The history of Toxoplasma gondii--the first 100 years

J Eukaryot Microbiol. Nov-Dec 2008;55(6):467-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.2008.00345.x.


In this paper the history of Toxoplasma gondii and toxoplasmosis is reviewed. This protozoan parasite was first discovered in 1908 and named a year later. Its medical importance remained unknown until 1939 when T. gondii was identified in tissues of a congenitally infected infant, and veterinary importance became known when it was found to cause abortion storms in sheep in 1957. The discovery of a T. gondii specific antibody test, Sabin-Feldman dye test in 1948 led to the recognition that T. gondii is a common parasite of warm-blooded hosts with a worldwide distribution. Its life cycle was not discovered until 1970 when it was found that felids are its definitive host and an environmentally resistant stage (oocyst) is excreted in feces of infected cats. The recent discovery of its common infection in certain marine wildlife (sea otters) indicates contamination of our seas with T. gondii oocysts washed from land. Hygiene remains the best preventive measure because currently there is no vaccine to prevent toxoplasmosis in humans.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Toxoplasma / cytology
  • Toxoplasma / physiology*
  • Toxoplasmosis / diagnosis
  • Toxoplasmosis / history*
  • Toxoplasmosis / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis / transmission
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / diagnosis
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / history*
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / transmission