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Toxoplasmosis

3-minute read

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a very common disease caused by a parasite. You can have toxoplasmosis and have no symptoms. If you’re pregnant, it can harm your baby.

What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

You can have toxoplasmosis and have no symptoms.

You might feel like you have the flu, with fever, swollen glands, headaches, fatigue or muscle pains. It can last for months.

Some people get seriously ill with it. It can affect their eyes, brain or other organs.

If it affects your eyes, you might notice your vision is blurry or that your eyes are red, sore or watering.

If have a weakened immune system or are pregnant the effects to you or your baby are more likely to be serious.

If you’re pregnant, or have immune problems, or have severe symptoms and think you may have toxoplasmosis, you should see your doctor immediately.

What causes toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. You can get it from:

  • eating or handling raw or undercooked meat
  • not washing your hands after gardening
  • contact with unwashed fruit or vegetables
  • contact with cat faeces (poo) in the soil

What to do if you're pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, you need to be careful to reduce your risks of getting toxoplasmosis. It can lead to an infection causing you problems for your baby’s hearing, eyesight or brain, and has been associated with stillbirth

Read more about toxoplasmosis in pregnancy.

How is toxoplasmosis treated?

A blood test will show if you have toxoplasmosis.

If you’re pregnant or unwell, your doctor might recommend medicine. Otherwise, you will usually not need treatment.

How is toxoplasmosis prevented?

The best ways to prevent toxoplasmosis are:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables before eating them.
  • Thoroughly cook all raw meat and ready meals.
  • Wear gloves when gardening and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Avoid cat faeces and carefully wash your hands after handling a cat or kitty litter.

If you are immunocompromised, for example by advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, organ transplants, or treatment for some cancers, the parasites in the cyst may reactivate and can cause serious illness. You can ask your doctor about tests to check if you've had toxoplasmosis and medicine to stop it reactivating.

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Last reviewed: March 2020


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