Parasite found in raw meat linked to possible Australian rise in eye disease

An eye disease caused by the world’s most common parasite is under the microscope as researchers warn cases could be on the rise.
New research from Flinders University has found that one in 149 Australians is affected by diseases caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which was discovered more than 100 years ago.

Part of the reason for this increase could be attributed to people consuming raw or undercooked meat from infected livestock. The parasite is also commonly associated with cats.

One in 150 Australians has retinal scarring caused by the Toxoplasma parasite.
One in 149 Australians has retinal scarring caused by the Toxoplasma parasite. (Flinders University)

“Studies around the world show that 30-50% of the world’s population is infected with Toxoplasma, but although we knew this, we did not know how common the associated eye disease was,” said Professor Justine, author of the Flinders University study. Black-smith.

The retina of the eye – the part of the eye that generates vision – is most vulnerable to disease, according to Smith.

“Although there is no cure or vaccine, the symptoms of toxoplasmosis vary depending on the age, health and genetics of the infected individual,” she said.

“Many people are asymptomatic, but the most common disease we see clinically is retinal inflammation and scarring known as ocular toxoplasmosis.”

Flinders researchers tested DNA from ground lamb in supermarkets to detect Toxoplasma in more than a third of purchases.
Flinders researchers tested the DNA of ground lamb in supermarkets for toxoplasma in more than a third of purchases, a 2019 study reveals. (Flinders University)
Cooking meat at high temperatures can kill parasites that cause eye disease. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The WA study was the first effort to find out the rate of ocular toxoplasmosis in Australia, assessing the retinas of more than 5,000 people.

The parasite is most commonly associated with cats, but many other animals are infected via unclean environments, including areas with Australian cows.

The most common route of Toxoplasma infection is through the consumption of undercooked or raw meat.
The most common route of Toxoplasma infection is through the consumption of undercooked or raw meat. (Flinders University)

“Given Australia’s large population of feral cats known to be infected, as well as high levels of animal husbandry and meat-rich diets, it is imperative that we understand the prevalence of the disease across the country,” said said Smith.

Finders University researchers have sounded the alarm and are urging people to understand the risks of eating raw meat.

“We need people to know this disease exists, so they can make informed decisions about how they prepare and eat their meet,” Smith said.

“The parasite can be killed easily by cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 66 degrees Celsius or by freezing it before cooking.”

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