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Toxoplasmosis (tok-soh-plaz-MOH-sis) is a common infestation of human beings and other mammals - particularly cats. It usually produces only vague, flulike symptoms, such as slightly swollen glands or a low fever. Infection causes the body's immune system to develop antibodies to the parasite that causes it, giving permanent immunity from then on. But a woman who
becomes infected during pregnancy may in turn infect the fetus, with potentially disastrous results. The infection may be fatal to the fetus, causing miscarriage or stillbirth, or the fetus may survive.
Some babies are infected at or soon after birth. Some infected babies die in early infancy, but some have no obvious symptoms when they are born. The parasites may only become active months or years later, when they cause developmental disability (mental retardation), epilepsy, heart disease or blindness.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a one-celled protist parasite. Infestation with this parasite can occur in two ways. One of them is eating raw or rare meat from infected animals, foods made with raw eggs from infected chickens, or unpasteurized milk or milk
products from infected cows or goats. The second way to become infested is by contact with the feces of infected cats. These contain long-lived eggs of the parasites, which can be picked up accidentally in handling cat litter or in touching contaminated soil.

Avoid undercooked meats, or freeze meat to -20 degrees Celsius for 2 days. Protect children's play areas from cat and dog feces. Wash the hands thoroughly after contact with soil that may be contaminated with animal feces.

No treatment is indicated in asymptomatic people, except children, to prevent retinal inflammation. Treatment of women in pregnancy is controversial because of the toxicity of the medications, but treatment is still advocated.

Medications to treat the infection include: pyrimethamine, sulfonamide drugs, folinic acid, clindamycin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Treatment in AIDS patients is continued indefinitely, because the infection may reactivate if treatment is discontinued.

Acute infection in children may cause retinochoroiditis (inflammation of the retina). Toxoplasmosis in adults has a good prognosis (probable outcome) if the immune system is healthy. Chronicasymptomatic infection is usually benign.

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