Knowing that pregnant women and immunocompromised patient are delicate patients which need adequate attention because they are prone to infections and various diseases. It is important they are properly examined and monitored.
One of the numerous disease which has a negative impact on both pregnant women and immunocompromised patients is Toxoplasmosis which is caused by a parasitic organism known as Toxoplasma gondii. But before going to details about this parasitic disease, i will like to give a brief explanation about parasitic organisms.
What are Parasitic organisms?
Parasitic organisms are organisms that lives within or on a host, thereby causing harm to the host. This organisms take nourishment and other things needed for their survival from the host. The resources obtained from the host are use in maintaining its self and as well fueling its life cycle. Relating this with Toxoplasma gondii gives us an hint about the relationship it has with the host which is really interesting!!!
Toxoplasma gondii Parasite
Toxoplasma gondii being a causative organism of Toxoplasmosis are parasitic organism which are causative agent of zoonosis( i.e. a disease which is transmitted from animal to human). It is highly prevalent within our society, which is why we should all take necessary precautions in other to prevent the spread of this disease.
Toxoplasma gondii: Sourced from wikimedia;Under the lincense Author, AJ Cann
Toxoplasma gondii can not carryout sexual reproduction on its own that's where a definitive host comes in, The definitive host is feline i.e cat which harbours Toxoplasma gondii for sexual reproduction. Toxoplasmosis can be deadly and as well cause serious birth defect to foetus if the mother becomes infected. The earlier a pregnant woman becomes infected, the more serious the outcome of the baby. An early infection most times leads to miscarriage and still birth. Babies who end up surviving it turns out to have serious birth defect which include: seizures, jaundice and lot more. I have heard of many cases where the woman ignorantly accuse her in- laws and neighbours as result of several misfortune she experienced during pregnancy which is really bad. That's why it's necessary that women are being educated about the Toxoplasmosis disease.
Healthy people as well do get infected with toxoplasmosis which most times don't show symptoms. they recover easily, And I'm sure you will ask me why they get over it easily? That's because their immune system is strong enough to fight the infection unlike babies and immune compromised patients . Now the question is, how can a person get infected with toxoplasmosis?
There are various ways by which a person can get infected with toxoplasmosis which include:
- Consumption of raw and undercooked meat.
- Through ingestion of water, soil, vegetables that are contaminated with faeces of an infected Cat.
- Through Organ transplant and blood transfusion.
- Transplacental transmission which involves transmission of the infection from the mother to the foetus, which occurs especially when the mother get infected during pregnancy.
When a person get infected through the following ways stated above, Such person begins to develop symptoms
Symptoms of Toxoplasmosis
There are divers symptoms experienced based on individual health status and their immune response, which include healthy people, babies and immunocompromised patients.
For Healthy People: It rarely shows any symptoms and the person might not be aware that he/she is infected because of their strong immune response, some people might likely develop symptoms which include body ache, headache, fever and fatigue. Symptoms mostly last for a month and get resolve on its own.
For Babies: The following symptoms include enlarged liver and spleen, eye infection and jaundice. For those that did not develop symptoms earlier might later result to having disability like mental disability, hearing loss and lots more, which might occur when they grow older.
Newborn baby infected with Jaundice: Sourced from Wikimedia
For immunocompromised patients: These are set of patients that are infected with chronic diseases which affect their immune system e.g. HIV/AIDS. Once the immune system is deteriorated, it allows easy access of pathogen into the body system which are harmful to human health. The importance of immune systems is that it fight against any foreigner(i.e. pathogen) that want to cause harm to the body. Symptoms experienced by immunocompromised patients include blurred vision(which occurs as a result of inflammation of the retina) retinochoroiditis, seizures, confusion, lungs problems and severe headache. All this occur as a result of weakened immune system.
Severe Retinochoroiditis: Sourced from Wikimedia
When you experience the following symptoms, it is advisable to visit a hospital for check up.
Science and technology has really help in making effective diagnosis of toxoplasmosis disease, This is really a great achievement in our health sector.
The following are ways of diagnosing the disease:
Through Serological Test: Serological test is a test used in detecting production of antibodies against a pathogen. i.e. the body produce antibodies when it comes in contact with a pathogen(i.e. disease causing organism). The presence of antibodies produced in the patient blood signify that the body has been expose to a pathogen. For example, if a patient had syphilis, the body produces an antibodies when it sense the presence of a foreigner (i.e. syphilis).
