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Video: The Parasite We Get From Cats Can Cause Schizophrenia And Other Mental Illnesses
The parasite we get from cats can cause schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
People infected with T.gondii are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than people without infection. The level of association exceeds both genetic and most other external risk factors for schizophrenia today, confirming the close relationship between T.gondii infection and disease.
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At least two billion people are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite spread by cats. A healthy immune system is able to fight off parasites, so most infected people do not have any symptoms, only occasionally flu-like conditions are possible. However, there is a danger of serious complications - in pregnant women, up to miscarriage or stillbirth, and in people with weak immune systems.
Toxoplasmosis can be obtained from domestic cats or their litter boxes, by eating contaminated raw / semi-raw meat or drinking water.
A number of previous studies have linked the T.gondii parasite to a variety of behavioral abnormalities, ranging from risky behavior to serious psychiatric problems, while other studies have shown that this ability to "control mind" may be somewhat overestimated.
A new study by Copenhagen University, the largest to date, has concluded that the notorious parasite is linked to schizophrenia, although the nature of this connection is unknown.
As reported in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the researchers examined blood samples from more than 11,500 participants in the Danish Blood Donor Study and searched for specific antibodies against T.gondii and CMV (cytomegalovirus). Signs of the parasite were detected in 25.9% of blood samples, and much more often in the blood of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“We found that people with T.gondii infection had an increased chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenic disorders compared to people without infection. The level of association exceeds both genetic and most other external risk factors for schizophrenia today, confirming the close relationship between T.gondii infection and schizophrenia,”the study authors concluded.
It is unclear how or why the parasite affects the brain and behavior, although some studies point to changes in dopamine levels. Another common concern is that T.gondii is associated with an increased risk of suicide and road traffic accidents, possibly because the parasite can induce risky behavior. However, the researchers found no significant link between these factors and the parasite.
The study did not address the underlying mechanism that might explain the subtle association between T.gondii and mental health problems. But it nonetheless complements the growing body of evidence for its existence.