different and depends on whether the unborn child is infected and the severity of the infection. The doctor will provide the suitable course for a particular case. In most cases, an antibiotic is prescribed depending on the phase of pregnancy to reduce the risk for transmission to the fetus.
An antibiotic specifically spiramycin is given in the first and early second trimester. The combination of pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine is usually given during the late second and third trimesters.
In case the unborn child acquires the infection, sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine are used. Nevertheless, both medications can cause significant side effects on the mother and fetus and only used as the last resort.