Toxoplasma gondii is an ubiquitous intracellular parasite that can cause neonatal infections. Cats are the definitive host, and humans can become infected after eating infected meat or, more commonly, by ingesting oocysts shed in the feces of cats. T. gondii enters the circulatory system by passing between the endothelial cells of blood vessels. Most cases of toxoplasmosis are asymptomatic. However, in immunocompromised patients, neurotoxoplasmosis caused by T. gondii infections are one of the most common causes of brain abscesses. The organism is able to cross the blood-brain barrier by infecting the endothelial cells of capillaries in the brain. The parasite reproduces within these cells, a step that appears to be necessary for entry to the brain, and then causes the endothelial cell to lyse, releasing the progeny into brain tissues. This mechanism is quite different than the method it uses to enter the bloodstream in the first place.
The brain lesions associated with neurotoxoplasmosis can be detected radiographically using MRI or CAT scans. Diagnosis can be confirmed by direct observation of the organism in CSF. RT-PCR assays can also be used to detect T. gondii through genetic markers.
Treatment of neurotoxoplasmosis caused by T. gondii infections requires six weeks of multi-drug therapy with pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, and folinic acid. Long-term maintenance doses are often required to prevent recurrence.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology