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Toxoplasma gondii in pork: What Nairobi residents need to know

Two groups of people are most at risk for a serious reaction and if you have a cat in the home, you need to pay close attention to how its litter is discarded.

Pork chops [Image Credit: Business Insider USA]

Recent reports have raised concerns regarding the safety of pork meat being consumed in Nairobi, with findings from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Nairobi’s Department of Public Health indicating a high prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection.

Toxoplasma gondii is indeed a common parasite worldwide, with a significant portion of the human population exposed to it at some point in their lives. Pork is one of the meats known to carry the parasite, particularly if it is undercooked or raw.


Toxoplasma gondii is a microscopic parasite that, when ingested, can cause an infection known as toxoplasmosis.

While the parasite is commonly associated with cats, where it can complete its life cycle, it is also found in various meat products, including pork, lamb, venison and shellfish.

Humans can get infected by consuming undercooked or raw meat containing the parasite.

In healthy individuals, toxoplasmosis may cause mild symptoms or go unnoticed, as the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing severe problems.


However, it poses a significant risk to pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy.

In such cases, the infection can lead to severe health issues, including damage to the brain, eyes, and other organs.

To reduce the risk of Toxoplasma gondii infection, it is crucial to adhere to safe meat preparation practices:

  1. Cook pork thoroughly: Ensure that pork is cooked to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F). Use a meat thermometer to check.
  2. Avoid cross-contamination: Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and other foods. Wash hands, cutting boards, knives, and countertops with hot, soapy water after handling raw pork.
  3. Freeze pork: Freezing pork at sub-zero temperatures before cooking can help kill parasites. However, cooking meat thoroughly remains the most effective way to eliminate Toxoplasma gondii.

The majority of people infected with Toxoplasma gondii will experience mild flu-like symptoms or none at all. However, some may develop signs of infection, including: body aches, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever and fatigue.

If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and suspect you might have been exposed to Toxoplasma gondii, consult a healthcare provider promptly.


In addition to safe meat handling and cooking practices, there are other measures you can take to prevent toxoplasmosis:

  1. Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling soil, gardening, or contact with cats.
  2. Manage cat litter safely: If you have cats, avoid changing cat litter if pregnant or immunocompromised. If you must, wear gloves and wash hands afterward.
  3. Avoid drinking untreated water: Toxoplasma gondii can be found in untreated water. Drink water from safe, treated sources.

The discovery of Toxoplasma gondii in pork sold in Nairobi is a call to action for residents to adopt safer meat handling and cooking practices. The key factor that determines the risk of infection from meat is not necessarily the type of meat but rather how it is prepared and consumed.

This content was generated by an AI model and verified by the author.


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