John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Toxoplasmosis facts
- What is toxoplasmosis?
- What is the cause of toxoplasmosis?
- What factors increase the risk of acquiring toxo?
- What are the usual symptoms of toxoplasmosis?
- Why do some people develop severe problems from toxo?
- Can toxoplasmosis develop into a more serious illness in babies?
- What is meant by a baby developing "a more severe case of toxo"?
- How is toxo diagnosed in the lab?
- How can toxoplasmosis be prevented?
- Am I able to keep my cat?
- Once infected with toxo, is my cat always able to spread the infection to me?
- What is the treatment for toxoplasmosis?
- What is the prognosis for toxoplasmosis?
Am I able to keep my cat?
Yes, but if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, there are some steps to take to avoid being exposed to toxo, according to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
Most importantly, you can help prevent your cats from getting infected with toxo. Feed them dry or canned cat food and keep them indoors. Cats can become infected by eating or being fed raw or undercooked meat that is infected with the parasite, or by eating infected prey such as birds or rodents. Any cat that is allowed access to outdoors should be kept off beds, pillows, or other furniture that you also use. Don't bring a new cat into your house that might have been an outdoor cat or might have been fed raw meat. Avoid handling stray cats and kittens. Have your cat tested for the parasite. Your vet can answer any other questions you may have regarding your cat and the risk for toxoplasmosis.
Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change your cat's litter box. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box daily (the parasite found in cat feces needs a few days after being passed to become infectious). Wash your hands well with soap and warm water afterward.
Once infected with toxo, is my cat always able to spread the infection to me?
No, cats can only spread toxo in their feces for a few weeks after they are first infected with the parasite. Like humans, cats rarely have symptoms when first infected, so most people don't know if their cat has been exposed to toxo. Most infected cats appear healthy. There are no good tests available to determine if your cat is passing toxo in its feces.
What is the treatment for toxoplasmosis?
Once the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is confirmed, you and your doctor should discuss whether treatment is necessary. In an otherwise healthy person who is not pregnant, treatment is not needed. Symptoms will usually go away within a few weeks. For pregnant women or people who have weakened immune systems, drugs are available to treat the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis can be treated medically. The drugs used most often are pyrimethamine (Daraprim), sulfadiazine (Microsulfon), and folinic acid. Patients with HIV usually need lifelong treatment to keep the parasites suppressed.
Pregnant women are treated with spiramycin (Rovamycine) and leucovorin (Wellcovorin) in addition to the drugs listed above.
Other drugs occasionally used are clindamycin (Cleocin), azithromycin (Zithromax), or atovaquone (Mepron).
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