A commonly occurring parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has recently been found to affect the human brain and results in neurological conditions, especially in males. This parasite is commonly found among cats and is known to cause several neurological conditions like schizophrenia and has affected millions of people globally.
Though there have been several studies that prove the association of the parasite with its effect on brain activity, a few studies disprove the same. For example, the fact that T. gondii can be transmitted via the faeces of an infected domestic cat was first recorded in a study published in 1995. The authors further argued that owning a cat could push a sane person towards developing a mental illness in adulthood.
However, in a new study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the researchers have performed a comprehensive study on the link between people who owned cats in childhood and the psychotic experiences they encountered as an adult. This study aimed to understand the dangers associated with the T. gondii parasite.
According to the authors of the paper, domestic cats get infected with the parasite by consuming rodents who already harbour the parasite. This means cats that eat rodents are likely to be infected with T. gondii. When children come in contact with such cats for long durations, there is a chance of being infected with the parasite that affects the immune system and, in turn, causes psychological problems once these children grow up into adults.
One striking observation in this recent study is that men show a high risk of experiencing psychotic episodes in their adult life compared to women. At the same time, people who owned cats who stayed indoors only and did not encounter rodents did not experience any psychological conditions as adults.