Talking Toxoplasmosis

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. In the eye, Toxoplasma infections frequently cause significant inflammation and subsequent scarring which may temporarily or permanently impair vision.  Ocular toxoplasmosis can be congenital or acquired, and worldwide toxoplasmosis is the most common cause of inflammation in the back of the eye.


How is toxoplasmosis acquired?

The Toxoplasma organism resides in the intestinal tracts of many animals, particularly cats. Infectious organisms are shed in cat feces, and are introduced into the body by ingestion. Infection risk can be minimized by practicing good hygiene including hand washing (especially before preparing or eating food) and avoiding raw or undercooked meat. It is prudent for pregnant women to avoid handling cat litter boxes, cat feces, sandboxes, and any insects exposed to cat feces (cockroaches, flies, etc.). Immunocompromised patients (including those with AIDS, cancer, or those taking immunosuppressive drugs) are at risk to acquire toxoplasmosis that can become a severe, even fatal, disease.


How is toxoplasmosis treated?

If involvement of the internal organs is severe, treatment with antibiotics is considered. For cases in which there is a potential for vision loss, treatment may involve the use of anti-parasitic medications, steroids, and antibiotics. Typically, the anti-parasitic medication pyrimethamine is utilized in combination with the antibiotic sulfadiazine and corticosteroids. Early detection is significantly important to preserving as much of the eye’s integrity as possible.