Toxoplasma is a typical parasite that causes birth defects, but within the United States it shouldn’t be tested for while pregnant

Imagine the shock in case your baby was born with a swollen brain, blindness and debilitating seizures. Now imagine learning that these devastating conditions might have been prevented if you happen to had done an easy test for the common parasite. Toxoplasma gondii.

Toxoplasmosis could be transmitted anywhere an infected cat has defecated, e.g. within the litter box, sandbox, garden or yard. Other ways of infection include consuming contaminated water, undercooked meat or shellfish. In most individuals, the disease is mild and the infection could be managed.

However, if the disease occurs for the primary time while pregnant, Toxoplasmosis can go through the placenta and cause miscarriages or serious birth defects. Such transmission from mother to child while pregnant is known as congenital toxoplasmosis. Up to 4,400 babies could be born with congenital toxoplasmosis within the United States annually.

Microscopic image of four elongated organisms in which two smaller elongated organisms are growing
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite.
Ke Hu and John M. Murray via Wikimedia Commons

As Professor of Microbiology on the Indiana University School of Medicine I study the biology of Toxoplasmosis in my laboratory. Blood tests can monitor the amount Toxoplasmosis Antibodies within the parent. Elevated levels indicate an acute infection that puts the fetus in danger for congenital toxoplasmosis. immediate administration of antiparasitics in pregnant women who develop toxoplasmosis may help protect the fetus from the worst effects of congenital toxoplasmosis.

Several countries, including France and Austria, Testing and treating toxoplasmosis while pregnant for many years. Brazil recently launched an identical program.

However, Toxoplasmosis Tests aren’t included in prenatal screening within the US

Why should toxoplasmosis screening be performed while pregnant?

Toxoplasmosis is a widespread and insidious infection. 40 million American adults are infected with the parasite, which underlines how easy it’s to contract it. And because the infection normally doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms, can't remember when or how they were infected.

Studies conducted in several countries have shown the advantages of detecting and treating toxoplasmosis while pregnant.

The first randomized clinical trial to guage the efficacy and safety of a treatment to scale back prenatal toxoplasmosis transmission. Toxogestpublished its ends in 2018. Although the study was stopped resulting from lack of funding, the outcomes suggested that the treatment not only reduced infection transmission but in addition reduced the severity of disease in breakthrough infections.

Medical results of toxoplasmosis screening in French
Some countries, comparable to France, have introduced routine prenatal toxoplasmosis screening and treatment.
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

A meta-analysis of 33 studies published between 2017 and 2021 also found that pregnant women given the antibiotic spiramycin also significantly lower parasite transmission rates to their unborn child in comparison with untreated moms.

For Dr. Jose Montoya, toxoplasmosis researcher and clinician at Remington Laboratory at Sutter Healththe advantage of screening is evident. “In countries that conduct prenatal screening for toxoplasmosis, The severity of congenital toxoplasmosis is way less than what’s routinely observed within the United States,” he said.

Congenital toxoplasmosis could also be more common than previously thought

Some argue that congenital toxoplasmosis is simply too rare to warrant prenatal testing, however the United States is currently screening for infections which can be even rarer than toxoplasmosis. comparable to phenylketonuria.

The frequency of congenital toxoplasmosis can also be underestimated. There are currently no national surveillance data on toxoplasmosis, because it shouldn’t be a nationally notifiable disease Since most states don’t monitor or report this infection while pregnant, researchers don’t understand how many miscarriages are attributable to Toxoplasmosis or what number of children suffer from the infection.

A 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the Deficiencies in toxoplasmosis surveillance within the USAwhich states that routine, standardized testing while pregnant would offer vital data to evaluate the extent of this threat to babies. In addition, it could inform researchers concerning the causes of the high rate of stillbirths within the USA, the disproportionately affect black women.

A pregnant person can transmit toxoplasmosis to her unborn baby.

Some researchers warn that Toxoplasmosis Prevalence can increases with the recognition of free-range, organically grown foods and climate change. Wild animals are more liable to infectious Toxoplasmosis Oocysts in pastures and outdoor water sources which can be more more likely to be contaminated with cat feces. Higher temperatures and stronger storms resulting from climate change promote the persistence and spread of oocysts within the environment – ​​for instance through increasing soil erosion and water pollution.

In addition, reports from unusually virulent Toxoplasmosis Tribes Migration from South America may worsen the severity of congenital toxoplasmosis infections within the United States

Costs of toxoplasmosis while pregnant

“This disease not only has enormous physical and psychological consequences, but also significant economic consequences,” said Rima McLeod is an American psychologist specializing within the treatment of Parkinson's disease. She is one among the world's leading figures and works closely with Dr. Rima McLeod.Director of the Toxoplasmosis Center on the University of Chicago.

A study McLeod conducted in 2011 estimated that adopting the French model for prenatal screening and treatment could lead to savings for U.S. taxpayers. 620 US dollars per child or 2.5 billion dollars annually.

Researchers have also developed latest technologies that reduce concerns about testing costs.

McLeod's team developed a cost-effective finger prick test that recognizes Toxoplasmosis inside half-hour. Other researchers have also found a Saliva test.

How to avoid toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis causes significant, lifelong neurological and visual impairment in a whole bunch of babies born within the United States annually. Congenital toxoplasmosis could be largely mitigated by prenatal testing and treatment protocols that are protected and straightforward to perform.

“Those who conducted the clinical trial of Toxogest did not include a placebo control because it was considered unethical not to monitor and treat congenital toxoplasmosis,” Montoya said. “But currently, pregnant women in the United States are relegated to such a placebo group – deprived of simple, inexpensive procedures that could protect their children from birth defects.”

Pink scoop in cat litter box with cat feces
If you avoid using a litter box while pregnant, you’ll be able to protect yourself from toxoplasmosis.
sofirinaja/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Without systematic prenatal testing for congenital toxoplasmosis, one of the best pregnant women can do is alert to risk aspectsPregnant women should avoid cleansing the litter box and other areas where cats could have done their business. Fruit and vegetables ought to be washed before consumption. Meat products ought to be cooked to the right temperature.

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