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Reprod Toxicol. 2006 May;21(4):458-72. Epub 2005 Nov 28.

Congenital toxoplasmosis--prenatal aspects of Toxoplasma gondii infection.

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National Public Health Laboratory, Ministry of Health, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is the cause of toxoplasmosis. Primary infection in an immunocompetent person is usually asymptomatic. Serological surveys demonstrate that world-wide exposure to T. gondii is high (30% in US and 50-80% in Europe). Vertical transmission from a recently infected pregnant woman to her fetus may lead to congenital toxoplasmosis. The risk of such transmission increases as primary maternal infection occurs later in pregnancy. However, consequences for the fetus are more severe with transmission closer to conception. The timing of maternal primary infection is, therefore, critically linked to the clinical manifestations of the infection. Fetal infection may result in natural abortion. Often, no apparent symptoms are observed at birth and complications develop only later in life. The laboratory methods of assessing fetal risk of T. gondii infection are serology and direct tests. Screening programs for women at childbearing age or of the newborn, as well as education of the public regarding infection prevention, proved to be cost-effective and reduce the rate of infection. The impact of antiparasytic therapy on vertical transmission from mother to fetus is still controversial. However, specific therapy is recommended to be initiated as soon as infection is diagnosed.

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