Annoying Cat Parasite Has Again Been Linked to Psychotic Episodes, But Only in Men

A ubiquitous parasite estimated to infect hundreds of thousands of individuals around the globe has been linked with schizophrenia and a host of neurological disorders, however the proof hasn’t at all times been clear.


While there are a variety of research linking the ‘mind-altering’ parasite Toxoplasma gondii with altered behavior or weird patterns in human activity, there are additionally knowledge debunking the association.

Now, a new study led by first writer and psychiatry resident Vincent Paquin from McGill University in Canada might assist to clarify this parasitic paradox – whereas going a way to figuring out the place the obvious risks of T. gondii may very well lie.

In addition to contaminated meals or water (together with undercooked meat), the protozoan parasite T. gondii will be transmitted to people via publicity to feces from an contaminated home cat, with a study in 1995 first observing a hyperlink between cat possession in childhood and danger of psychological sickness later growing in maturity.

However, other studies since have failed to replicate the cat possession hyperlink, suggesting there could be extra to the affiliation than merely proudly owning a cat.

“Domestic cats typically turn out to be contaminated with the parasite by feeding on rodents, and can solely be contagious through the days or perhaps weeks that comply with,” Paquin and his co-authors write in their new paper.


“Hence, specifying whether or not the cat was identified to hunt rodents may present a greater proxy for possible publicity to T. gondii in contrast to cat possession alone.”

In different phrases, as Paquin explains, cats themselves don’t assure parasitic publicity, however rodent-hunting cats (i.e., cats which are allowed outdoors, as opposed to indoor-only pets) would most likely be extra probably to come into contact with T. gondii in the outside atmosphere.

Hypothetically talking, they may then transmit the an infection to youngsters, who might go on to develop psychological issues in adulthood, as recognized in some research, probably via effects on the immune system.

To study this hypothetical chain of transmission, the researchers surveyed roughly 2,200 contributors in Montreal, asking them questions on childhood cat possession, and measuring their frequency of psychotic experiences, alongside different questions on their private historical past, reminiscent of how a lot they moved home throughout childhood, experiences with head trauma, historical past of smoking, and so forth.

In analyzing the responses, the staff noticed that male contributors who had owned a rodent-hunting cat throughout childhood confirmed an elevated danger of getting psychotic experiences in their maturity; feminine respondents didn’t have the identical hyperlink.


People who owned indoor-only cats throughout childhood (or no cat in any respect) didn’t present the identical elevated danger, which the team said was “per our speculation primarily based on the life cycle of T. gondii because the putative mechanism of this affiliation”.

However, different elements captured in the survey additionally appeared to affect the respondents’ danger for psychotic expertise, together with smoking, frequency of residential strikes in childhood or adolescence, and a historical past of head trauma, which Paquin says suggests “synergistic effects of these factors”, past simply parasitic an infection alone.

While the research has quite a lot of limitations – together with that every one the info from the survey had been self-reported – the staff says their findings illustrate the significance of analyzing interactions amongst completely different sorts of environmental exposures, which can in the longer term assist us to establish with higher accuracy the place issues from T. gondii publicity are extra probably to come up.

“These are small items of proof nevertheless it’s fascinating to take into account that there could be combos of danger elements at play,” Paquin told Medscape Medical News.

“And even when the magnitude of the danger is small on the particular person degree, cats and T. gondii are so current in our society that if we add up all these small potential results then it turns into a possible public well being query.”

The findings are reported in Journal of Psychiatric Research.


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