Women and men respond to the Toxoplasma parasite differently according to new Flinders University research.
Closely associated with cats, Toxoplasma causes the infectious disease known as toxoplasmosis. Domestic cat faeces can be a carrier for humans, however the most common route of infection is by eating undercooked or raw meat sourced from infected livestock.
An occurrence of toxoplasmosis puts people at risk of further infections from the parasite, which can progressively damage the retina and lead to vision loss
An occurrence of toxoplasmosis puts people at risk of further infections from the parasite, which can progressively damage the retina and lead to vision loss.
The Flinders researchers discovered that women are more likely to experience recurrent cases of toxoplasmosis. International experts have demonstrated that women are also more likely to have more than one lesion in their eyes.
Toxoplasmosis Impact Analysed
The new study analysed the impact of toxoplasmosis on 262 participants at an eye clinic in Brazil. The researchers hope that by addressing differences in the way dangerous infections like toxoplasmosis impact people because of their gender, targeted treatments can then be developed.
“Inflammation in the retina continues to be the most common disease caused by an infection with Toxoplasma. This new research shows that although the medical outcomes of toxoplasmosis are similar for both men and women, there are clear and significant differences in symptoms between genders when people present at a clinic for treatment,” said study senior author Professor Justine Smith, Strategic Professor in Eye & Vision Health at Flinders University.
“For the first time, we are showing that the symptoms of toxoplasmosis vary not just depending on the age and health of the infected individual but also on their gender. This research demonstrates the potential for patients’ gender to influence toxoplasmosis in their eyes, so we can improve our understanding about the disease and hopefully develop future treatment pathways.”
In the study, published in the British Journal of Opthamology, Professor Smith and her team compared differences in toxoplasmosis symptoms between 139 women and 123 men who presented to a clinic for treatment in Riberiao Preto, Brazil.
“Lesions in women’s eyes were significantly more likely to occur in the central retina compared with those in men’s eyes. The quality of the vision was similar for women and men and there were no significant differences in measures of visual sharpness, ocular complications, and occurrence and timing of disease reactivations between the genders,” says Professor Smith.
“Ultimately, we determined that toxoplasmosis has similar outcomes for both genders but that there are clear differences in the type and characteristics of the disease, which impact each gender differently.”
Lyons MR, Arantes T., Vieira B.R., et al. Impact of gender on clinical features and outcomes of ocular toxoplasmosis. British Journal of Ophthalmology. 24 May 2023. doi: 10.1136/bjo-2023-323227