Cat owners have a new reason of concern: the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that can be contracted from their loved furry companions.
Toxoplasma gondii is reported to be a common parasite specifically lurking in the developed nations. It is responsible for infecting warm-blooded species and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a little more than 60 million people across the U.S. could have contracted the parasite.
Toxoplasma gondii is not a very obvious parasite and therefore, the majority of people who will have taken it from their cats will never experience any symptoms at all. However, if the cat’s owner has a weak immune system, the Toxoplasma gondii might just hit when least expected.
A general diagnostic that is linked to infection with the cat-carried parasite is called toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is quite a dangerous infection as it manifestations may include miscarriage, disorders in fetal development, blindness, similar to flu symptoms or, in worst cases, death.
In addition to toxoplasmosis, two recent studies have explored the link between Toxoplasma gondii and mental disorders.
Schizophrenia is on the list of Toxoplasma gondii induced paraphernalia. The Journal Schizophrenia Research reported that Fuller Torrey – Stanley Medical Research Institute and Robert Yolken – Stanley Laboratory of Developmental Neurovirology have been working on establishing the precise connection between Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia for the last three decades.
In their research they focused on children owning cats and possible schizophrenia diagnosis at later stages in life. Drawing data from two different studies, one of them dating back to 1982, they reached the conclusion that exposing children to cats is an established risk factor for developing schizophrenia.
Another study coming from the Academic Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, Amsterdam and authored by A.L. Sutterland analyzed 50 previous studies to pool together all results and data and confirmed the same result as the study of Torrey and Yolken. The results of this one are to be found in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica journal.
In addition to schizophrenia, Toxoplasma gondii was found to be linked with addiction, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder. While these findings should be treated with caution and are not meant to induce fear of cats and the parasite they bear, some precautionary measures are recommended.
To protect children from exposure to Toxoplasma gondii it is recommended that their furry friends are kept indoors only. Covering the cat’s sandbox and changing the sand daily also goes a long way in eliminating the risk of infection with the parasite.
The Toxoplasma gondii only activates in between one to five days after the cat left its feces in the sandbox. Additionally, cat-owners should avoid giving the cats under-cooked or raw meat.
Image Source: picturesofbabies.net