Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Toxoplasmosis: Symptoms & Prevention Tips

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Over the past few weeks, several people diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis have contacted me at SeraCare Life Sciences, expressing interest in donating plasma and I have been able to hear their stories.

Most of the people I have spoken with have experienced retinitis which is also known as "ocular toxoplasmosis" because it affects the eye and can cause temporary or permanent blindness. It is often difficult to detect toxoplasmosis at the very intial & early stages of infection because those affected are frequently asymptomatic.

However here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for in case you think you may have been exposed to Toxoplasmosis. If you experience any of these symptoms and feel you have a reason to be concerned, you should talk to your physician or health care provider for more information. These are just general signs & symptoms to watchout for based on which stage of infection you are experiencing.

Toxoplasmosis - Signs & Symptoms
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasmosis 

Acute toxoplasmosis

During acute toxoplasmosis, symptoms are often influenza-like: swollen lymph nodes, or muscle aches and pains that last for a month or more. Rarely, a patient with a fully functioning immune system may develop eye damage from toxoplasmosis. Young children and immunocompromised patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, those taking certain types of chemotherapy, or those who have recently received an organ transplant, may develop severe toxoplasmosis. This can cause damage to the brain (encephalitis) or the eyes (necrotizing retinochoroiditis). Infants infected via placental transmission may be born with either of these problems, or with nasal malformations, although these complications are rare in newborns.

Swollen lymph nodes are more commonly found in the neck followed by axillae and then groin. Swelling may occur at different times after the initial infection, persist, and/or recur for various times independently of antiparasitic treatment.[6] It is usually found at single sites in adults, but in children multiple sites may be more common. Enlarged lymph nodes will resolve within one to two months in 60% of patients. However, a quarter of patients take 2–4 months to return to normal and 8% take 4–6 months. A substantial number of patients (6%) do not return to normal until much later.[7]

Latent toxoplasmosis

It is easy for a host to become infected with Toxoplasma gondii and develop toxoplasmosis without knowing it. In most immunocompetent patients, the infection enters a latent phase, during which only bradyzoites are present, forming cysts in nervous and muscle tissue. Most infants who are infected while in the womb have no symptoms at birth but may develop symptoms later in life.[8]

Cutaneous toxoplasmosis

While rare, skin lesions may occur in the acquired form of the disease, including roseola and erythema multiforme-like eruptions, prurigo-like nodules, urticaria, and maculopapular lesions. Newborns may have punctate macules, ecchymoses, or “blueberry muffin” lesions. Diagnosis of cutaneous toxoplasmosis is based on the tachyzoite form of T. gondii being found in the epidermis. It is found in all levels of the epidermis, is about 6 μm by 2 μm , bow-shaped, the nucleus being one-third of its size. It can be identified by electron microscopy or by Giemsa staining tissue where the cytoplasm shows blue, the nucleus red.[9]

Possible link to psychiatric disorders

Studies have been conducted that show the toxoplasmosis parasite may affect behavior and may present as or be a causative or contributory factor in various psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.[10][11][12] In 11 of 19 scientific studies, T. gondii antibody levels were found to be significantly higher in individuals affected by first-incidence schizophrenia than in unaffected persons. Individuals with schizophrenia are also more likely to report a clinical history of toxoplasmosis than those in the general population.[13] Recent work at the University of Leeds has found that the parasite produces an enzyme with tyrosine hydroxylase and phenylalanine hydroxylase activity. This enzyme may contribute to the behavioral changes observed in toxoplasmosis by altering the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, sociability, attention, motivation and sleep patterns. Schizophrenia has long been linked to dopamine dysregulation.[14]

Toxoplasmosis - Prevention Tips

From the article: "A Zoonotic Disease Involving Cats and People - What Is Toxoplasmosis and How Dangerous Is Your Cat?

By , Contributing Writer

Article Source: http://vetmedicine.about.com/od/zoonotic/a/CW-Toxoplasmosis.htm 

Toxoplasmosis in Cats and People, Pregnant Women

Toxoplasmosis is a commonly discussed disease. It is a zoonotic disease, a disease that can be passed to people from animals. In the case of toxoplasmosis, cats are the most commonly implicated source of infection although there are other species of animals that can carry the disease as well.

What Is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis, or "toxo" as it sometimes called, is caused by a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.

The disease is spread through contact with infected feces. Infected cats typically only shed the organism for a short period of time after infection.
Most commonly, toxoplasmosis causes minimal or no symptoms at all in a healthy individual. Infected cats typically show few or no symptoms of disease either. When symptoms are seen, they are generally flu-like in nature.
However, for pregnant women, toxoplasmosis can infect the unborn fetus and cause abortions, premature delivery and damage to the fetus' eyes, nervous system, skin, and ears. This occurs only if the mother is infected during her pregnancy. If she is exposed prior to becoming pregnant, the fetus is usually safe.
Toxoplasmosis may also be dangerous for an immunosuppressed individual. Because of the inability of the body to fight infection, the organism is more likely to cause disease. Toxoplasmosis in an immunosuppressed individual can be serious and even life-threatening.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Toxoplasmosis
There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself and your family from toxoplasmosis. This is especially important for pregnant women and people with a suppressed immune system.
  1. Avoid eating uncooked meat. Some species of food animals, such as pigs and sheep, can be infected with toxoplasmosis. Cooking the meat will reduce the risk of transmission of disease.
  2. Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.
  3. Wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating them.
  4. Consider wearing gloves wearing gardening or digging in the dirt. Stray or outdoor cats often use gardens to relieve themselves, leaving their feces in the dirt.
  5. If you are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system, ask someone else in the household to clean the litterbox, if possible. If you must clean the box, wear gloves when doing so and clean the box daily.
  6. If your children have sandboxes, cover them when not in use to prevent outdoor cats from using them as a litterbox.
  7. Never dispose of your cat's used cat litter in your garden or yard.

If you have been diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis, you can donate plasma and help improve better diagnosis & treatments for people affected with this illness. You can be compensated $500 per hour to donate plasma and up to twice weekly. Please visit www.idonateplasma.com for more details on how to get involved!

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