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MEDICAL: Other Infectious Diseases Diagnosis

Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that is widespread throughout the world, is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular protozoan parasite. Toxoplasmosis refers to clinical or pathological manifestations of a T. gondii infection, which occurs when the protozoa invade the cells but does not usually cause symptoms in patients with normal immune systems. Conversion of chronic T. gondii infection into active toxoplasmosis occurs primarily in severely immuno-compromised hosts.

There are three forms of T. gondii: oocysts, tissue cysts, and tachyzoites. Oocysts are oval-shaped and have been found only in cats; this form of T. gondii can live outside of the host in a warm, moist environment for over a year and therefore may play a major role in transmission of T. gondii infection. Tissue cysts can contain up to 3000 organisms. Tachyzoites are the crescent-shaped invasive form of T. gondii: This form is seen in acute T. gondii infection and invades all mammalian cells except non-nucleated red blood cells.

Toxoplasmosis is the most common cause of intraocular inflammation. When the organism reaches the eye via the circulation, an infection may begin in the retina, particularly in immuno-compromised individuals. Ultimately, a cyst forms, and because the cyst is resistant to the host's defenses, a chronic infection develops. When the person's immune function declines, the cyst wall ruptures and organisms are released into the retina. Other organs can be infected by the organism as well. These organs include the gray and white matter of the brain, the alveolar lining of the lungs, the heart, and the skeletal muscles. Acquired immunodeficiency symdrome (AIDS)-associated Toxoplasma encephalitis can result from reactivation of a chronic infection, and congenital toxoplasmosis may be associated with many fetal anomalies such as microcephaly, microphthalmia, hydranencephaly, and hydrocephalus.

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