Toxoplasmosis (toxo) is a parasitic infection that causes flulike symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches and pains that may last from a few days to several weeks. Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by touching the hands to the mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or anything that came into contact with cat feces. Toxoplasmosis can also be contracted by eating raw or partly cooked meat, especially pork or lamb, or touching the hands to the mouth after contact with raw or undercooked meat.
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, 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.
Toxoplasmosis (toxo) is a disease caused by a parasite.
Toxo is acquired from contact with cats and their feces.
Toxo is also acquired from eating or touching raw or partly cooked meat.
Toxoplasmosis symptoms can range from none to very severe.
A woman who contracts toxo right before or during pregnancy can transmit it to her baby with catastrophic consequences.
People with immune deficiencies are at high risk for developing severe signs and symptoms of toxo.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. The infection is most commonly acquired from contact with cats and their feces or with raw or undercooked meat.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 60 million people in the United States may carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because a healthy immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.
What is the cause of toxoplasmosis?
There are only a few ways to acquire the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis:
Contact with cats or cat feces
Eating raw or undercooked meat
Drinking raw milk from an infected goat (Goats can be an intermediate host for the parasite.)