May 25, 2005

Cat Parasite Linked to Schizophrenia

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey first suggested over a decade ago that parasites and viruses are likely to be linked to the development schizophrenia. New research further substantiates this link - with specific reference to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that is common to cats. This is an important reason why women who may become pregnant should avoid exposure to cats.

The study, as reported by Reuter's, stated:

"Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to a common parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, run the risk having a child who will develop schizophrenia or a schizophrenia-like disorder in adulthood, new research suggests.

Infection with Toxoplasma is widespread. People can pick it up quite easily, especially when cats are around because the animals frequently harbor the parasite.

A pregnant woman who contracts toxoplasmosis can pass the parasite on to her unborn baby, with serious consequences. ...If the infection is spotted, pregnant women can be treated with antiparasitic drugs to lower the risk to their babies.

"Given that toxoplasmosis is a preventable infection," say the authors of the new study, "the findings, if replicated, may have implications for reducing the incidence of schizophrenia."

More information Pregnancy, Toxoplasmosis Gondii and Schizophrenia

Researchers at Columbia University have determined a link between Toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia. Toxoplasmosis "is a parasitic infection that can develop from eating undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables, drinking contaminated water, or not washing one's hands after gardening or changing cat litter boxes." It seems that mothers that have high exposures to this infection develop a high number of Toxoplasma antibodies - these are generally proteins that the body produces in response to (and in a sense, to fight) Toxoplasmosis. This high number of antibodies in the mother seems to be linked to schizophrenia in the child. In fact, "the risk of schizophrenia (related) disorders in the general population is about 1%." However,"the increase related to high Toxoplasma antibody suggested by the Columbia study would add another 1 to 2% to this risk."

Despite these findings, "Alan Brown, MD, lead author and associate professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University, and Mailman School of Public Health (...), stated, While it's as good an idea as ever to wash hands before eating and to cook meat thoroughly, these studies are too preliminary to lead to new public health recommendations." Nevertheless, washing your fruits, vegetables, and hands, and cooking your meat well, seems safer than not doing so.

This study,which evaluated archived blood samples from pregnant women who participated in a large birth cohort called the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS) from 1959-1967, was conducted by researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Plan, Northern California Region. It was published in the April 2005 American Journal of Psychiatry. In August 2004, the researchers determined in the same cohort that prenatal exposure to influenza may increase the risk for schizophrenia years later. Both of these findings are part of the larger team PDS (Prenatal Determinants of Schizophrenia) study, which examines prenatal infection, nutrition, chemical exposure, paternal age, and a range of other prenatal factors that influence schizophrenia risk.

To search for this study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
To learn more about Toxoplasmosis, and other related stuff.


Toxoplasma is not a virus, but a protozoan parasite.

Posted by: Christina at January 6, 2006 08:03 AM

Thank you very much, I am really excited to learn and this findings are most inportant for future mother.Yes I had found the articals in The Royal Society Biology, Journal.
Thank you again.

Posted by: DAVID A. GHOSH at August 9, 2006 12:58 AM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required