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Toxoplasmosis cases declining in high-income countries
People can become infected with toxoplasmosis by eating food or drinking water contaminated with parasites shed in the faeces of infected cats.

Researchers identify changing epidemiology of this harmful foetal disease.

Human toxoplasmosis rates have been declining in high-income countries over the past six decades, according to new research.

However, an epidemiological "peak shift" - where more women contract the disease for the first time during pregnancy rather than before motherhood - can cause transient spikes in high prevalence countries.

The study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and published in the journal Trends in Parasitology analysed six decades of data from more than a quarter of a million people from 19 countries. 

As well as highlighting the changing epidemiology of toxoplasmosis, the study also found gaps in the current understanding of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) in low- and middle-income countries, and calls for this to be addressed in future research.

It also suggests that pregnant women from countries predicted to experience a rise in cases may benefit from the introduction of temporary screening programmes and a reassessment of the cost-effectiveness of these programmes to consider related disorders.

RVC lead researcher and postdoctoral scientist Dr Gregory Milne said: “Toxoplasma causes a large public health burden, from severe congenital disease among infants, to fatal infections among people with compromised immune systems, to other more subtle changes in host behaviour. It is therefore promising news to find consistent evidence of decreases in parasite exposure in many populations and countries. 

“We show that more data are needed to assess the trajectories of exposure trends in lower-income countries. Our findings nonetheless caution against complacency: in high-prevalence countries, despite decreasing parasite exposure, cases of congenital disease may counterintuitively increase as more women acquire primary infections in pregnancy.”

Toxoplasmosis affects some 190,000 pregnancies globally every year and occurs when pregnant women become infected with the parasite T. gondii for the first time, passing the infection to the foetus. Of the 19,000 annually reported cases, three per cent of infected infants die before one month of age, sometimes before birth, and those who survive can experience issues with their vision and development.

Around one-third of the human population is thought to have been exposed to T.gondii. People can become infected by eating food or drinking water contaminated
 with parasites shed in the faeces of infected cats. 

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VMG president joins House of Lords

News Story 1
 Miles Russell, president of the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), has been elected to the House of Lords as a crossbench hereditary peer.

He will join Lord Trees as a representative of the veterinary sector in the second chamber of the UK parliament.

Lord Russell said: "Those of us working in the animal health and veterinary sectors are only too aware of the importance of the work we do and the challenges we face.

"I will use my platform in the House of Lords to increase understanding of our sectors and to promote positive change." 

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Duchess of York stars in charity calendar

The National Foundation for Retired Service Animals (NFRSA) has released its charity calendar for 2024, featuring Sarah, Duchess of York and a selection of the retired service animals the charity supports.

The 12 images were taken by animal photographer Gerry Slade and include retired police dogs and horses, a former border force detector dog, and a retired fire investigation and urban search and rescue dog.

Sarah, Duchess of York, who is a patron of the charity, appears alongside retired police dog Jessie in the photograph for December.

So far this year, the charity has given more than 40,000 in grants to help former service animals with their veterinary care. After retirement, they receive no financial support from the Government and obtaining affordable insurance can be difficult.