Background: Women who acquire toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy (in most cases detected through serological screening) require counselling about the risk of congenital infection and its clinical sequelae. Reliable estimates of risk are not currently available. We undertook an analysis of data from women referred to the toxoplasmosis reference laboratory, Lyon, France, between 1987 and 1995.
Methods: Information was collected from clinical notes kept at the laboratory and, where necessary, from the relevant obstetrician or paediatrician via telephone. Methods were developed to derive estimates of the risk of congenital toxoplasmosis by exact duration of gestation at maternal seroconversion.
Findings: We analysed obstetric and paediatric data on 603 confirmed maternal toxoplasmosis infections. At least 564 women received antiparasitic drugs according to a standard protocol. Congenital infection status was ascertained in 554 cases, and infected children were followed-up for a median of 54 months. The overall maternal-fetal transmission rate was 29% (95% CI 25-33), which masked a sharp increase in risk with duration of gestation from 6% at 13 weeks to 72% at 36 weeks. However, fetuses infected in early pregnancy were much more likely to show clinical signs of infection. These effects counterbalance, and women who seroconverted at 24-30 weeks of gestation carried the highest risk (10%) of having a congenitally infected child with early clinical signs who was thus at risk of long-term complications.
Interpretation: This information will assist the clinical counselling of pregnant women diagnosed with acute toxoplasmosis and may guide individual decisions on investigative and therapeutic options. Further studies are required to determine the long-term risks of clinical symptoms and disability due to congenital toxoplasmosis.