A cat can be quite a lovely creature with their lithe grace, silky fur, purrs and playful antics. They even have us trained to provide a litter box for them so they can tend to ‘bathroom’ needs. Unfortunately, they can also be a source of a disease known as taxoplasma infection aka taxoplasmosis. Now, what does a cat have to do with infections?
Infections arise from contact with a germ and they can thrive in various environments, wet, cold, hot, dry. As long as they have their needs met, such as, food, water and shelter they will thrive and our own bodies provide a perfect environment. It seems our own bodies can betray us, don’t it? But we are own keeper, responsible for our own bodies.
Toxoplasmosis begins with the germ, ‘Toxoplasma gondii‘, a sporozoan parasite, and is borne out of infected meats such as mutton, venison, pork, goat meat but also when in contact with cat feces. Careful handling and cleaning a cat’s litter box is important since we are not always aware if the cat is infected. A cat becomes a carrier if it eats an infected mouse or rat. Studies have found infected rodents are not afraid of cats and will seek them out by scent. This is due to how it changes the behaviors of cells in the brain, ‘dendritic cells‘ secrete ‘GABA’ergic secretions which inhibits fear and anxiety.
The types of infection depends on how it was acquired. Infants born with toxoplasmosis are considered as having the ‘congenital‘ form which affects the central nervous system and may cause blindness, brain defects, or death. The ‘acquired‘ form falls into two categories, ‘lymphadenopathic‘ which resembles mononucleosis and the second version, ‘disseminated‘, which causes lesions to appear on the lungs, liver, heart, muscle, skin, brain and meninges.
Research studies of changes in a ‘host‘ have found, that people with various psychiatric disorders, are found to be infected with toxoplasmosis. There is evidence infection may be found in people who are extroverted or exhibit risk taking and aggressive behaviors. Analysis of records suggest that up to 30% -50% of the global population may be infected, with 60M infected in the US (CDC). Humans have lived with this parasite for a long time.
Initial infection may cause ‘flu‘ like symptoms and then disappear into a ‘dormant’ phase and depends upon the strength of one’s immune system. It can be fatal for those with weaker immune systems (HIV/AIDS) or the unborn fetus. Inflammation of the choriod and retina aka ‘chorioretinitis‘ eventually occurs in the congenital or chronic form with symptoms of pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, black spots.
Diagnosis of toxoplasmosis is difficult and expensive. Bloodwork is drawn and stored for comparison purposes. Biopsy’s of cysts, and swollen lymphs may provide visual changes. Therapy is effective with a combination of Pyrimethamine (Daraprim), and sulfadiazine or triple sulfonamides for a total of thirty days and reserved for those with weak immune systems. Newer drugs are proving effective and may also, be additionally used. Inflammation of the eyes may be treated with corticosteroid, anti-parisitic or antibiotic drugs, dark glasses, and may include laser surgery to remove lesions.
Prevention of this disease, is done with emphasis on avoiding eating raw meat, that may contain ‘cysts’ and avoiding contact with cat feces. Best practices when handling raw meat, do not cross handle knives and other utensils in the kitchen, with other foods or liquids. Use disposable gloves, face mask and disinfectant, when cleaning the cat’s litter box. Make sure to wash the area where the litter box is placed too.
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Article(C)2012, An Informal Cornr, all rights reserved. Ginsense creates and posts articles online about business development, second income idea’s, health, science, technology and society.