Toxoplasmosis: Pregnancy and Definite Hosts Toxoplasma Essay

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Toxoplasmosis: Cause and Effect in Pregnant Women

Psychology 235, Human Growth and Development 001

November 15, 2013

Perhaps one life’s most complex, precious, and beautiful gifts is that of being pregnant. Along with pregnancy comes the realization that every aspect of your daily routine presents risks. In the world we live in today there are many things which may affect pregnancy and the development of the growing fetus within the mother’s womb. Such risks may include the way you sleep, the stress of being pregnant, or even an outside agent or factor also commonly known as teratogens. Teratogens are drugs, chemicals, or even infections that can cause abnormal fetal development. There are billions of potential teratogens but only a few agents are proven to have teratogenic effects. For this paper, the main focus will be on identifying the teratogenetic effects of Toxoplasmosis on pregnant women and their unborn children. The following topics will be discussed: What is toxoplasmosis and how it can be contracted. The risk to the fetus in development, especially a fetus whose mother is *newly* infected with the parasite, the increased risk for mental retardation and other growth and developmental impairments The necessary steps that can be taken to prevent this will also be included. Lastly, how toxoplasmosis will affect a child through Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.

Toxoplasmosis: Cause and Effect in Pregnant Women
It is clear that the coding for development do not reside expressly or wholly in the genes or even in the zygote. The developing fetus is often sensitive to influences from the environment. However, this sensitivity makes the fetus vulnerable to environmental changes that can disrupt development. One such potentially life altering influence is Toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis is considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States. Toxoplasmosis is causes by a eukaryotic protozoan named Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii has two types of hosts, a definite host and intermediate host. The main carrier is cats and they are accepted as the main host. Intermediate hosts include humans, birds, rodents and other warm blooded animals. The only difference between the two hosts is that in the definite hosts Toxoplasma gondii experiences a sexual stage in which it is able to reproduce, and in intermediate hosts it experiences an asexual stage.
In both hosts Toxoplasma gondii enters the cell, forms vacuoles, and protects itself from the immune system. If the immune system is weak then it can cause disease, but if the immune system is uncompromised then the vacuoles form cysts in the muscles and brain of the infected organism.
There are four methods in which one might come in contact with the Toxoplasma infection; foodborne, animal-to-human, mother-to-child, and rare cases through organ transplantation. The tissue form of Toxoplasma gondii [cysts] can be transmitted to humans by ingestion through food. Cats are the main carriers of Toxoplasma gondii but they can get infected by eating infected rodents or birds. Infected cats release millions of oocysts in their feces for 3 around three weeks after being infected. Where the cat relieves itself determines who comes into contact with the oocysts. The care givers are at risk if the cat is accustomed to using a litter box, and the other cats, rodents, and small mammals are at risk if the cat is a stray. Congenital transmission is from a newly infected mother to her unborn child. Though the mother may not show signs of contamination there could be serious consequences to the pregnancy. Rare cases of transmission usually involve accidental ingestion of oocytes.
Approximately one-half of women infected with toxoplasmosis can transmit the infection across the placenta to their unborn baby. Infection early