By now, most people have received the warnings about the threat from the Zika virus that have been linked to Brazil and attendance at the Summer Olympics. But, I have only recently been alerted to the even greater threat that exists in conjunction with Toxoplasmosis that not only includes pregnant women but those with compromised immune systems such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
If you or someone you know is planning to travel to Brazil for the Olympics who may be at additional risk from this disease, it would be advisable to contact your medical practitioner prior to departure for advice.Barbara Jacoby
According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic:
“Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a single-celled parasitic organism that can infect most animals and birds. Because it reproduces only in cats, wild and domestic felines are the parasite’s ultimate host.
When a person becomes infected with T. gondii, the parasite forms cysts that can affect almost any part of the body — often your brain and muscles, including the heart.
If you’re generally healthy, your immune system keeps the parasites in check. They remain in your body in an inactive state, providing you with lifelong immunity so that you can’t become infected with the parasite again. But if your resistance is weakened by disease or certain medications, the infection can be reactivated, leading to serious complications.”
“You’re at risk of serious health problems from toxoplasmosis infection if:
- You have HIV/AIDS. Many people with HIV/AIDS also have toxoplasmosis, either a recent infection or an old infection that has reactivated.
- You’re undergoing chemotherapy. Chemotherapy affects your immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight even minor infections.
- You take steroids or other immunosuppressant drugs. Medications used to treat certain nonmalignant conditions suppress your immune system and make you more likely to develop complications of toxoplasmosis.
- You’re pregnant. If you have active toxoplasmosis, treatment can reduce the risk to your baby. If you had toxoplasmosis before becoming pregnant, you generally can’t pass the infection to your baby”.
Furthermore, according to a paper published by the National Institute of Health here in the US:
“Brazil has a very high rate of T. gondii infection in humans. Up to 50% of elementary school children and 50-80% of women of child-bearing age have antibodies to T. gondii. The risks for uninfected women to acquire toxoplasmosis during pregnancy and fetal transmission are high because the environment is highly contaminated with oocysts.”
And while this specifically points out the risk to pregnant women only, these risks would also apply to those with compromised immune systems.
In an article published by Science Life, it is clear that there is still much to be learned regarding the transmission of this disease and research for immunization, treatments and cures in the future. To the best of my knowledge, a few universities like the University of Chicago, Oxford and Osaka, Japan are the only ones currently doing research and Turing Pharmaceuticals & Gilead Sciences, Inc. are the pharmaceutical companies doing research.
If you or someone you know is planning to travel to Brazil for the Olympics who may be at additional risk from this disease, it would be advisable to contact your medical practitioner prior to departure for advice. And should you travel to Brazil and experience any of the symptoms of this disease as described in the Mayo Clinic article, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible for assessment and treatment, if necessary. As always, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.