Female cat owners are prone to suffer problems associated with mental health and likely to commit suicide as they can be contaminated with a common parasite known as the Toxoplasma gondii or T. gondii, which usually spread by coming into contact with cat faeces or by eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables.
T. gondii parasite increases the risk of suicidal thoughts. The parasite can cause birth defects, blindness and dementia and has been linked with diseases like schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances. About a third of the global population is contaminated with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without showing any symptoms. The infection, known as toxoplasmosis, has been associated with mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behavior.
T. gondii parasite thrives in cat’s intestine and is spread through oocysts passes in its faeces. All warm-blooded animals can become infected through ingestion of these oocysts. The parasite spread to the brain and muscles, hiding itself from the immune system within cysts inside cells.
In a bit to examine if any of women diagnosed as infected later attempted suicide, including cases of violent suicide attempts , researchers examined Danish health registries. They found that women infected with T. gondii were one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who were not infected.
Besides, their risk seemed to increase with raising the levels of the T. gondii antibodies. Dr Postolache and colleagues were the first to report a connection between T. gondii and suicidal behaviour in 2009. Humans can become infected by changing litter boxes of infected cats, eating unwashed vegetables and by drinking water from a contaminated source.
It cannot be stated with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but they did find a prognostic association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies, added Dr Postolache. The study is the largest ever to try and ascertain a link between T. gondii and attempted suicide.
In addition to that this is the first prospective study to document suicide attempts that occurred after the infection was discovered. The findings were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.