What is Toxoplasmosis and Are You At Risk?

It’s a common story, guy meets girl, they fall in love, get married and decide to have babies. All off a sudden the littler box that came with the cat that came with the girl is now the guy’s problem. Something about toxo-what-o? Guy thinks maybe this is a conspiracy to dump an unfavorable chore on him.  So What exactly is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma Gondii which is a parasite sometimes found in cat feces that if contracted during pregnancy, can cause birth defects in babies. In healthy adults it doesn’t usually cause acute symptoms so many infected people never know they have it. Women are tested early in pregnancy because an infection can cause congenital eye, and brain defects in unborn babies.


How does Toxoplasmosis occur?

If you didn’t know that this type of parasite isn’t capable of complex thought, you might think Toxoplasma gondii were crafty little single celled organisms. The goal of any organism is to procreate, and Toxoplasma gondii has some interesting methods to ensure the survival and spread of the species. Although any warm-blooded mammal can harbor T. gondii, it is most commonly found in cats, however to spread, a cat must consume it. Usually, the cat contracts it by eating an infected rodent. What is so interesting is that it seems that while usually rodents are repelled by the SMELL OF CAT PEE, a rodent infected with T. gondii will be attracted to the scent. They will also lose their innate fear of cats being coming brazen and therefor easy targets. In other words, the parasite ensures its intermediate host, the mouse or rat, gets eaten so that it can get to its main host, the cat.

Cat Toxoplasmosis

How Does Toxoplasmosis effect humans?

There are studies that suggest that T. gondii can have adverse affects on the human brain, undetected infections in those with compromised immune systems result in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and OCD. It also seems like Toxoplasma gondii may be responsible for “crazy cat lady syndrome.” The theory is that the parasite affects the human hosts brain, so that like mice, they are no longer bothered by the smell of cat urine, which is how they tolerate living with a large number of cats.

How do I prevent Toxoplasmosis?

If you have cats, just make sure that you wash your hands well after handling the litter box and you should be fairly safe from this interesting parasite. Do take extra care if you have a compromised immune system, or are pregnant. Consider having your husband take over little box duties or hire a Professional Pet Sitter and maybe have a little extra compassion for the “crazy cat lady.” Its not her, is just Toxoplasma Gondii.  If your still concerned contact your local veterinarian or doctor to assess your risk.

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