Your Cat's Parasite Won't Make You Psychotic, Study Says

As EurekAlerts reports, there has been recent research that had suggested that there might be a link between cats and psychotic symptoms due to the animals carrying a common parasite known as Toxoplasma Gondii, a parasite that is known to be linked to such problems as schizophrenia.

Your cat is off the hook.

Researchers say their study of those who grew up around cats is "significantly more reliable" than studies that suggested a link between cat ownership and mental disorders because the subjects were monitored for almost 20 years, rather than asking people with mental illness to remember details from their childhood, as was the case with studies suggesting a link.

"It's important to emphasize that humans have lived with this parasite for many millennia, so today's carriers of toxoplasma need not to be particularly anxious", said Antonio Barragan, researcher at the Center for Infectious Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. It's commonly found in soil and reproduces in cats' digestive tracts.

T. Gondii is found in domestic cats.

That said, researchers still assert women should avoid dirty litter boxes as the parasite can still cause birth defects and miscarriages. However, most individuals who develop toxoplasmosis experience few symptoms because their immune systems keep the parasite from causing illness.

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T. gondii is a fascinating parasite because of its mind-control effect on mice. It travels to their brains and causes them to lose their innate fear of the smell of cat urine. They could pass this infection to humans through their feces.

We studied whether mothers who owned a cat while pregnant; when the child was four years old; and 10 years old, were more likely to have children who reported psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia or hallucinations, at age 13 and 18 years of age.

The researchers said this method is more reliable than asking people who are already mentally whether they had cats as children.

Senior author Dr James Kirkbride said: 'Our study suggests that cat ownership during pregnancy or in early childhood does not pose a direct risk for later psychotic symptoms. Lead study author Dr. Francesca Solmi, of UCL, said in a statement that her team could not measure parasite exposure directly, but the overall study was done on a larger scale and controlled for factors such as "household over-crowding" and socioeconomic status.

A new study from the University College London has found zero correlation between owning a feline friend and showing signs of psychosis.

"More than 60 million men, women, and children in the USA carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness", the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

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