There are one of two types of antibodies that measures serological test. i.e Immunoglobulin M and Immunoglobulin G.
Immunoglobulin M produces antibodies in large amount shortly after exposure to a pathogen and the rate of production reduces with time. When Immunoglobulin M is positive it shows that the person is currently infected with a pathogen. While Immunoglobulin G, produces an antibody when it comes in contact with the pathogen but not as fast as Immunoglobulin M, the antibodies produced remain in the blood for a longtime. When Immunoglobulin G is positive it shows that the person has once been infected in the past.
Through molecular techniques:
Molecular Diagnosis: Sourced from Wikimedia;Under the lincense Author, Michail Tzortzatos
It is used in detecting the DNA of the Toxoplasma gondii in the amniotic fluid of a pregnant woman.
Toxoplasmosis can be isolated from blood or body fluid e.g cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Life cycle of Toxoplasmosis
The life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii takes place both in definitive host i.e cat and intermediate host i.e warm blooded animal,where sexual and Asexual reproduction takes place respectively.
Life cycle showing the infective stage and the diagnostic stage: Sourced from Wikimedia
As we all know cat predate on mouse. when a cat consumes an infected mouse carrying an infected tissue cyst. The tissue cyst goes straight to the stomach, infecting the epithelial cell of the cat's small intestine, inside the intestinal cell it undergoes sexual reproduction which develops into oocyst and then releases into intestinal lumen, which is being shed out in cat faeces.
Note: The reason why sexual reproduction takes place in cat is because they lack expression of the enzyme delta-6-desaturase (D6D) in their intestine which help in accumulation of linoleic acid which help in sexual reproduction of Toxoplasma gondii.
The faeces containing oocyst can serve as a contaminate to food, water, vegetables or direct handling of the faeces of an infected cat which when ingested it continues it's life cycle in an intermediate host.
After ingestion of the oocyst from infected patient.
Three stages of infection occurs:
• Tachyzoites I.e the rapid division stage.
• Bradyzoite stage i.e the low division stage and
• The oocyst stage i.e. the environmental stage which can adapt to environmental conditions.
After the ingestion of oocyst, a proteolytic enzyme is being secreted in the stomach which break cyst wall, liberating the sporozoites from the oocyst, the parasite invade the epithelial cell of the stomach differentiate into tachyzoites which multiply in the cells vacoule until it ruptures and releases into the bloodstreams, organs and tissues of the body.
Cellular stages in the life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii.
Some celluar stages occurs which include tachyzoites, bradyzoites, merozoites and sporozoites.
Tachyzoites: This helps in increasing the population of parasite in the host, they multiply rapidly, At initial stage of the infection, the parasite circulate the body system through the help of blood and later develops into a chronic infection which covert to bradyzoites to form tissue cyst.
Toxoplasma gondii Tachyzoites: Sourced from Wikimedia;Under Lincense by Author, Persian microbiologist
Merozoites: It also multiply rapidly and as well helps in increasing the population of parasite in the cat's intestine before sexual reproduction takes place. When a cat or feline consumes a tissue cyst ,it convert to merozoites that turns to a non infectious sexual stage that later result to oocyst which occur as a result of sexual reproduction.
Bradyzoites: This multiply slowly, which is usually a component of a tissue cyst.
Sporozoites: This is a stage whereby the parasite remains at the stage of oocyst. When a warm blooded animal i.e human consumes the oocyst, the sporozoites are released and it infect the epithelial cell of the host which end up leading to the tachyzoites stage.
Oocysts in fecal flotation: Sourced from Wikimedia
There is always a common saying which says "Prevention is better cure". It’s better we all take proper care of health. The following are preventive measures to take in other prevent toxoplasmosis:
• Always wash your foods, vegetables and cooking utensils properly
• Always where gloves when handling soil.
• Protect children play area from cat litters.
• Don't eat raw or undercooked meat.
• For cat lovers, Always help your cat stay healthy by keeping them indoor and giving them adequate care and treatment.
• Always wash hands frequently.
Treatment: It can be treated using Pyrimethamine and Sulfadiazine
In Conclusion, Proper hygiene is essential in other to live healthy, We all need to be educated about the effect of toxoplasmosis on human health and as well adhere to preventive measures.
Always take proper care of your health because Health is wealth.
Thanks for Reading............