Toxoplasmosis is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) parasite. This is found in the poo (faeces) of infected cats and the meat of infected animals.
T. gondii can reproduce inside a cat's bowel andis passed out inits poo fora few weeks after it became infected. The cat won't usually have any symptoms, so you may not know it's infected. The parasites can survive outside insoil or water for many months.
The parasites can get into animal meat ifan animal eats soil, grass, animal feed or another animal that has been contaminated by an infected cat's poo.
You can get toxoplasmosis if theT. gondii parasites get into your mouth.
This can happen by:
There's also a small risk of the infection being passed from sheep during the lambing season. This is because the T. gondii parasiteis sometimes found in the afterbirth and on newborn lambs after an infected sheep has given birth.
Toxoplasmosis can't be passed on through person-to-person contact. This means that:
However, in rare cases people have developed toxoplasmosis from an infected organ transplant or Blood transfusion .
There's also a chance the infection could be passed to an unborn baby if the mother becomes infected while pregnant.
After being infected, most people are immune to toxoplasmosis for the rest of their life. However, the parasites that cause the infection can remain inactive in the body for many years, and potentially for life.
These inactive parasites won't usually cause any problems, including for pregnant women who were infected before becoming pregnant, although there's a chance they could become active again if your immune system weakens. For example, the infection may start to cause problems if you get HIV or have chemotherapy.
If a pregnant woman becomes infected with toxoplasmosis, there's a risk the infection could spread to her baby through the placenta (the organ that links the mother's blood supply toher unborn baby's).
However, this can only occur if the mother becomes infected for the first time while she's pregnant orshortly before conceiving. This is thought to happen very rarely in the UK.
Even if you do become infected while pregnant,it doesn't necessarily mean the infection will spread to your baby. The chances of your child becoming infectedare higher the later you become infected.
For example, the risk of passing the infection on is only around 10-15% if you become infected in the first 12-13 weeks of pregnancy, but can be as high as 70% if you become infected from weeks 26-28 onwards.
If your baby does become infected, it can cause a serious condition known as congenital toxoplasmosis. Read about the complications of toxoplasmosis for more information about this.
Read about toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be dangerous for pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.
Read about the main symptoms of toxoplasmosis, including what problems the infection can cause during pregnancy and in people with weak immune systems.
Read about how you can get toxoplasmosis and whether the infection can be spread between people.
Read about the tests used to diagnose toxoplasmosis, including about testing in pregnancy.
Read about how toxoplasmosis is treated, including how the infection is treated in pregnant women and babies.
Read about the complications of toxoplasmosis that can occur if the infection spreads to the eyes or brain, or from a pregnant woman to her unborn child.