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Symptomatic toxoplasma infection due to congenital and postnatally acquired infection
  1. R Gilbert1,
  2. H K Tan1,
  3. S Cliffe1,
  4. E Guy2,
  5. M Stanford3
  1. 1Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  2. 2Toxoplasma Reference Unit, National Public Health Service for Wales, Swansea, UK
  3. 3Department of Ophthalmology, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr R Gilbert
    Reader in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK; ruth.gilbert{at}ich.ucl.ac.uk

Abstract

Aims: To determine the incidence and severity of symptomatic toxoplasma infection presenting during childhood due to congenital or postnatally acquired infection.

Methods: Between 2002 and 2004, newly diagnosed children (<16 years) with signs or symptoms of congenital or ocular toxoplasmosis were reported by clinicians to the British Paediatric and Ophthalmic Surveillance Units or by toxoplasma referral laboratories. Confirmed cases were estimated to have a greater than 50% probability of congenital and/or ocular toxoplasmosis, based on clinical and serological findings.

Results: Thirty eight children had confirmed toxoplasma infection. Twenty two (58%) were classified with congenital infection (cumulative incidence for England and Wales 3.4/100 000 live births; 95% CI 2.4 to 4.8), of whom 2 (9%) were stillborn, 7 (32%) live births had intracranial abnormalities and/or developmental delay (5 of whom had retinochoroiditis), and 10 (45%) had retinochoroiditis with no other abnormalities reported. A further 16 (42%) children were classified as infected after birth; all had retinochoroiditis.

Conclusions: The low burden of symptomatic congenital toxoplasmosis combined with the lack of evidence of an effective treatment support current policy not to offer prenatal or neonatal screening for toxoplasma infection. Primary prevention strategies need to address acquisition of infection in childhood which accounts for half the ocular disease due to toxoplasma infection in children in the UK and Ireland.

  • surveillance
  • congenital toxoplasmosis
  • retinochoroiditis

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Footnotes

  • Published Online First 17 March 2006

  • Funding: The British Council for the Prevention of Blindness contributed funding towards the project. Research at the Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust benefits from R&D funding received from the NHS Executive. The authors’ work was independent of the funders.

  • Competing interests: none

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