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Up to 50% of all people are infected with this scary parasite, study says

Published May 17th, 2022 4:14PM EDT
toxoplasma gondii, perhaps the worlds most infectious parasite
Image: Kateryna_Kon / Adobe

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Researchers may have discovered the most infectious parasite in the world. Toxoplasma gondii is a microscopic creature that scientists believe could infect up to 50 percent of people. The parasite is easily transmittable and is carried for life once a person has been infected.

This may be the most infectious parasite in the world

the worlds most infectious parasiteImage source: Kateryna_Kon / Adobe

Toxoplasma gondii has been around for decades. In fact, studies as early as the 1970s put a possible infection rate at around 30 percent of people. Now, though, studies estimate that around 30 to 50 percent of people in the world are infected with Toxoplasma.

It’s because of this high infection rate that many believe it to be the most infectious parasite in the world. And it seems that infections may be increasing throughout Australia. A new community-based study in Western Australia found that 66 percent of people were infected with Toxoplasma. That’s a large number of the population. And, the fact it can spread so easily only aids in that number growing.

How does Toxoplasma spread?

cats are the main spread of the world's most infectious parasite
Cats are the primary spreader of Toxoplasma. Image source: Catit/Amazon

Parasites can be found in everything. Sometimes, food is even recalled due to possible infections. However, the spread of the most infectious parasite in the world is most often accounted to cats.

Cats are the primary host of Toxoplasma. As such, they are one of the biggest causes of the parasite’s spread. Cats catch Toxoplasma from infected prey they eat. This can include smaller rodents and other things.

Once the cats eat the infected prey, they pass the parasites through their feces. Because this form can survive for long periods of time in the environment, the most infectious parasite is able to spread when other animals, like livestock, eat the feces while grazing. From here, the parasites lodge into the muscles of the livestock.

This is how humans pick up the parasite. Because they lodge in the muscles, the parasites can survive in the animals even after we slaughter them for meat. Then, when humans eat that meat, they can become infected by the parasite. Additionally, if the parasite infects a woman for the first time during pregnancy, she can pass the infection on to her unborn child.

How to lower the risk of getting Toxoplasma

Seeing the thermometer being used
Make sure to cook meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any traces of the parasite. Image source: Kizen

But how do you lower the risk of getting the most infectious parasite in the world? Well, first, you need to prevent it. Because Toxoplasma is not curable just yet, you’ll need to make sure you’re avoiding touching cat feces. If you have a cat, make sure to clean the litter box with gloves on, and then immediately wash your hands after.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re cooking any meats that you eat through to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Optionally, you can freeze it ahead of cooking to kill the parasite. Scientists also recommend washing all fresh fruit and vegetables before you eat them. And avoid drinking untreated water (such as that from a river, creek, or stream).

Fighting the most infectious parasite in the world is all about preventing its spread in the first place. The parasite often affects the eyes. We call this ocular toxoplasmosis. It can result in infected individuals seeing “floaters” or experiencing blurred vision. Studies on ocular toxoplasmosis have found that the damage caused to the eye is often irreversible.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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