Common cat parasite affects human brains

August 2, 2006

U.S. researchers say more than a quarter of the world's population is infected with a feline parasite related to malaria and which causes personality changes.

The Toxoplasma-gondii is spread by cats to humans and other animal species, including rats, and can lead to suicidal tendencies, said Dr. Kevin Lafferty, of the University of California at Santa Barbara in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," Lafferty wrote.

His study said about 7 percent of Britain's population had the parasite in their brains, while almost 70 percent of people in Brazil were affected.

Lafferty wrote that an infected rat's behavior changes and becomes more active, less cautious and therefore more likely to be caught by a cat.

Earlier research at Imperial College London said the same parasite may trigger schizophrenia, The Telegraph reported.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Diseases of another kind

Related Stories

Diseases of another kind

July 23, 2014
The drought that has the entire country in its grip is affecting more than the color of people's lawns. It may also be responsible for the proliferation of a heat-loving amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such ...

Recommended for you

Researchers release the brakes on the immune system

October 18, 2017
Many tumors possess mechanisms to avoid destruction by the immune system. For instance, they misuse the natural "brakes" in the immune defense mechanism that normally prevent an excessive immune response. Researchers at the ...

Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays

October 18, 2017
If brain imaging could be compared to Google Earth, neuroscientists would already have a pretty good "satellite view" of the brain, and a great "street view" of neuron details. But navigating how the brain computes is arguably ...

'Wasabi receptor' for pain discovered in flatworms

October 18, 2017
A Northwestern University research team has discovered how scalding heat and tissue injury activate an ancient "pain" receptor in simple animals. The findings could lead to new strategies for analgesic drug design for the ...

Scientists may have found a cause of dyslexia

October 18, 2017
A duo of French scientists said Wednesday they may have found a physiological, and seemingly treatable, cause for dyslexia hidden in tiny light-receptor cells in the human eye.

Newborns with trisomy 13 or 18 benefit from heart surgery, study finds

October 18, 2017
Heart surgery significantly decreases in-hospital mortality among infants with either of two genetic disorders that cause severe physical and intellectual disabilities, according to a new study by a researcher at the Stanford ...

Fighting opioid addiction in primary care—new study shows it's possible

October 18, 2017
For many of the 2 million Americans addicted to opioids, getting good treatment and getting off prescription painkillers or heroin may seem like a far-off dream.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.