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Parassitologia. 2007 Dec;49(4):223-6.

Does vertical transmission contribute to the prevalence of toxoplasmosis?

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  • 1Centre for Parasitology and Infectious Diseases, Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT, UK.


Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous parasite with a widespread distribution both in terms of geographical and host range. Although the definitive host is the cat, it is also a major health hazard to domestic animals and humans. Three routes of transmission are recognised (infection from the cat, carnivory and congenital transmission). We aimed to assess the relative importance of congenital transmission, using sheep as a model system, due to the lack of carnivory. We report, using PCR as a diagnostic tool, that congenital transmission occurs with high frequency (69%). If transmission from oocysts was important in sheep, we would expect sheep reared under the same environmental conditions (i.e. a single farm) to have a random distribution of Toxoplasma infection. Using breeding records in conjunction with PCR, some families were found to have high Toxoplasma prevalence and abortion while others were free of Toxoplasma infection and abortion (P < 0.01). This supports the notion that Toxoplasma may be transmitted vertically. In humans, we conducted a similar study and showed that Toxoplasma was transmitted from mother to baby in 19.8% of cases. Vertical transmission in Toxoplasma may be more important than previously thought and this knowledge should be considered in any eradication strategies.

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