The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is a highly successful pathogen that infects around 30% of the global human population. Additionally, it is able to infect all warm blooded animals with high prevalence. This is surprising as it is a parasite of the cat and can only complete its full sexual cycle in that host. This review examines the important key routes of transmission: infective oocysts from the cat, ingestion of raw infected tissue and vertical transmission. The latter route of transmission has traditionally been thought to be rare. In this review, this assumption is examined and discussed in the light of the current literature. The available evidence points to the possibility that vertical transmission occurs frequently in natural populations of mice however the evidence in sheep is currently ambivalent and controversial. In humans, the situation appears as though vertical transmission may be rare although there is still much that is unexplained.
Keywords: Toxoplasma; humans; rodents; sheep; vertical transmission.