Sunday, August 01, 2010

Did Your Cat Cause Your Schizophrenia?

From the front page of today's Baltimore Sun: Researchers Explore Link Between Schizophrenia, Cat Parasite.

Frank D. Roylance writes:
Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats. The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia. If tackling the parasite can help solve the mystery of schizophrenia, "it's a pretty good opportunity … to relieve a pretty large burden of disease," said Dr. Robert H. Yolken, director of developmental neurobiology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Roylance continues:
A University of Maryland study last year found that people with mood disorders who attempt suicide had higher levels of T. gondii antibodies than those who don't try to take their own lives. Still, the links between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis are not simple. For example, most people infected with T. gondii never become schizophrenic. And not all schizophrenics have been exposed to toxoplasma. Yolken believes additional factors, such as an unlucky combination of genes, are probably needed to produce schizophrenia among Toxoplasma-infected people. The parasite's DNA may also be important, since some strains are known to cause more disease.



Sarebear said...

Oh noes . . . .

I foresee families with schizophrenia in their history leaving boxes of kittens by the road. Hopefully they'd do something more appropriate.

More info is a good thing, even if it isn't exactly clear-cut.

Dina Roberts said...

Maybe the type of person who's more likely to develop Schizophrenia is also the type of person who's more likely to own a cat. Maybe they're just more likely to have the Toxoplasma, but the Toxoplasma isn't actually causing the Schizophrenia.

snoring solutions said...

You are right, what was I thinking.
Great job and a good theme. You have said it very well. Keep going.
This is a fascinating post.

Unknown said...

I'm schizophrenic and I have a cat. They love you no matter how bad a day your having and they give you something to blame alot of the symptoms on. Movement in the corner of your eye and noises that shouldn't be there, for example. For these reasons, every schizophrenic I know owns a cat.

Also, that "Meow?" at the end totally blew my mind.