- Women infected with Toxoplasma gondii are one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide
- Third of world’s population is infected with parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms
Female cat owners are more likely to suffer mental health problems and commit suicide because they can be infected with a common parasite that can be caught from cat litter, according to a study.
Women infected with the Toxoplasma gondii – or T. gondii – parasite, which is spread through contact with cat faeces or eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables, are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts.
About a third of the world’s population is infected with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms.
The infection, which is called toxoplasmosis, has been linked to mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behaviour.
Scientists from the U.S., Denmark, Germany and Sweden looked at more than 45,000 Danish women who gave birth between 1992 and 1995.
Babies don’t produce antibodies to T. gondii until three months after they are born, so the antibodies present in their blood represented infection in the mothers.