This page provides general information about this condition. Text can be revealed by clicking on the green headers. Links to press releases, results from DWHC investigations as well as other useful documents and relevant literature available on the DWHC website can be found at the bottom of the page.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. The life cycle of this parasite involves definitive (felids that have not previously been infected) and intermediate (all warm-blooded animals) hosts. Only in the definitive host are eggs (oocysts) produced and these are excreted by the million in the feces and can survive for up to 1.5 years in the environment. These oocysts are the source of infection of intermediate hosts in which motile forms of the parasite leave the oocyst and migrate through the body forming cysts in muscle and nervous tissue (tissue cysts). Cats or other predatory animals can become infected on consumption of tissue cysts in their prey.
Toxoplasmosis can occur in all warm-blooded animals, including humans.
People may become infected in two ways: 1) ingestion of eggs via contaminated water or foods such as foraged fruit and nuts or unwashed fruit and vegetables, working in contaminated soil, or cleaning out cat litter trays; 2) ingestion of tissue cysts in under-cooked or not pre-frozen contaminated meat.
To minimize the risk of infection in people it important to ensure that meat is well cooked and/or has been frozen at -12C for at least days prior to consumption.
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