For all feline friends owners a new study reveals that a cat-carried parasite is linked to developing mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. there are 60 million people who have contracted the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. However, there is not much reason for exacerbated concern as the parasite remains inactive in most hosts after contractions.
For those people who do have a severely weakened immune system, the Toxoplasma gondii activates, leading in most cases to toxoplasmosis.
At its worst, toxoplasmosis causes pregnancy losses, affects the fetus in its developmental stages and may be a cause of death. At its best, it causes symptoms similar to flu.
Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that sexually reproduces in the cat’s fecal matter. It becomes active within one to five days and has the capacity to infect all warm-blooded organisms.
Several studies now link toxoplasmosis to schizophrenia as well. A team comprising Fuller Torrey from Stanley Medical Research Institute and Robert Yolken from the Stanley Laboratory of Developmental Neurovirology has established a decisive link between being infected with Toxoplasma gondii and being diagnosed with schizophrenia at later stages. The study was conducted over a period of 30 years.
The Torrey and Yolken study looked at data from two previous studies and surveys and focused on children who were exposed to cats and later life medical records that featured schizophrenia as well. The conclusion was that being in the close proximity of a feline friend is a definite risk factor for a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Other studies have emphasized the same connection. One of them conducted in Amsterdam at the Medical Center Department of Psychiatry by A.L. Sutterland went through 50 previous speciality studies on connex issues. By pooling all data and results, the previous association between Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia was confirmed.
However, all researchers draw attention that this is not the end of cats being cared for as pets. With a little more attention being paid to hygiene rules, chances are that the Toxoplasma gondii parasite will never infect the owners of the furry friends.
Change the cat’s litter daily if not more often, cover when not used and thoroughly wash your hands after performing these actions. Since the parasite only becomes active and infects the human blood by asexual reproduction after at least one day since the cat left its feces in the litter, chances are that following strict hygiene rules will cancel a large percentage of infection chances.
The results of the Torrey and Yolken study are published in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.
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