Once a cat is infected, the chances for recovery are fair to guarded and recurrence is common. Eating raw or undercooked meat can also cause exposure to the parasite for humans, cats, dogs and other animals. Once ingested, the parasite can morph into one of two forms, an acute form (tachyzoites) or a latent form (bradyzoites.)
The acute form divides rapidly and destroys its host cells until stopped by the immune system. For those with healthy immune systems, symptoms generally are flu-like. In children or those with a weakened immune system, it can invade just about any organ or tissue and can cause just about any clinical sign, such as respiratory infection, muscle or bowel disease and more depending upon where the infection lodges in the body. It also can be fatal if not treated, particularly in those with compromised immune systems, she said.
All of this makes toxoplasmosis difficult to diagnose, Chauvet said. Adding to the difficulty, it may take weeks, or months, before test results show positive for the parasite.
The latent form of the toxoplasma gondii parasite divides more slowly, but is more persistent and can stay in the body for years. Research suggests that about 40 percent of cats are positive for the parasite as are about one-third of humans, she said. Not all cats or humans who test positive will develop symptoms.
The polymerase chain reaction test, a type of DNA testing, is the most accurate diagnostic test, parti
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