Toxoplasmosis & Pregnancy
What does this mean? Should I get tested?
During one of the first examinations at your OB Gyn, you have to decide whether a blood test for CMV (cytomegaly) antibodies and/or toxoplasmosis should be performed in addition to the services provided by the health insurance companies.
This examination determines whether an infection has already been experienced in the past.
This blood test is a so-called self-payer service (in German IGel Leistung). One has to pay a certain amount of money (usually about 40€) for this kind of diagnostics.
toxoplasmosis - The disease
Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Humans act as intermediate hosts of the pathogen; the final hosts are cats.
Healthy people usually do not even notice a toxoplasmosis infection, only occasionally flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes occur. Rarely, there is an infestation of organs such as the eyes. Immunodeficiency caused by HIV/Aids or chemotherapy, for example, can lead to more severe cases. It is estimated that about 50% of all Germans have been infected at some point.
After an infection, the body forms antibodies against the pathogen, and is then normally immune to the disease for the rest of its life. These antibodies are determined in the blood of pregnant women.
toxoplasmosis - The Transmission
Transmission occurs through the consumption of raw or insufficiently heated meat and sausage products, through contact with cat excrement and insufficiently washed vegetables or salad.
toxoplasmosis Infection during pregnancy
A Toxoplasmosis infection is of particular importance, especially during pregnancy. Here the parasite can pass on to the unborn child and lead to life-threatening damage or even miscarriage. (Especially in the first and last trimester of the pregnancy) If a pregnant woman is already immune to toxoplasmosis, there is normally no danger to the baby.
If an infection is detected during pregnancy, early treatment is recommended. Before the 16th week of pregnancy it is usually sufficient to take a special antibiotic. After that the combination of an antibiotic with a drug against parasites is recommended. This treatment can significantly reduce the risk of transmission to the unborn child. In addition, the risk of serious damage to the child can be reduced, but not eliminated.
Thus, if antibodies of a past infection with toxoplasmosis are found during blood tests in early pregnancy, this means that the mother is protected from an initial infection. Of course, this knowledge makes particular sense, if the pregnant woman has a lot of contact with animals.
What can be done now to avoid an infection as a pregnant woman?
One should avoid raw or insufficiently heated meat products, wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly and clean one's hands regularly. This is especially important after handling raw meat, after gardening and after visiting playgrounds.
It is best to wear gloves when working in the garden. Cat owners should feed the animals with canned food instead of fresh meat. A pregnant woman should not empty the litter box and it should be cleaned once a day with hot water.
Unfortunately there is no vaccination against toxoplasmosis, so prophylaxis is a very important part of protection against this disease.
If you want to know more about the first steps of being pregnant in Germany, read more here:
November 2020 Dr. Christine Krämer
This blog post has been prepared with the greatest possible care and does not claim to be correct, complete or up-to-date.“
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