(Reuters Health) – Women who are infected with a common parasite may be more likely to hurt themselves or attempt suicide, a new study of over 45,000 new moms in Denmark suggests.
The infection, known as toxoplasmosis, is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Humans can become chronically infected by eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables or by handling cat litter, as the parasite is known to multiply in the gut of infected cats.
Toxoplasmosis is often symptom-free, but can be dangerous in people with weak immune systems or during pregnancy, since the parasite may be passed to babies.
Some studies have linked the parasite to a higher chance of developing schizophrenia, and researchers believe because the T. gondii parasite lives in the brain, it could have an effect on emotions and behavior.