What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Most people who become infected don't have symptoms. This is because the immune system is usually able to fight the disease.
Toxoplasmosis is dangerous to a pregnant woman and her fetus. For more information, see the topic Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy.
What causes toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis can result from:
- Accidentally swallowing Toxoplasma gondii eggs from soil or other contaminated surfaces. This can happen by putting your hands to your mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or touching anything that has come into contact with cat feces.
- Eating raw or partly cooked meat, especially pork, lamb, or venison, or touching your hands to your mouth after touching the meat.
If you are pregnant when first infected with Toxoplasma gondii, you can give the infection to your baby.
You may also receive it through an organ transplantation or a transfusion, although this is rare.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with toxoplasmosis don't have symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are often flu-like and may include swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last for a few days to several weeks.
Severe toxoplasmosis results in damage to the eyes or the brain. Infants who became infected before birth may be born with serious mental or physical problems.
Severe symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is affected. If the infection is in the:
- Brain (encephalitis), symptoms include seizures, sensory changes, weakness, changes in behavior or mental state, and problems with movement.
- Eye (chorioretinitis), symptoms include eye pain and gradual vision loss in one or both eyes.
- Lungs (pneumonia), symptoms include fever and chills, breathing problems and a cough that can cause chest wall pain, fatigue, and weakness.
- Heart (myocarditis), symptoms include irregular heartbeat, signs of pericarditis, and signs of heart failure.