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Parasite That Attacks The Retina Is Infecting One In Three People

by : Tom Wood on :
Parasite That Attacks The Retina Is Infecting One In Three People
Parasite That Attacks The Retina Is Infecting One In Three People (Alamy)

The most successful parasite in the world affects all warm-blooded creatures and could be present in as much as 50 percent of people, living in their eyes.

That’s a jolly thought for you isn’t it?

If you’ve just sat down to read this, perhaps you’ve already got an itchy eye just at the thought of a parasite making a home in there, but there’s unfortunately a decent chance that this is true.

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The critter is called Toxoplasma gondii and it’s probably the most successful parasite in the world.

Capable of infecting all mammals and birds, it’s been found on every continent in humans and if you’re infected it’s with you for life.

Great stuff, right?

Here's the fella. Credit: Alamy
Here's the fella. Credit: Alamy
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We haven’t got a vaccine for the parasite, nor do we have any drugs or medicines that can treat it.

Around the world, some estimates suggest that 30 to 50 percent of people in the world carry the parasite, and infections are on the rise in places like Australia.

A community study in Western Australia found that 66 percent were infected with the parasite.

Toxoplasma gondii causes a disease that can scar the back of the eye, and a new study has suggested that otherwise healthy people have been found to have the mark of the parasite.

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The primary host for the invasive little eye dweller is cats.

They eat infected prey, then pass a whole load of parasites that can survive in seriously extreme weather in their faeces.

Then, that gets eaten by livestock when grazing, and then – guess what – we eat the meat, or eat produce, or drink water that contains the parasite.

You may already have the parasite. Credit: Alamy
You may already have the parasite. Credit: Alamy
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Brilliant, there’s not really too much you can do about it, and it’s there for life if you get it.

Serious infection can cause retinal inflammation, as well as the scarring, and is known as ocular toxoplasmosis.

Studies have shown it usually affects healthy folks, but can also cause more severe illness for those with weakened immune systems or pregnant people.

If you want to stand the best chance of avoiding it, you’re better off eating your meat well done, as freezing it before cooking or heating to an internal temperature of 66C when cooking kills the parasite.

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Wash your fruit and veg, and don’t drink untreated water.

That’s your best shot.

Aren’t you glad that you’ve learned this today then, eh?

You’ll sleep soundly tonight, won’t you?

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]  

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