Congenital toxoplasmosis in Austria: Prenatal screening for prevention is cost-saving

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 Jul 10;11(7):e0005648. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005648. eCollection 2017 Jul.


Background: Primary infection of Toxoplasma gondii during pregnancy can be transmitted to the unborn child and may have serious consequences, including retinochoroiditis, hydrocephaly, cerebral calcifications, encephalitis, splenomegaly, hearing loss, blindness, and death. Austria, a country with moderate seroprevalence, instituted mandatory prenatal screening for toxoplasma infection to minimize the effects of congenital transmission. This work compares the societal costs of congenital toxoplasmosis under the Austrian national prenatal screening program with the societal costs that would have occurred in a No-Screening scenario.

Methodology/principal findings: We retrospectively investigated data from the Austrian Toxoplasmosis Register for birth cohorts from 1992 to 2008, including pediatric long-term follow-up until May 2013. We constructed a decision-analytic model to compare lifetime societal costs of prenatal screening with lifetime societal costs estimated in a No-Screening scenario. We included costs of treatment, lifetime care, accommodation of injuries, loss of life, and lost earnings that would have occurred in a No-Screening scenario and compared them with the actual costs of screening, treatment, lifetime care, accommodation, loss of life, and lost earnings. We replicated that analysis excluding loss of life and lost earnings to estimate the budgetary impact alone. Our model calculated total lifetime costs of €103 per birth under prenatal screening as carried out in Austria, saving €323 per birth compared with No-Screening. Without screening and treatment, lifetime societal costs for all affected children would have been €35 million per year; the implementation costs of the Austrian program are less than €2 million per year. Calculating only the budgetary impact, the national program was still cost-saving by more than €15 million per year and saved €258 million in 17 years.

Conclusions/significance: Cost savings under a national program of prenatal screening for toxoplasma infection and treatment are outstanding. Our results are of relevance for health care providers by supplying economic data based on a unique national dataset including long-term follow-up of affected infants.

MeSH terms

  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serologic Tests / economics
  • Serologic Tests / methods
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / economics*
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / epidemiology
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis, Congenital / transmission*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.