Toxoplasmosis linked to suicide attempts

Spread through contact with cat feces or eating undercooked meat, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) has been linked to increased rates of attempted suicide in women. The study, in the Archives of General Psychiatry, notes that while causality has not been proven, a significant predictive association exists between the infection and suicide attempts later in life.

Around one-third of the world’s population is infected with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms. Toxoplasmosis infection has beenlinked to mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behaviour.

The parasite thrives in the intestines of cats, is spread via their feces and can infect all warm-blooded animals. Humans can become infected by changing their infected cats’ litter boxes, eating unwashed vegetables, drinking water from a contaminated source, or more commonly, by eating undercooked or raw meat that is infested with cysts.

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 45,000 women in Denmark who gave birth between 1992 – 1995 and whose babies were screened for T. gondiiantibodies. Babies don’t produce antibodies to T. gondii for three months after they are born, so the antibodies present in their blood represented infection in the mothers.

The scientists then scoured Danish health registries to determine if any of these women later attempted suicide. They also cross-checked records in the Danish Psychiatric Central Register to determine if the women had been diagnosed previously with mental illness.

The study found that women infected with T. gondii were one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who were not infected. Interestingly, the risk rose with increasing levels of the T. gondii antibodies and previous mental illness did not significantly alter these findings.

Study leader Teodor T. Postolache, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that one of the strengths of the study was that researchers were able to adjust for various factors, such as prior history of mental illness, not only in the subjects, but also in their parents.

But, he also notes limitations to the study, such as the inability to determine the cause of the suicidal behavior. “Is the suicide attempt a direct effect of the parasite on the function of the brain or an exaggerated immune response induced by the parasite affecting the brain? We do not know. In fact, we have not excluded reverse causality as there might be risk factors for suicidal behavior that also make people more susceptible to infection with T. gondii,” Postolache explained. “If we can identify a causal relationship, we may be able to predict those at increased risk for attempting suicide and find ways to intervene and offer treatment.”

Commenting on the study, Columbia University’s J. John Mann, an expert on suicide, says that evidence is accumulating on immune factors being associated with suicidal behavior. “Identifying neurotropic latent infections potentially triggering or perpetuating a heightened immune response in patients at risk could lead to new ways of thinking of risk, prevention and risk reduction for suicide.”

Related:
Discuss this article in our forum
T. gondii brain parasite found to alter dopamine production
Rats that ‘� cats: parasite rewires sexual attraction
Cat Parasite Aiming For Global Male Domination

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

, ,

Comments are closed.

Suicide Squad #9 DC Comics 2022 NM+ picture

Suicide Squad #9 DC Comics 2022 NM+

$3.99



DC Comics ‘Suicide Squad: King Shark’ #3 (2021) Cardstock Variant Cover picture

DC Comics ‘Suicide Squad: King Shark’ #3 (2021) Cardstock Variant Cover

$4.99



Superman 4 KEY 1st Bloodsport Maggie Sawyer John Byrne DC 1987 Suicide Squad picture

Superman 4 KEY 1st Bloodsport Maggie Sawyer John Byrne DC 1987 Suicide Squad

$24.95



Hallmark Keepsake The Suicide Squad Peacemaker John Cena DC Comics WB picture

Hallmark Keepsake The Suicide Squad Peacemaker John Cena DC Comics WB

$14.97



Suicide Squad 1 (1987) NM picture

Suicide Squad 1 (1987) NM

$24.99



Suicide Squad King Shark #5 Cover C Card Stock Peacemaker DC Comics 2022 NM+ picture

Suicide Squad King Shark #5 Cover C Card Stock Peacemaker DC Comics 2022 NM+

$5.99



Suicide Squad King Shark #5 Cover A Hairsine DC Comics 2022 NM+ picture

Suicide Squad King Shark #5 Cover A Hairsine DC Comics 2022 NM+

$3.99



Suicide Squad #1 1987 DC Comics DCEU picture

Suicide Squad #1 1987 DC Comics DCEU

$21.99



DC suicide squad from the ashes John ostrander Graphic Comics First Printing picture

DC suicide squad from the ashes John ostrander Graphic Comics First Printing

$22.00



SUICIDE SQUAD 1-11 NM 2021 Thompson DC Comics issues sold SEPARATELY picture

SUICIDE SQUAD 1-11 NM 2021 Thompson DC Comics issues sold SEPARATELY

$4.59



Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes