More than half of the pregnant women who were at risk for acute infection with Toxoplasma gondii could not be identified by history or routine examination. Therefore, the physicians recommend that systematic screening for acute acquired toxoplasmosis for all pregnant women in the United States during prenatal visits, as well as screening for congenital toxoplasmosis in all newborns, become standard medical practice. The group also emphasizes that confirmation of test results in reference laboratories and informed counseling are essential parts of the process.
An infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, toxoplasmosis can be harmful and potentially lethal to the children of women who acquire the infection during pregnancy.
In the February issue of the The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers report that current clinical practice -- taking a careful history and performing a physical examination -- would identify only half of the at-risk mothers who have acquired the infection during pregnancy and have had infants with congenital toxoplasmosis. Screening through blood tests could have identified the rest, the researchers said.
"We have medicines that can help if we catch the infection and improve outcomes if we detect the infection early, but by only taking a careful history and examination we are missing many pregnant women and their infants who may benefit from treatment," said study co-author Rima McLeod, M.D., professor of ophthalmology and medical director of the Toxoplasmosis Center at the University of Chicago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States probably carry the T. gondii parasite, but few have symptoms. The
Contact: Katie O'Boyle
University of Chicago Medical Center