Evaluation of the level of awareness of congenital toxoplasmosis and associated practices among pregnant women and health workers in Tanzania’s Temeke district in Dar es Salaam
Background: Toxoplasmosis caused by the obligate intracellular coccidian protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) infects all warm-blooded animals including humans. This parasite may develop in both immune-compromised and immunocompetent hosts but usually the disease manifestations strongly differ according to immune status. Immunocompromised hosts develop more severe disease than immunocompetent hosts. Infections in pregnancy carry the risk of foetal involvement and can lead to serious clinical outcomes including psychomotor and ocular disorders in congenitally infected foetuses and children.
Objective: To assess the level of awareness and practices towards congenital toxoplasmosis among health workers and pregnant women in Tanzania’s Temeke municipality.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study involving 371 pregnant women and 22 health workers from six healthcare facilities in Temeke municipality of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A structured questionnaire and review of prenatal screening forms were used to collect information. The questionnaire focused on knowledge of disease aetiology, signs and symptoms, modes of transmission, treatment and management.
Results: Of the pregnant women, 96% (95% CI: 0. 94-0.98) were unaware of the disease, had never heard, read or seen any information regarding toxoplasmosis. The majority of respondents including those who had heard, read or seen information concerning toxoplasmosis were unaware of the disease aetiology, signs and symptoms. However, 90% (95% CI: 0.86–0.93) of respondents unknowingly observed preventive practices towards the disease including avoiding eating raw, cured or rare meat. There was a significant statistical relationship between practices towards toxoplasmosis and age of pregnant women, such that for every increase in age by ten years the risk practices towards toxoplasmosis increased by 41% (OR=1.41, 95%, C.I. 1.05-1.90). Preventive practices towards toxoplasmosis decreased significantly by 74% and 78% for the age of 19-25 and 26-35 years old pregnant women respectively, as compared to those < 19 years. No significant difference was observed for those aged > 35 years. Multigravidae was associated with at-risk practices towards toxoplasmosis (OR=2.65, CI: 1.38-5.08). Of the 22 health workers who participated in the study, 36% (95% CI: 0.15–0.58) were aware of the congenital toxoplasmosis and its clinical outcomes. None of them had diagnosed the disease before.
Conclusion: Due to general lack of awareness towards toxoplasmosis observed among both health workers and pregnant women in Temeke Municipality, we recommend health policy on maternal and child healthcare to address prenatal screening that is aimed at providing early diagnosis for any possible congenital toxoplasmosis as well as diseases that are currently screened in Tanzania such as HIV, syphilis and malaria. Integrating a One Health approach in educating medical professionals and the vulnerable population of pregnant women on the importance of congenital zoonoses will promote awareness and preventive practices towards the disease.
Keywords: Toxoplasmosis awareness, pregnant women, health workers, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
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