Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite (Toxoplasma gondii).
The parasite enters your body by being ingested, commonly from contaminated food or by touching kitty litter (cat poo) than going to your mouth. To healthy adults, the parasite presents little risk, with most people experiencing mild to no symptoms.
There is a simple blood screening test that can be done at the beginning of your pregnancy to find out if you have been in contact with the Toxoplasmosis parasite (your Obstetrician/GP will give you guidance on what antenatal blood tests are appropriate for you). The blood test screens for antibodies. When exposed to a virus or bacteria the human body creates a defence mechanism (antibodies) to help fight the infection.
When you are pregnant you are able to protect your unborn baby from many of the viruses or bacteria that you have already been exposed to. However, if the first exposure to a virus or bacteria is during your pregnancy you may not have had an opportunity to have built defences yet.
In short, we can detect in a simple blood test, if you have previously had toxoplasmosis (IgG or past exposure) or if you currently have (IgM or acute infection) the infection. From there, your Obstetrician can help determine if your baby is likely at risk.
In order to lessen the likelihood of being infected with Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy follow these simple instructions.
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating,
- Drink clean water,
- Cook meat well (avoid eating raw meat and fish),
- Don’t clean up after your or someone else’s cat faeces,
- Consume only pasteurised dairy products.
- And as always, good hand hygiene (regular handwashing with soap and water) is the best defence.