Background: Family clusters and epidemics of toxoplasmosis in North, Central, and South America led us to determine whether fathers of congenitally infected infants in the National Collaborative Chicago-Based Congenital Toxoplasmosis Study (NCCCTS) have a high incidence of Toxoplasma gondii infection.
Methods: We analyzed serum samples collected from NCCCTS families between 1981 and 2013. Paternal serum samples were tested for T. gondii antibodies with immunoglobulin (Ig) G dye test and IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Additional testing of paternal serum samples was performed with differential-agglutination and IgG avidity tests when T. gondii IgG and IgM results were positive and serum samples were collected by the 1-year visit of the congenitally infected child. Prevalence of paternal seropositivity and incidence of recent infection were calculated. We analyzed whether certain demographics, maternal parasite serotype, risk factors, or maternal/infant clinical manifestations were associated with paternal T. gondii infection status.
Results: Serologic testing revealed a high prevalence (29 of 81; 36%) of T. gondii infection in fathers, relative to the average seropositivity rate of 9.8% for boys and men aged 12-49 years in the United States between 1994 and 2004 (P < .001). Moreover, there was a higher-than-expected incidence of recent infections among fathers with serum samples collected by the 1-year visit of their child (6 of 45; 13%; P < .001). No demographic patterns or clinical manifestations in mothers or infants were associated with paternal infections, except for sandbox exposure.
Conclusions: The high prevalence of chronic and incidence of recent T. gondii infections in fathers of congenitally infected children indicates that T. gondii infections cluster within families in North America. When a recently infected person is identified, family clustering and community risk factors should be investigated for appropriate clinical management.
Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii; clusters; congenital infections; toxoplasmosis.
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