A new study by Flinders researchers highlights the possibility of catching Toxoplasma infection from eating undercooked meat.
Toxoplasma is a parasite that causes inflammation of the retina, which is the nerve layer of the eye. Anyone may develop retinal inflammation after an infection with Toxoplasma, but it’s more common and more severe in babies, older adults and people with diseases that affect the immune system.
A study just published in the Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health shows that Australian meat is commonly contaminated with Toxoplasma.
Flinders researchers tested lamb mince meat bought from the supermarket 3 times a week for 6 months for Toxoplasma. They used a DNA detection test to pick up Toxoplasma in more than one-third of purchases.
Flinders Strategic Research Professor and Superstar of STEM, Justine Smith, who led the research, says these findings were new for Australia, but were expected from work done in other parts of the world.
Professor Smith says Toxoplasma in meat can be killed easily by cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 66 ºC (or medium) or by freezing it prior to cooking.
There are no vaccines that protect against Toxoplasma, and antibiotic drugs cannot get rid of the parasite, so a person carries it for life.
It’s well known that Toxoplasma can be caught from cats. This is the reason for washing your hands well after clearing the cat litter box. Another way of catching Toxoplasma is eating raw or undercooked meat. Research from other parts of the world has indicated that meat is commonly contaminated with Toxoplasma, but the issue has received little attention in Australia.
Dawson, A.C., et al. (2019) Lamb as a potential source of Toxoplasma gondii infection for Australians. Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health. doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12955.