People infected with a cat parasite, called Toxoplasma gondii, are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than others, researchers have warned.
Researchers of Michigan State University studied 84 men and women infected with Toxoplasma gondii, which breeds in cats’ stomachs, and found that the parasite mess with the delicate chemistry of the brain, driving them to commit suicide.
More than 50 per cent of the respondents admitted that they had tried to commit suicide.
Dr. Lena Brundin, one of the researchers, said, “We found that if you are positive for the parasite, you are seven times more likely to commit suicide.”
Toxoplasma gondii, which has so far found in a great number of Britons, has a complex life cycle but it can breed only inside cats. The microscopic bugs are passed on in cat faeces, spreading the infection.
Pregnant women are particularly recommended not to clear cat litter trays as the bug can be lethal to unborn babies.
As per estimates, nearly a third of people in the world carry the parasite. Most of the infections are caused through consumption of undercooked meat, particularly lamb and pork. Consumption of anything, including water, contaminated by cat faeces can also infect the consumer with the parasite.
The findings are expected to help researchers in developing new treatments to prevent suicides.