Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and the Future of Ocular Toxoplasmosis

Aize Kijlstra*, Eskild Petersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Web of Science)


Despite large advances in the field of ocular toxoplasmosis, large gaps still exist in our knowledge concerning the epidemiology and pathophysiology of this potentially blinding infectious disease. Although ocular toxoplasmosis is considered to have a high health burden, still little is known about its exact prevalence and how it affects the quality of life. The epidemiology of toxoplasmosis depends on local habits throughout the globe, and changes are likely in view of increased meat consumption in developing countries and demands for higher animal welfare in the Western world. Water is increasingly seen as an important risk factor and more studies are needed to quantitate and control the role of water exposure (drinking, swimming). Tools are now becoming available to study both the human host as well as parasite genetic factors in the development of ocular toxoplasmosis. Further research on the role of Toxoplasma strains as well as basic studies on parasite virulence is needed to explain why Toxoplasma associated eye disease is so severe in some countries, such as Brazil. Although genetic analysis of the parasite represents the gold standard, further developments in serotyping using peptide arrays may offer practical solutions to study the role of parasite strains in the pathogenesis of Toxoplasma retinochoroiditis. More research is needed concerning the pathways whereby the parasite can infect the retina. Once in the retina further tissue damage may be due to parasite virulence factors or could be caused by an aberrant host immune response. Local intraocular immune responses are nowadays used for diagnostic procedures. Future developments may include the use of Raman technology or the direct visualization of a Toxoplasma cyst by optical coherence tomography (OCT). With the availability of ocular fluid specimens obtained for diagnostic purposes and the development of advanced proteomic techniques, a biomarker fingerprint that is unique for an eye with toxoplasmosis may become available. It is hoped that such a biomarker analysis may also be able to distinguish between acquired versus congenital disease. Recently developed mouse models of congenital ocular toxoplasmosis are extremely promising with regard to disease pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-147
JournalOcular Immunology and Inflammation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Drinking water
  • gene polymorphism
  • immunogenetics
  • meat
  • parasite strain
  • parasite virulence
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • toxoplasmosis

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