Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In the United States, approximately 85% of women of childbearing age are susceptible to acute infection with T. gondii. Acute infections in pregnant women may cause serious health problems when the organism is transmitted to the fetus (congenital toxoplasmosis), including mental retardation, seizures, blindness, and death. An estimated 400 to 4000 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis occur in the U.S. each year. Manifestations of congenital toxoplasmosis may not become apparent until the second or third decade of life. Serologic tests are used to diagnose acute infection in pregnant women, but false-positive tests occur frequently, therefore, serologic diagnosis must be confirmed at a reference laboratory before treatment with potentially toxic drugs should be considered. Much of congenital toxoplasmosis can be prevented by educating women of childbearing age and pregnant women to avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, to avoid cross-contamination of other foods with raw or undercooked meat, and to use proper cat-litter and soil-related hygiene.
Target Audience: Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians
Learning Objectives: After completion of this article, the reader will be able to outline the biology of toxoplasmosis, to explain the methods of transmission of toxoplasmosis, and to identify the methods used to diagnose toxoplasmosis in pregnancy.