Toxoplasma gondii seroprevalence among pregnant women attending antenatal clinic in Northern Tanzania

Eliakimu Paul, Ireen Kiwelu, Blandina Mmbaga, Rebeka Nazareth, Elias Sabuni, Athanasia Maro, Arnold Ndaro, Jo E. B. Halliday and Jaffu Chilongola
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Acute Toxoplasma gondii infection during pregnancy represents a risk for congenital disease, especially among women without previous exposure to infection. There is, however, a paucity of information about the epidemiology of T. gondii infection in pregnant women in Tanzania. This study aimed to determine the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection and associated demographic, clinical, and behavioral risk factors in pregnant women attending ante-natal clinic (ANC) at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC), a referral medical center in Northern Tanzania.


A hospital-based cross-sectional study was carried out from 1 February to 30 April 2017. Data on maternal demographic characteristics, obstetric history, knowledge, and practices related to T. gondii infection were collected from 254 pregnant women attending antenatal care at KCMC. A sample of 4 mL of blood was collected from each participant and sera prepared from each sample. Serum samples were tested for the presence of specific T. gondii IgG and IgM antibodies by indirect Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). DNA was extracted from whole blood for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, targeting the DNA sequence coding for the Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 (ITS1).


The overall T. gondii seroprevalence, including both IgM- and IgG-positive individuals, was 44.5%. Of the 254 tested women, 102 and 23 were seropositive for T. gondii-specific IgG and IgM antibodies respectively and 113 individuals had antibodies of either or both classes. All IgM-positive samples were also tested by PCR, and all were negative. The majority (90%) of the women surveyed had never heard about toxoplasmosis. Consumption of raw vegetables [aOR = 0. 344; 95% CI 0.151–0.784; p = 0.011] and having regular contact with soil [aOR = 0.482; 95% CI 0.268–0.8681; p = 0.015] were both associated with T. gondii antibody status. Inverse relationships with probability of T. gondii exposure were observed, such that these practices were associated with reduced probability of antibody detection.


Based on serology results, we report widespread exposure to T. gondii infection among pregnant women attending ANC in KCMC. The complex interaction of risk factors for T. gondii infection needs to be studied in larger longitudinal studies.