Toxoplasmosis is a common condition that occurs worldwide in most birds and warm-blooded mammals, including humans. In most cases, toxoplasmosis does not have any symptoms. This is because a healthy immune system is usually able to defend the body from the parasite and prevent it from causing illness.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which is one of the world’s most common parasites. T. gondii can be found in:
- Undercooked or raw meat,
- Raw cured meat, such as parma ham or salami,
- Unpasteurised goat’s milk,
- Cat faeces, and
- Soil or cat litter that is contaminated with infected cat faeces.
Toxoplasmosis cannot be passed on through person-to-person contact, but it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. This is only possible if a women catches the infection either:
- During pregnancy, or
- Up to three months before she conceives.
If a baby is born with the infection, it is known as congenital toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis can cause mild flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature and muscle aches, but these will usually pass without treatment after a few weeks. Congenital toxoplasmosis can cause serious health problems in babies and can sometimes be fatal. It can cause:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin),