More bad news regarding toxoplasmosis
Schizophrenia has long been a mysterious illness, one which can have drastic consequences both for the sufferers and for their families and caretakers. We may be one step closer to understanding the root cause of schizophrenia with some interesting new research which shows a strong correlation between schizophrenia and cat ownership in early life.
Researchers from the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University have been working on a long-term study on the link between a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia. According to their research, cat ownership in childhood is linked to developing schizophrenia later in life, and people who tested positive for Toxoplasma exposure are almost twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.
T. gondii is the most common parasite in developed nations. It is spread from the feces of infected cats, and causes a wide variety of odd symptoms. The parasite's life cycle requires it to infect a mouse or rat, and then have that rodent be eaten by a cat. To this end, the parasite actually causes the rodent to lose its fear of cats.
Humans are not Toxoplasma's natural vector, but the parasite can survive in us, and it is known to cause some distinctively bizarre symptoms. For example, people with chronic toxoplasmosis are more likely to engage in risky behavior, which leads to an increased rate of traffic accidents and suicides.
No need to panic, though. The exposure can only come from an infected cat, the infection takes several days before it can spread (thus if you scoop the litterbox daily you will be fine), and you're just as likely to contract it from undercooked meat or gardening as from a cat.