Home Health The raw meat parasite is associated with a common eye disease

The raw meat parasite is associated with a common eye disease


Toxoplasma gondiiThe parasite, closely related to cats, is behind the scars on the retina of one in 150 Australians, according to a new analysis from Flinders University.

Many animals around the world become infected with parasites, usually infected in an environment contaminated with infected cats or by eating other infected animals. For humans, while domestic cat feces can be a carrier, the most common route of infection is the consumption of insufficiently thermal or raw meat derived from an infected animal.

“Given Australia’s large wild cat population, which is known to be infected, and the high levels of agriculture and meat-rich diets, it is important to understand the prevalence of the disease across the country,” said senior study author Professor Justin Smith, Professor of Strategy . in Eye and Vision Protection at Flinders University.

Smith and her team analyzed retinal photographs of more than 5,000 people living in the Basselton area of ​​Western Australia, previously collected to assess the prevalence of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration for a long-term study of healthy aging.

Three specialized ophthalmologists, including Professor Smith, evaluated the scan for toxoplasmic retinochorioiditis, positive cases confirmed by blood tests for antibodies.

“Among 5,000 people, we found eight participants with toxoplasmosis scars on the retina confirmed by blood tests. Add to that about three-quarters of the retinal lesions in a position not seen in these specific photos, we were able to estimate the prevalence of ocular toxoplasmosis at 1 in 149 people, ”he said.

“Although there are no drugs or vaccines, the symptoms of toxoplasmosis vary depending on the age, health and genetics of the infected person. Many people are asymptomatic, but the most common disease we see in the clinic is inflammation of the retina and scarring, known as ocular toxoplasmosis.

“Studies around the world show that 30% to 50% of the world’s population is infected with Toxoplasma, but despite what we knew, we did not know how common this eye disease is,” Smith said.

The paper argues that this is the first attempt to quantify the incidence of ocular toxoplasmosis in Australia, and the results show that the disease can be considered common. In connection with previous studies showing that infection can lead to vision loss in more than 50% of the eyes and even blindness, the authors say it is important for people to understand the risk factors for toxoplasmosis and ways to avoid it.

“While people are often aware that pregnant women need to avoid cat toilets, we also need to know that cooking meat is an important risk factor,” Smith said.

Smith’s 2019 study highlighted the high prevalence of Toxoplasma in Australian lamb sold in supermarkets.

“Add to this the fact that meat is now increasingly cooked in and out of restaurants so that it is purposefully uncooked or raw, then the likelihood of contracting toxoplasmosis increases.

“We need people to know that this disease exists so that they can make informed decisions about how they prepare and eat their meeting. The parasite can be easily killed by cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 66ºC (or medium) or by freezing it before cooking ”.

The study follows a number of papers recently published by Smith and her team on the condition, including one that uses new retinal imaging technology to show changes that occur in ocular toxoplasmosis at the tissue level, and another that highlights best clinical practice. to fight the disease.

Image caption: An eye scan showing ocular toxoplasmosis. Image Credit: Associate Professor Juan M. Furtado.


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