Kids With Toxoplasmosis Still Seeing Clearly Years Later

Congenital toxoplasmosis rarely caused serious eye problems in children later

(RxWiki News) Some infections that a woman may develop during pregnancy can be passed along to her baby, but this doesn't necessarily mean long-term problems for her child.

A recent study found that children born with a condition called toxoplasmosis had relatively good outcomes later on.

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which lives in the feces of cats.

If a pregnant woman is exposed to this parasite and develops toxoplasmosis, the disease can be transferred to her developing baby.

When this occurs, babies may develop lesions on their eyes. However, according to this study, few children experience any long-term vision loss.

"Take your child to a pediatrician for regular check-ups."

This study, led by Martine Wallon, MD, PhD, of the Medical Institute of Parasitology and Mycology at the Hospital Croix-Rousse in France, looked at the possible long-term effects on babies exposed to toxoplasmosis.

For the study, the researchers followed 477 babies who had been born with congenital toxoplasmosis.

Half the babies were followed for up to 10.5 years, and half were followed longer than that, up to 22 years.

Nearly a third (30 percent) of the children showed one lesion in their eyes during the follow-up period, but 81 percent of them did not experience any loss of vision.

Half the children developed the lesion before age 3, and half developed it after age 3.

One third of those who had a lesion appear (34 percent) continued to experience new lesions up until they were 12 years old.

Some children were at higher risk than others for experiencing an eye condition involving inflammation of the retina.

Those children had been born premature, had lesions at birth or had mothers who had developed the toxoplasmosis infection early on.

The researchers concluded that continued problems from congenital toxoplasmosis were not common or severe in children. However, some problems can continue to occur in those exposed to toxoplasmosis, so they should receive regular check-ups.

Fortunately, congenital toxoplasmosis is not very common, according to Andre Hall, MD, an OBGYN at Birth and Women's Care, PA in Fayetteville, NC.

"The infection affects unborn children when their mothers are exposed to a particular parasite," Dr. Hall said. "Traditional teachings in pregnancy state that a pregnant woman should not change cat litter as the parasite can be found in the feces of cats."

"Yet the problem is primarily with cats who go outside," Dr. Hall said.

"Outside cats often catch and kill rodents and that's where the parasite originates," Dr. Hall said. "To be on the safe side, however, it's advisable for pregnant women to delegate the cat litter box changes to someone else."

This study was published February 17 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Hospices Civils de Lyon and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 19, 2014