• What Is Toxoplasmosis?

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    Reviewed By: G Atma Vemulakonda, MD
    Apr. 24, 2020

    Toxoplasmosis is a disease you can get from infection with a parasite. The parasite is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Most people who are infected have no signs or symptoms and won’t need treatment. But toxoplasmosis can cause serious health problems for those with weakened immune systems and for infants who get the disease from their mothers.

    What causes toxoplasmosis?

    Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with a parasite called T. gondii. Toxoplasmosis is divided into two types: acquired and congenital.

    Acquired toxoplasmosis

    You can’t catch toxoplasmosis from a child or adult who is already infected. You need to ingest the parasite (get it into your body) to become infected. This can happen by:

    • Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. You can get T. gondii by eating raw or undercooked meat that contain the parasite. Drinking water, unwashed fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized/raw dairy products can also be contaminated with T. gondii.
    • Gardening. You can ingest the parasite from contaminated cat feces when gardening.
    • Cleaning a cat’s litter box without washing your hands afterwards. The parasite can enter your body when you touch your mouth after cleaning a litter box with infected feces.
    • Cross-contamination with unwashed knives/cutting boards. The parasite can be ingested after preparing meals with unwashed knives or cutting boards that came into contact with raw meat.
    • Blood transfusion or organ transplant. Rarely, you can get T. gondii from a transplanted organ or a blood transfusion.

    Congenital toxoplasmosis

    This is when toxoplasmosis is passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy. If a mother gets toxoplasmosis right before or during her pregnancy, it can be passed onto the child.