Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – Wash your Salads, fruits and Vegetables!
Wash Your Fruit, Veg and Salad
I know that to many of you this seems obvious but make sure that you wash your salads, fruits and vegetables especially if you are going to be eating them raw. It is not one of those old wives tales there is an actual risk associated with them. You risk getting an illness called toxoplasmosis which I will discuss in the next section.
Toxoplasmosis in Thin Section of Brain Tissue
What is is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is a common condition and in the majority of cases you will be asymptomatic because a healthy immune system is able to defend the body from the parasite.
So as you now know it is caused by a parasite, in fact this is one of the worlds most common parasites, it is called Toxoplasma gondii or T. gondii. It may be found in
Cat faeces, and soiled cat litter
unpasteurised goats milk
undercooked and raw meats
raw cured meats i.e. salami and parma ham
soil due to the decomposition of contaminated faeces
Toxoplasmosis cannot be transmitted though personal contact, however it can be passes to the unborn child, by contracting it during pregnancy or up to three months before she conceives. A baby born with the infection has congenital toxoplasmosis, but more on that later.
Toxoplasmosis is very common so common in fact that half of the UK population will get the infection at some point (as cited by the NHS) You gain immunity from the infection for the rest of your life following the initial infection.
Toxoplasmosis can cause mild flu-like symptoms with a high temperature and muscle fatigue but this usually passes withing a few weeks without treatment. It is dangerous in people with compromised immune systems e.g. those with HIV, AIDS and those undergoing chemotherapy. In these cases an infection can cause serious complications including vision impairment and brain damage.
So How does Toxoplasmosis affect my unborn child?
As I mentioned earlier you can pass the infection to your unborn baby if you contract the infection whilst pregnant or up to three months before conception. It is rare to pass the infection to the baby in early pregnancy and the cahances of passing it on are as follows:
< 7 weeks in 6%
7-15 weeks 26%
16 – 29 weeks 32%
29 -34 weeks the risk progressively rises from 32%-93%
Please note though that babies infected later in pregnancy are less likely to develop serious health problems.
A baby born with the infection has Congenital toxoplasmosis, which can cause some serious health problems in babies and can sadly sometimes be fatal. It can cause
In the early stages of pregnancy if you get the infection the risk of miscarriage is increased.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
Research Articles and further Reading
- Sources of Toxoplasma gondii infection in pregnancy | BMJ
Research article about the common sources of toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy.
- Screening for toxoplasmosis in pregnancy: what is the evidence of reducing a health problem? - Abstr
research article about the pros and cons of screening pregnant women for toxoplasmosis.
- Congenital toxoplasmosis: systematic review of evidence of efficacy of treatment in pregnancy
Research Paper by the BMJ about the effectiveness of treatments for congenital toxoplasmosis.
How to avoid getting the toxoplasmosis infection
With everyday chores there are minor risks here's how you can minimise that risk:
If gardening where gloves
Always wash your hands after gardening or touching soil
Do NOT empty cat litter trays, if you absolutely have to wear disposable rubber gloves and wash your hand thoroughly afterwards.
If you do have a litter tray, it must be changed every day and left to soak for 5 minutes with boiling waterproof
avoid lambing and contact with newborn lams
wash hands after handling cats
avoid close contact sick cats
You can also get toxoplasmosis through bad food hygiene and eating infected foods so here are some more simple tips to minimise the risks:
Wash hands before and after handling food
cook raw meat all the way through so there are no signs of blood or pink.
Make sure ready meals you buy are piping hot and completely cooked all the way throughout
keep all leftovers in fridge covered and if not eaten within two days throw them away.
After preparing raw meat was all utensils and surfaces and hands with hot soapy water.
Avoid cured meats such as salami, parma ham etc.
As the title suggests ALWAYS was fruit vegetables and salads completely to remove all traces of soil.
If you follow this advice you keep the risk of infection to a minimum. To the right are some great links to research articles about toxoplasmosis and the effect on the unborn baby. If interested in other foods to treat with care then check out my foods to avoid during pregnancy hub.
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