Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Control of human toxoplasmosis.

Abstract

Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, an apicomplexan parasite that is able to infect any nucleated cell in any warm-blooded animal. Toxoplasma gondii infects around 2 billion people and, whilst only a small percentage of infected people will suffer serious disease, the prevalence of the parasite makes it one of the most damaging zoonotic diseases in the world. Toxoplasmosis is a disease with multiple manifestations: it can cause a fatal encephalitis in immunosuppressed people; if first contracted during pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage or congenital defects in the neonate; and it can cause serious ocular disease, even in immunocompetent people. The disease has a complex epidemiology, being transmitted by ingestion of oocysts that are shed in the faeces of definitive feline hosts and contaminate water, soil and crops, or by consumption of intracellular cysts in undercooked meat from intermediate hosts. In this review we examine current and future approaches to control toxoplasmosis, which encompass a variety of measures that target different components of the life cycle of T. gondii. These include: education programs about the parasite and avoidance of contact with infectious stages; biosecurity and sanitation to ensure food and water safety; chemo- and immunotherapeutics to control active infections and disease; prophylactic options to prevent acquisition of infection by livestock and cyst formation in meat; and vaccines to prevent shedding of oocysts by definitive feline hosts.