Blythe Alison Engel – Born April 11th, 1999
I was diagnosed at age 3 after a pre-school vision test showed something was wrong with my sight. We learned that I had a large scar on the retina of my right eye. The doctors assured my parents it was unlikely there would be more damage and told them there was really nothing we could do. By kindergarten, there was additional scarring and I lost almost all of the vision in that eye. This meant the parasite was active and my sight could be in danger. I was given glasses to help protect my good (left) eye and was told to let my mom know right away if there were any changes in my vision.
While my vision was relatively stable for a while, I experienced "flare-ups" or re-activations of the parasite every 12-18 months with more scarring and loss of vision. Then, in fourth grade, I had a flare-up in my good eye - the left eye. My parents pushed for more aggressive treatment but the doctors were reluctant since there were so few published studies on how to control the attacks.
My mom emailed the Toxoplasmosis Research Institute for help. Dr. Rima McLeod, the world's leading expert in the disease, called my mom back the same day. That was when things started to get better.
There is still no definite cure for toxoplasmosis or a way to knock out the parasite. However, because of Dr. McLeod, I am on suppression medication, which means I have very few flare-ups. Dr. McLeod and the researchers at TRI have developed a three-drug protocol for when there is active infection present. With quick treatment, we can limit the damage to my retina. Soon, through the work of the Toxoplasmosis Research Institute and others, we expect there to be both a medicine to kill the parasite for good and a vaccine.