Malaika Arora

One in three people is infected with the parasite Toxoplasma – and the evidence can be in our eyes

Toxoplasma gondii is probably the most successful parasite in the world today. This microscopic creature is capable of infecting any mammal or animal bird, people on all continents are infected. Once infected, a person carries toxoplasmosis for life. So far, we do not have a drug that can eliminate the parasite from the body. There is no Serum Approved for use in humans.

Worldwide, it is estimated that 30-50% of people are infected with toxoplasmosis – and infection may be increasing in Australia. Survey of studies conducted in blood banks and Pregnancy Clinics across the country in the 1970s estimated an incidence rate of 30%. However, a recent community-based study in Western Australia found that 66% of people were infected.

The Illness Caused by this parasite can scar the back of the eye. Our new research looked for signs of disease in healthy people and found that a significant number carried the sign of Toxoplasma gondii.

We don’t just get it from cats

The cat is the primary host for Toxoplasma gondii. the cats The parasite becomes infected when it eats infected prey. Then, for two weeks, they pass large numbers of parasites in their feces in a form that can survive for long periods in the environment, even during inclement weather. When livestock swallow the droppings while grazing, the parasites settle in the muscles and live there after the animals Slaughtered for meat. Humans can become infected by eating this meat, or by eating fresh produce or drinking water contaminated by cats. A woman infected for the first time during pregnancy can also transmit the infection to her unborn child.

While toxoplasmosis infection is very common, the most important health statistic is the rate of disease caused by the infection, called toxoplasmosis.

Yes, cats spread toxoplasmosis. But they are not alone to blame. (Photo: Unsplash/Daria Shatova)

How does it affect the eye?

Toxoplasma really loves the retina, the multi-layered nervous tissue that lines the eye and generates vision. infection It can cause recurrent episodes of retinalgia ignite Permanent retinal scars. This is known as ocular toxoplasmosis.

Contrary to much of what is written about ocular toxoplasmosis, medical research shows that this condition usually affects healthy adults. However, in the elderly or people with weakness immune system, or when contracted during pregnancy, it can be more severe. An attack of active inflammation causes “floaters” and blurred vision. When the inflammation progresses to scarring, there may be permanent vision loss.

In a study of ocular toxoplasmosis patients in a large ophthalmological clinic, we measured vision decline below the driving level in more than 50% of eyes, and 25% of eyes that were irreversibly blind.

How many eyes?

Ophthalmologists and optometrists are well versed in the management of ocular toxoplasmosis. But the scale of the problem is not widely recognized, even by the medical community. The number of Australians infected with ocular toxoplasmosis has not yet been measured.

We wanted to investigate the prevalence of ocular toxoplasmosis in Australia, but we knew it would be difficult to obtain funding for a specialty. survey from this neglected disease. Therefore, we used the information collected for a different purpose: As part of the Busselton Study of Healthy Aging, retinal images were taken from more than 5,000 neonates (born 1946-1964) living in Busselton, Western Australia. The images were collected to look for other eye diseases, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

By examining these retinal images, we estimated the prevalence of ocular toxoplasmosis in one in every 150 Australians. This may sound surprisingly common, but it fits with the way people pick up toxoplasmosis.

In addition to domestic cats, Australia has large numbers of feral cats. Australia is home to a lot of agricultural land, including more than 50% of the global organic farming area. Most importantly, many Australians like to eat red meat infrequently, which puts them in real danger.

Toxoplasma Toxoplasma really loves the retina at the back of the eye and can leave a scar. (Photo: Unsplash/Marc Schulte)

How is the condition treated?

To diagnose ocular toxoplasmosis, it is necessary to perform an examination of the retina, ideally with the pupils stretch. A retinal lesion is easy to spot, because of the way Toxoplasma activates retinal cells to produce certain proteins, and an ophthalmologist or optometrist can immediately recognize the appearance. Often a blood test is also done to make diagnose.

If the condition is mild, the doctor may allow the body’s immune system to control the problem, which takes a few months. However, a combination of anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic medications is usually prescribed.

stop the spread

Toxoplasma infection is not curable, but it can be prevented. Meats sold in Australian supermarkets may contain toxoplasma. Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 66°C or freezing it before cooking are ways to kill the parasite.

fresh fruit Vegetables must be washed before eating and drinking without treatment water (such as directly from rivers or streams) should be avoided. Gloves should be worn when changing cat litter and hands should be washed afterwards.

The World Health Organization And other international and national health Cadavers are promoting an approach called One Health to diseases that are transmitted between humans, animals, and their environments. This includes different sectors working together to promote good health. Now we know how common ocular toxoplasmosis is in Australia, and there is a real justification for harnessing One Health to combat toxoplasmosis infection in this country.

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2022-05-14 09:45:40

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