Toxoplasmosis in humans and animals in Brazil: high prevalence, high burden of disease, and epidemiology

Parasitology. 2012 Sep;139(11):1375-424. doi: 10.1017/S0031182012000765. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Infections by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii are widely prevalent in humans and animals in Brazil. The burden of clinical toxoplasmosis in humans is considered to be very high. The high prevalence and encouragement of the Brazilian Government provides a unique opportunity for international groups to study the epidemiology and control of toxoplasmosis in Brazil. Many early papers on toxoplasmosis in Brazil were published in Portuguese and often not available to scientists in English-speaking countries. In the present paper we review prevalence, clinical spectrum, molecular epidemiology, and control of T. gondii in humans and animals in Brazil. This knowledge should be useful to biologists, public health workers, veterinarians, and physicians. Brazil has a very high rate of T. gondii infection in humans. Up to 50% of elementary school children and 50-80% of women of child-bearing age have antibodies to T. gondii. The risks for uninfected women to acquire toxoplasmosis during pregnancy and fetal transmission are high because the environment is highly contaminated with oocysts. The burden of toxoplasmosis in congenitally infected children is also very high. From limited data on screening of infants for T. gondii IgM at birth, 5-23 children are born infected per 10 000 live births in Brazil. Based on an estimate of 1 infected child per 1000 births, 2649 children with congenital toxoplasmosis are likely to be born annually in Brazil. Most of these infected children are likely to develop symptoms or signs of clinical toxoplasmosis. Among the congenitally infected children whose clinical data are described in this review, several died soon after birth, 35% had neurological disease including hydrocephalus, microcephaly and mental retardation, 80% had ocular lesions, and in one report 40% of children had hearing loss. The severity of clinical toxoplasmosis in Brazilian children may be associated with the genetic characteristics of T. gondii isolates prevailing in animals and humans in Brazil.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Toxoplasma / physiology
  • Toxoplasmosis / epidemiology*
  • Toxoplasmosis / pathology
  • Toxoplasmosis / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis / transmission
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / epidemiology
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / pathology