Dec 16 2013

Are Cat’s Parasites Rewiring Our Brain?

I just came across this article about people, cats, and Toxoplasmosis.  The center of the research suggests that because of this parasite living in tiny cysts in our brain, it is causing our behaviors to shift slightly.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/how-your-cat-is-making-you-crazy/308873/

As a background, Toxoplasmosis is the parasitic organism cats shed that pregnant women are warned about.

(Quick PSA:  Pregnant women – keep your cat, get your husband to scoop the litter, wash veggies, wear gloves in the garden, wash hands after handling raw meat – don’t get Toxo.  End of PSA)

The life cycle of Toxoplasmosis goes from cats to mice to cats:  The cats shed the parasite, the mice get infected, it forms a cyst in the mouse, the cat eats the mouse, another cat gets infected, and the cycle is repeated.  The article is not concerned with cats shedding the parasite, but rather us getting the cysts in our brain like the mice do.  They suggest that studies show this affects our behavior, much like it affects the behavior of the mice.

I recommend you read the article, it is fascinating, and puts a twist on everything you thought about parasites.

Where do I stand?  Well, I think that we downplay parasites a lot in our sterilized society.  I think the results are somewhere between nothing more than a curious fact and a significant piece of information for mental illness and human sociology.   Regardless of how important the results are, I like that someone is paying attention to parasites, especially those that come from a domesticated animal and affect people directly (and especially those you can’t see).  Also regardless of the results, it tells me that there are plenty of parasites out there people can be affected by, and we still need to be checking these cats stool samples regularly, whether indoor or outdoor.

– Doc Cleland

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