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Does Cat Parasite Cause Schizophrenia?

Kitteh. They sure are cute and all, but are they secretly trying to drive us all mad? That's the premise of a new research by John Hopkins researchers:

Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats.

The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia. [...]

Evidence that T. gondii infections may be a cause of schizophrenia, while not yet conclusive, is growing, Yolken said. A review of past studies, published last year by Yolken and Torrey, collected a variety of intriguing correlations. For example: People with schizophrenia have a higher prevalence of T. gondii antibodies in their blood. There are unusually low rates of schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis in countries where cats are rare, and unusually high rates in places where eating uncooked meat is customary. And some adults with toxoplasmosis show psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia.

Studies have linked a history of toxoplasmosis with increased rates of other mental changes, too, including bipolar disorders and depression. A 2002 study in the Czech Republic noted slowed reflexes in Toxoplasma-positive people and found links between the infection and increased rates of auto accidents.

A University of Maryland study last year found that people with mood disorders who attempt suicide had higher levels of T. gondii antibodies than those who don't try to take their own lives. Still, the links between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis are not simple. For example, most people infected with T. gondii never become schizophrenic. And not all schizophrenics have been exposed to toxoplasma.

Yolken believes additional factors, such as an unlucky combination of genes, are probably needed to produce schizophrenia among Toxoplasma-infected people. The parasite's DNA may also be important, since some strains are known to cause more disease.

Frank D. Roylance of The Baltimore Sun has the story: Link


*shrug* I wouldn't doubt it. The parasite seems to just be trying to do what it does in its native host (mice)...make it fearless and sort of insane (they find the scent of cat urine a turn-on when infected) so that they go near cats, the parasite can get back into cats and reproduce, and continue the cycle.

It's just that since we're not mice, the cycle doesn't work exactly as planned, but they're still trying to make us get eaten by cats.
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My father spent his life studying the physiological aspects of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. He and his co-workers theorized during the 60s that it was possible for someone to "catch" schizophrenia.

It is somehow comforting to know that their idea might be correct.
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Yeah, I knew a girl growing up who got cat shit schizophrenia. It was pretty sad. It wasn't her fault her mom would just let the cat shit lay all around the house for weeks and months. Sure enough, she became full blown schizophrenic around the time she graduated from high school. Never knew any other kid who grew up in a house full of cat shit, so it was easy enough to believe this was the cause. As someone else said, the link between cat filth and schizophrenia (especially chronic exposure during childhood) is not a new idea by any means.
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also, lmao at brain parasites. only way to tell is with an autopsy. anticholinergics (which are things in your bloodstream which respond to allergens, i.e. cat/dog dander) may also come up with a "false positive" of toxoplasmosis-inducing parasites.

Also, typically "sane" people don't have cats.
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Just wanted to state that this is not a new theory. I read about it five years ago, maybe more.

Just remember to not inhale when cleaning the pan and you'll be fine. Maybe more moody but otherwise fine.
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See this Robert Sapolsky talk on Toxo!
Military and Motorcycle death implications, too.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/sapolsky09/sapolsky09_index.html
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Umm, notice the bit about uncooked meat? Getting toxo from cats is difficult.It's much more common to get it from poor kitchen practices. Word to all the pregnant ladies - your man should be cleaning the litter box AND doing the cooking/cleaning the kitchen.
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