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Common parasite causes defects in newborns

Monday, July 30, 2012 by: Nate Curtis
Tags: parasite, birth defects, newborns

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(NaturalNews) Research conducted with the support of the NIH proves that toxoplasmosis screening should be performed on pregnant women. Toxoplasmosis is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, and now researchers have pinpointed the strains of this parasite that are the cause for the serious birth defects and premature births in the USA. A new blood test was created by scientists at NIAID, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to diagnose strains of Toxoplasma gondii (T.gondii) parasite, which a fetus can contract in the womb, if the mother is infected.

Health Concerns

Pregnant women contract the T. gondii by handling infected cat feces or by consuming meat that is not completely cooked. These women can then go on to have premature births, miscarriages, or babies with brain or eye defects. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the NIAID, states that congenital toxoplasmosis when left undiagnosed or untreated, can have severe impact on the quality of a child's life. He goes on to say, "The findings from this study support the value of screening for toxoplasmosis to identify patients who could benefit from treatment."

At the present time, blood tests can diagnose that a person has the Toxoplasma parasite, but not what specific strain it is. The test that NIAID developed can identify specific strains through the presence of antibodies that are associated with each one. Michael Grigg Ph.D, from the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at NIAID and his fellow researchers developed this test using the blood samples from a long-term study.

Fifteen separate T. gondii strains have been discovered across the world. Quite a bit of research has been performed in France, and the most common strains there are predominantly type II. These strains can be identified from any of the other strains. The other strains are called NE-II (not exclusively type II).

The researchers discovered both the NE-II or type II infections occurred in the 183 women and child pairs, when they performed the national congenital toxoplasmosis study. Further analysis uncovered the fact that the NE-II parasites tend to cause more premature births and other diseases to those infants than the babies infected with the type II parasites. Eye damage occurred in 67 percent of those with NE-II, while the type II babies only had eye damage in just 39 percent of them. Researchers do remind us that mild to serious diseases can be caused with either strain.

It has been known that specific parasite strains caused severe disease in mice. However, Dr. Grigg points out that researchers had not discovered whether it was the same for people. Up until now, the researchers had not been able to identify whether strains of the parasites the people had in the USA were the same strains found in Europe or another type. Therefore, they could not tell which strains cause the most serious diseases.


Even though other countries such as France screen pregnant women for Toxoplasma infection, it is rarely done in the USA. The research mentioned above and other studies show that there needs to be widespread screening of pregnant women to prevent brain and eye problems from occurring in newborns. The pregnant woman can receive treatment to cure this infection. According tot he CDC you can reduce your risk of exposure by washing your hands after handling cat feces, avoid eating undercooked meat or feeding it to your cat.

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About the author:
Nate Curtis has written dozens of health articles and is the author of the Amazingly Informative and Extremely Entertaining Free Special Health Report "It's Your Body, You Can Die If You Want To!" Check it out now at http://www.youcandieifyouwantto.com

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