High frequency detection of Toxoplasma gondii DNA in human neonatal tissue from Libya

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Abstract

Background

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that causes significant disease in humans. Toxoplasmosis is normally asymptomatic, unless associated with congenital transmission, or in immunocompromised people. Congenital transmission generally occurs at low frequencies. In this study, we use PCR to investigate possible congenital transmission of T. gondii during pregnancy in a cohort of mothers from Libya.

Methods

Two hundred and seventy two pregnant women (producing 276 neonates) were recruited to obtain umbilical cord tissue from their neonates at birth; DNA was extracted from that tissue and tested for T. gondii DNA using two specific PCR protocols based on the sag 1 and sag 3 genes.

Results

Toxoplasma gondii DNA was detected in the umbilical cord DNA from 27 of the 276 neonates giving a prevalence of 9.9% (95% CI 6.8–13.9%). Compared with more commonly reported rates of congenital transmission of 0.1% of live births, this is high. There was no association of infection with unsuccessful pregnancy.

Conclusions

This study shows a high frequency presence of T. gondii DNA associated with neonatal tissue at birth in this cohort of 276 neonates from Libya. Although PCR cannot detect living parasites, there is the possibility that this indicates a higher than usual frequency of congenital transmission.

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