Physiology and Structure
The organism develops in the intestinal cells of a cat. It takes approximately 3 to 4 days for the parasite to mature. Infective forms develop as slender, crescentic types, called tachyzoites. They are responsible for the initial infection and tissue damage. Bradyzoites are the shorter, slow-growing forms which develop and form cysts in chronic infections.
Toxoplasma gondii infections are benign and asymptomatic. The symptoms only appear as the parasite moves form the blood to tissues. The infections can be characterized by cell destruction, reproduction of more organisms and the formation of cysts. Tissues in the body would be affected. Acute symptoms would include chills, fever, headaches, myalgia, lymphadenitis and fatigue.
The chronic symptoms include lymphadenitis, occasionally a rash which could lead to hepatitis. Not only does it affect adults, it also affects infants too. if infection occurs in the first trimester, abortion is encouraged as it might lead to stillbirth or a severe disease.
Affected infants show symptoms such as mental retardation, blindness, anemia , jaundice rash, pneumonia, etc.
This disease is usually multifocal, with more than one mass lesion appearing in the brain at the same time. Symptoms are related to the location of the lesions. Several symptoms include hemiparesis
This disease is seen predominantly in patients with AIDS.
taken from: http://teaching.path.cam.ac.uk/partIB_pract/P14/image01.jpg
Human infections can be accidental and acquired in several ways, for example, ingestion of the organism while cleaning the cat litter box or contaminated soil.
In human infections, only non-intestinal forms are found.
Chronic infections are mainly located in the brain and muscle tissue.
Treatment, Prevention and Control
An infected patient who was initially healthy need not go for treatment. However patients who are infected with HIV would have to be treated.
The majority of human infections are obtained either through ingestion or handling on contaminated meat.
Pregnant women and immunocompromised are said to be the ones who are at the greatest risk of contracting that disease.
There are different methods in prohibiting the spread of this disease. Such methods are, to ensure that meat is throughly cooked before consumption, careful hand washing is needed and cutting boards and utensils used to cut meat should be sanitized.
The spread of this disease can be prevented by wearing disposable gloves while gardening, clean and disinfect the litter box daily and children's sandboxes should be covered when not in use.