A Turkish online newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News, reports that toxoplasmosis has caused partial blindness in two Turkish women. Both women come from the Western province of Izmir. One woman loves cats and the other is allergic to them.
“A cat-borne parasite has caused two Turkish women to lose their eye sights”
One woman is a 26-year-old chemist, Gizem, the other is a 24-year-old beauty expert. The former, we are told, almost lost the use of her right eye because of contracting toxoplasmosis. The beauty expert also noticed that she could not see during professional training.
Subsequently, both women were diagnosed as suffering with Toxoplasma gondii at a research hospital.
It’s not clear how they picked up the protozoan. The important aspect of this case is that the report does not provide us with a firm connection between toxoplasmosis in the women mentioned and their partial blindness.
The point that I’m making is that we don’t know for sure whether the blindness is due to toxoplasmosis as reported. We don’t know what specific damage to the eye caused the blindness. I would have helped to know. If their partial blindness is due to this parasite (which is possible) the question remains as to how they became exposed to it. The tissue form of the parasite can be transmitted to people through eating contaminated food, which is the normal route, or ingesting oocysts after e.g. cleaning a cat’s litter box. The oocysts can be shed from the faeces, get onto the person’s hands and then into their mouth.
It seems likely that the woman who is allergic to cats became infected through eating undercooked meat of some sort rather than, as suggested, that she may have eaten food that a cat or cats may have touched. This must be much more likely because she is not around cats. If this is the case it is about people taking precautions. Yes, I realise that the cat is in the cycle but the people concerned could do more to prevent transmission.
The woman who loves cats admit to petting stray cats. This of itself does not provide anywhere near enough evidence to support the argument that she has ingested oocysts on her hands after petting cats. Once again, I stress that the normal route is through eating undercooked pork, beef, mutton or veal or unpasteurised dairy products which contain toxoplasma organisms. The newspaper report does not mention this and neither does the newspaper refer to any firm causal evidence that this parasite caused the blindness.
Why am I writing this? To defend the cat wherever necessary. I am simply saying we need more to prove a direct causal connection between cats and the partial blindness of these women.