Guidance

Toxoplasmosis: diagnosis, epidemiology and prevention

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) that can pass from mammals to humans.

For humans, those at most risk are:

  • pregnant women, who can pass congenital toxoplasmosis to their unborn babies
  • people with weakened immune systems.

There’s a small risk during the lambing season of toxoplasmosis infection passing from sheep to humans. The T. gondii parasite is sometimes found in the afterbirth and on newborn lambs after an infected sheep has given birth.

See the description, symptoms, causes, treatment and complications of toxoplasmosis on NHS Choices.

Diagnosis

Public Health England, in collaboration with Public Health Wales, reviews cases of T. gondii infection diagnosed each quarter by the Toxoplasma reference laboratory in Swansea.

Contact the Toxoplasma reference laboratory (TRL) for information about tests.

See Zoonotic diseases: surveillance of laboratory confirmed cases for background about zoonotic surveillance at PHE.

Epidemiology

Around 350 cases of toxoplasmosis are diagnosed in England and Wales each year.

Public Health England has recently published the results of a case-control study investigating risk factors for toxoplasmosis in England and Wales. Food histories and environmental exposures were compared for cases and seronegative controls. A strong association between beef and infection was seen, which remained after adjustment for potential confounders. These findings emphasize the need to ensure food is thoroughly cooked and handled hygienically, especially for those in vulnerable groups.

The Health Protection Report publishes quarterly reports of zoonotic infections in England and Wales.

Prevention

Defra and Public Health England produce advice for pregnant women in contact with animals.

The HSE publish guidance on protecting farmers and farm workers from zoonoses.

The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) produces guidance on a range of dangerous pathogens-related subjects, including ‘Infection risks to new and expectant mothers in the workplace’.

Published 11 September 2008
Last updated 19 December 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated the epidemiology section with information about risk factors.
  2. First published.