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Toxoplasmosis is a common infection found in birds, animals, and people.
For most people, it doesn't cause serious health problems. But for a pregnant woman's growing baby, it can cause brain damage and vision loss. Still, the chance of a pregnant woman getting the infection and passing it on to her baby is low.
If you're pregnant or planning to have a baby and are worried that you may have toxoplasmosis, ask your doctor about getting tested. Routine testing is not recommended for most women.1 After you have had the infection, you're usually immune and can't get it again or pass it on to your baby.
But if you aren't immune, you'll want to take special care while you're pregnant. Avoid anything that may be infected, such as infected meat and infected cat feces.
A parasite causes toxoplasmosis.
You can get the infection by:
If you get toxoplasmosis, you may feel like you have the flu, or you may not feel sick at all. Most people who get the infection don't even know that they have it. Symptoms may include:
A blood test can tell whether you have or have ever had toxoplasmosis. If you're worried about getting the infection, ask your doctor about having the test.
If you get the infection while you're pregnant, you'll need to have your baby tested. Your doctor can take some fluid from the sac that surrounds your baby and check for the infection.
In healthy people, the infection often goes away on its own. But babies and people whose bodies can't fight infection well will need to take medicine to treat the infection and prevent serious health problems.
If you get toxoplasmosis while you're pregnant, you'll take medicine that treats the infection. This medicine is called spiramycin, an antibiotic.2 Spiramycin collects in the placenta, the site through which the Toxoplasma gondii parasites travel to the fetus.
This medicine may:
Your baby has a better chance of being healthy at birth if you get treatment while you're pregnant.
If an amniocentesis shows that a fetus is infected, a combination of antibiotics lowers the risk of birth defects and may cure the infection. Sulfadiazine plus pyrimethamine (an antibiotic commonly used for malaria) is sometimes used with the antibiotic spiramycin.2
Most newborns who have been infected with toxoplasmosis have no symptoms at birth. If your baby has the infection, he or she will need to take antibiotics for a year after birth. This lowers the chance of having problems later on.
There are several things you can do to avoid getting toxoplasmosis:
Learning about toxoplasmosis:
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- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2000, reaffirmed 2011). Perinatal viral and parasitic infections. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 20. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 96(3): 1–13.
- Montoya JG, et al. (2010). Toxoplasma gondii. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3495–3526. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology|
|Last Revised||May 29, 2013|
Last Revised: May 29, 2013
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