The clinical spectrum of toxoplasmosis in the adult

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Only in recent years has the complete clinical spectrum of illness caused by toxoplasmosis been defined. This is a condition which may cause difficulties in diagnosis and therapy in medical, surgical, pediatric, and ophthalmologic patients. In recent years members of our group have encountered patients with varied manifestations of toxoplasmosis. This report is concerned with a review of some of our challenging cases.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a crescent-shaped protozoan. This organism multiplies intracellularly, and after a few days to weeks forms cysts containing from 50 to 3,000 organisms. T. gondii produces infection in many animals, and causes both congenital and acquired infections in man. The congenital form may be subclinical or may be manifest by destructive lesions of the brain, eyes, and viscera. The acquired form is much more common than is usually believed. Available data now reveal that as much as one third of the adult population in the United States have specific antibodies to this organism, most often as a result of a previous subclinical infection. Occasionally, acquired toxoplasmosis is a symptomatic illness similar to infectious mononucleosis, with fever and lymphadenopathy. Rarely the acquired form may produce a severe, disseminated illness characterized by myocarditis, pneumonia, or meningoencephalitis. Finally, acquired ocular disease caused by T. gondii may occur either alone, in a chronic form, or as a complication of systemic disease.

Historical development

According to Frenkel,1 toxoplasmosis was first discovered in 1908 in a small rodent, the gondi, maintained in the Pasteur Institute of Tunis. Nicolle. . .



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