A food-borne cat parasite can commandeer cells in the immune system and use them as a Trojan horse to enter the central nervous system potentially leading to suicidal thoughts, a new study has found.
According to The Independent, scientists believe they have figured out how Toxoplasma gondii passes from the human gut to the brain, where it may cause behavioral changes.
From The Independent:
Researchers have shown that the parasite can infect the dendritic white blood cells of the immune system causing them to secrete a chemical neurotransmitter that allows the infected cells, and the parasite, to cross the natural barrier protecting the brain.
Toxoplasma gondii can live in many different species but it can only complete its life cycle in cats, which secrete the parasite in their faeces. Studies have shown that toxoplasma affects the behaviour of rats and mice, making them more likely to be eaten by cats, thereby completing parasite’s complex life-cycle.
Latest figures released in September by the Food Standards Agency show about 1,000 people a day in Britain – 350,000 a year – are being infected with toxoplasma, probably from either direct contact with cats or by eating poorly-cooked meat or vegetables.