Congenital Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused from exposure to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can be found in cat litter, undercooked meat and seafood.

It is particularly problematic during pregnancy because untreated women can pass it to their babies (congenital toxoplasmosis).

While most infected newborns don’t have symptoms, they are likely to develop health problems by adolescence.

Remarkable Care for Kids

  • Maternal-fetal medicine physicians at Rush have expertise in caring for pregnant women with toxoplasmosis and delivering their babies. They often collaborate with pediatric specialists, geneticists and social workers in the Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center.
  • In rare instances, babies infected with toxoplasmosis are born with health problems. At Rush, these babies are cared for in a level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU at Rush provides the highest level of care available for seriously ill babies.
  • Doctors at Rush deliver babies at the new and spacious Rush Family Birth Center. All services — including the NICU — are located on one floor. So when seconds count most, mothers and babies can get the care they need.
  • At Rush, physicians from more than 30 specialties address the full range of pediatric diseases and congenital problems. As a state-designated children’s hospital, Rush University Children’s Hospital provides care that empowers parents and advances medical science.

Toxoplasmosis: what you should know

  • More than 60 million people in the U.S. may be infected by toxoplasmosis. But because your immune system usually stops the parasite from making you sick, most people don’t have toxoplasmosis symptoms.
  • Toxoplasmosis is especially worrisome for pregnant women and people with severely weakened immune systems. If you get toxoplasmosis before or during pregnancy, it can eventually lead to blindness and brain damage in your child if not treated quickly.
  • If you’re pregnant, you don’t need to get rid of your cat (but don’t buy a new one or pet strays). Just take precautions to prevent infection:
    • Ask someone else to change the cat litter or keep your cat outdoors.
    • If you have to do the job, wear gloves while changing the litter and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
    • Don’t eat raw meat or seafood.
    • Wear gloves while gardening and wash hands thoroughly afterward as the parasite can live in your yard’s soil.

Toxoplasmosis symptoms

  • Flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph glands and muscle aches that last for a month or longer
  • Reduced or blurred vision (ocular toxoplasmosis)
  • Eye pain (especially with bright lights), eye redness and tearing (ocular toxoplasmosis)

How can I get help for toxoplasmosis?

Talk to your primary care doctor or OB-GYN about being tested for toxoplasmosis. This is especially important if you are considering getting pregnant or are pregnant. Blood tests can determine if you have the infection.

For most people, treatment is not necessary. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, your doctor may prescribe medications or recommend a specialist, such as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

Care for congenital toxoplasmosis at Rush 

When faced with a complicated pregnancy that may affect your child’s health, you want assurance that you and your baby are in capable and caring hands.

High-risk pregnancy physicians at Rush, also called maternal-fetal medicine specialists, can diagnose and potentially treat toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. They can coordinate care after birth through the Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center to significantly reduce health risks to your child.

The key is to identify the problem as quickly as possible so doctors can take the appropriate steps.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Rush are closely connected to pediatricians and pediatric specialists at the Rush University Children’s Hospital, as are ob/gyns at Rush. Doctors caring for children at Rush include the following:

Together, these doctors can monitor your child’s development throughout childhood and adolescence. And if necessary, they collaborate to address signs of eye disease or brain damage and treat your child’s health problems.