Yet another thing for pregnant women to look out for. Avoid soiled cat litter because there is a common parasite in it. A parasite called â€˜toxoplasma gondiiâ€™ that has been linked to stillbirths and even brain damage if it infects a child in the womb. Toxoplasma gondii spreads through feline feces, undercooked meat or unclean vegetables. But now the latest research evidence from a very large study in Denmark indicates changes in mother’s brains when they are infected by the parasite, making them more likely to commit suicide.
45,000 women were studied, and those found infected with T. gondii had a higher probability of attempted suicide, to the tune of one and a half times. There was also a direct correlation between the level of antibodies in the womenâ€™s blood and the likelihood of suicide of a violent nature. According to the reportâ€™s lead author, “We can’t say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies,”
On average, a million people kill themselves each year around the World, and about 1 in 10 attempts are successful. Over 60 million people of all ages in the US carry the parasite, but the symptoms are rare. For this reason, it is often called the â€˜neglected parasitic infectionâ€™ and is one of five such parasites subject to the public health attentions of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
Once ingested the parasite migrates from the intestines to the muscles and brain. In the brain, it lives in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which are areas that control emotional responses and behavior. It is this that sparked the research into the correlation between the parasite and biochemical changes that may create suicidal tendencies.
All of the data was taken from the Danish â€˜cause of deathâ€™ register and the Danish National Hospital Register medical records. The female statistics analysed were those who gave birth between â€˜92 and â€˜95 and whose offspring were tested for T.gondii antibodies. The parasite takes 12 weeks to develop so if the antibodies were there the mother must have been infected. Each individual was then cross matched for suicide. Pre-existing mental health issues were excluded.
Antibiotics to defeat T.gondii have not yet been developed, and we seem to be years away from any effective vaccine or other treatment that can prevent or cure the neurological damage the parasite brings with it. At this time, the best way to avoid this health danger is to avoid cat litter and be sure to wash your hands frequently. Cook food properly. Strangely enough the modern trend towards free range animal husbandry increases the danger of infection and increases the rate of toxoplasmosis.