Toxoplasma Gondii is a unicellular parasite belonging to the genus toxoplasma. It usually doesn’t cause diseases in human beings because our immune system prevents this. However, it can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis in humans, if the immune system is weak. An infection with toxoplasma gondii can also cause many complications in pregnant women and the fetus might be fatally affected or may suffer serious disease.
Toxoplasma gondii has two types of hosts; a definitive host and an intermediate host. The definitive host is the domestic cat, while intermediate hosts are many. These include humans, birds, small mammals like rodents and other warm blooded animals.
Toxoplasma gondii life cycle
The life cycle of toxoplasma gondii takes place in two stages. The sexual stage occurs in cats while asexual stage occurs in intermediate hosts such as humans, pigs, cattle etc. In both hosts, toxoplasma gondii enters cell and forms vacuoles. As the organism is inside the cells it protects itself from the immune system, and if the immunity of the host is weak it can cause diseases. Theses vacuoles then form cysts in the muscles and brain. The cysts are then transferred to other hosts when the infected animal is eaten by other animals.
The parasite is transmitted to humans by undercooked meat of pig, lamb, venison etc. and by hand to mouth contact of infected raw meat. The organism is also transmitted by the feces of cats. Gardening and cleaning cats litter box and other instances when you might come in contact with the feces of cats can transmit the organism to you. Mother to child transmission is also important because this can be of great risk to both mother and the unborn child. This can be prevented by prenatal screening of mother and the unborn child. Mothers who are pregnant should be careful and should keep away from cats, eat properly cooked food and should maintain good hygiene.
Toxoplasmosis is the disease caused by toxoplasma gondii. The symptoms depend on the site of infection. If brain is infected; it may cause psychiatric and behavioural changes. Skin infections cause lesions, papules and cysts. Lymph nodes are often swollen. Acute infection may go unnoticed as the individual is either asymptomatic or has symptoms of common cold and flu like illness.
The treatment of toxoplasmosis is by a drug called pyrimethamine, which is an antiprotozoal medicine. Most healthy individuals do not need any treatment and the infection subsides without intervention. Maintaining proper hygiene and eating properly cooked meat can prevent this disease caused by toxoplasma gondii in humans.