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Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy – Wash your Salads, fruits and Vegetables!

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Wash Your Fruit, Veg and Salad


I know that to many of you this seems obvious but make sure that you wash your salads, fruits and vegetables especially if you are going to be eating them raw. It is not one of those old wives tales there is an actual risk associated with them. You risk getting an illness called toxoplasmosis which I will discuss in the next section.


Toxoplasmosis. Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Toxoplasma gondii parasites inside a human cell. Infection with these parasitic protozoa causes the disease toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis. Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Toxoplasma gondii parasites inside a human cell. Infection with these parasitic protozoa causes the disease toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis in Thin Section of Brain Tissue

What is is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a common condition and in the majority of cases you will be asymptomatic because a healthy immune system is able to defend the body from the parasite.

So as you now know it is caused by a parasite, in fact this is one of the worlds most common parasites, it is called Toxoplasma gondii or T. gondii. It may be found in

  • Cat faeces, and soiled cat litter
  • unpasteurised goats milk
  • undercooked and raw meats
  • raw cured meats i.e. salami and parma ham
  • soil due to the decomposition of contaminated faeces

Toxoplasmosis cannot be transmitted though personal contact, however it can be passes to the unborn child, by contracting it during pregnancy or up to three months before she conceives. A baby born with the infection has congenital toxoplasmosis, but more on that later.

Toxoplasmosis is very common so common in fact that half of the UK population will get the infection at some point (as cited by the NHS) You gain immunity from the infection for the rest of your life following the initial infection.

Toxoplasmosis can cause mild flu-like symptoms with a high temperature and muscle fatigue but this usually passes withing a few weeks without treatment. It is dangerous in people with compromised immune systems e.g. those with HIV, AIDS and those undergoing chemotherapy. In these cases an infection can cause serious complications including vision impairment and brain damage.

So How does Toxoplasmosis affect my unborn child?

As I mentioned earlier you can pass the infection to your unborn baby if you contract the infection whilst pregnant or up to three months before conception. It is rare to pass the infection to the baby in early pregnancy and the cahances of passing it on are as follows:

  • < 7 weeks in 6%
  • 7-15 weeks 26%
  • 16 – 29 weeks 32%
  • 29 -34 weeks the risk progressively rises from 32%-93%

Please note though that babies infected later in pregnancy are less likely to develop serious health problems.

A baby born with the infection has Congenital toxoplasmosis, which can cause some serious health problems in babies and can sadly sometimes be fatal. It can cause

  • eye infections
  • siezures
  • jaundice
  • stillbirth
  • In the early stages of pregnancy if you get the infection the risk of miscarriage is increased.

Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy

Research Articles and further Reading

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How to avoid getting the toxoplasmosis infection

With everyday chores there are minor risks here's how you can minimise that risk:

  • If gardening where gloves
  • Always wash your hands after gardening or touching soil
  • Do NOT empty cat litter trays, if you absolutely have to wear disposable rubber gloves and wash your hand thoroughly afterwards.
  • If you do have a litter tray, it must be changed every day and left to soak for 5 minutes with boiling waterproof
  • avoid lambing and contact with newborn lams
  • wash hands after handling cats
  • avoid close contact sick cats

You can also get toxoplasmosis through bad food hygiene and eating infected foods so here are some more simple tips to minimise the risks:

  • Wash hands before and after handling food
  • cook raw meat all the way through so there are no signs of blood or pink.
  • Make sure ready meals you buy are piping hot and completely cooked all the way throughout
  • keep all leftovers in fridge covered and if not eaten within two days throw them away.
  • After preparing raw meat was all utensils and surfaces and hands with hot soapy water.
  • Avoid cured meats such as salami, parma ham etc.
  • As the title suggests ALWAYS was fruit vegetables and salads completely to remove all traces of soil.

If you follow this advice you keep the risk of infection to a minimum. To the right are some great links to research articles about toxoplasmosis and the effect on the unborn baby. If interested in other foods to treat with care then check out my foods to avoid during pregnancy hub.


dipless (author) from Manchester on January 22, 2012:

Thank you very much I have just read your hub, it's a horrible illness which can cause all kinds of complications especially in babies born with it.

moonlake from America on January 22, 2012:

My daughter had Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy my hub explains what happened to her. It's terrible thing to get and I sure wish all pregnant women would get tested for it.

Your hub has useful advice.

dipless (author) from Manchester on January 08, 2012:

When it is in food, like most parasites and bacteria you can kill them if the food is thoroughly cooked, just looked it up and it's 70oC for 10 minutes to kill. Also freezing meet between -12 and -20 for 3 days kills them. Which is why anything with the risk f being contaminated by soil and which won't be cooked, salads, raw veg, fruits should be washed to remove all traces of the soil.

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on January 08, 2012:

I've been doing some research on parasites so your hub caught my eye. Good advice here. Is there no way to get rid of the parasite?

dipless (author) from Manchester on January 06, 2012:

Thanks for popping by alocsin, indeed you should wash things, however your immune system is naturally weakened during pregnancy, so trying to prevent contracting these parasites is of primary importance, making it even more important to wash anything with potential contamination with soil.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on January 06, 2012:

Good advice. But you should always watch edible anyway because you don't know where it's been and who has touched it. Voting this Up and Useful.

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