Toxoplasma gondii is an unpleasant parasite, responsible for causing a disease called toxoplasmosis. Although it can infect virtually all warm-blooded animals, it can only reproduce in cats, and is transmitted to humans through contact with cat poop or by eating undercooked contaminated pork. Most adults infected with the parasite experience few symptoms, if any, it can be far more serious in pregnant women, resulting in developmental defects, blindness, premature birth or miscarriage. But testing for Toxoplasma infection is tricky and expensive, requiring sophisticated lab equipment that isn’t available in many parts of the world. Researchers have now developed this simple for the parasite, using a small sample of blood from a finger prick. Like a pregnancy test, the appearance of the second line (labelled ‘T’) means that a pregnant woman is carrying the parasite and needs immediate treatment. Cheap and simple, these small plastic sticks could turn out to be lifesavers.
Written by Kat Arney
- Image from work by Joseph Lykins and colleagues
- Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
- Image originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
- Published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, August 2018