Most infectious parasite in the world may have already infected 50% of people.
UNDATED (WKRC) – Scientists say that the most infectious parasite in the world may have infected 50% of people.
Toxoplasma gondii is a microscopic parasite that people carry for life if infected. Scientists say because of the infection rate, many believe that it is the most infectious parasite on the planet. In the 1970s, scientists estimated that 30% of people were infected with the parasite, but now it is between 30% and 50%, studies say.
Australia seems to be seeing an increase in infections, as one community in Western Australia has an infection rate of 66%.
While food can be recalled due to infection, cats are often cited as the primary hosts of Toxoplasma and may be one of the biggest causes of the spread. Cats typically become infected because of the prey they eat, such as small rodents.
The parasite is passed through cats’ feces since they can survive for long periods of time in that form. Toxoplasma spreads to livestock that eat while grazing and lodge into their muscles. Once humans eat the livestock, they have been infected. The parasite can even infect unborn children if their mother is infected for the first time during pregnancy.
To avoid the spread of the parasite, experts suggest taking the following steps:
- Refraining from touching cat feces, such as when people empty their pets’ liter box. Cat owners are encouraged to use gloves and wash hands after they remove the waste.
- People can also cook meat at 165 degrees Fahrenheit to lower the risk of ingesting the parasite (Freezing meat ahead of time can also kill the parasite).
- Untreated water, like that found in rivers, creeks, and streams can also carry the parasite, so they should be avoided if possible.
- Lastly, all fruits and vegetables should be washed before eating them.
The parasite typically affects the eyes, which is referred to as ocular toxoplasmosis. Infected people say they see “floaters” or experience blurred vision, and damage to the eyes caused by the infection cannot be reversed.