Study Shows that Cat Parasites Can Lead to Anxiety

Oct 28, 2015 03:00 PM EDT | By Jeanell Sumagpao

You have probably heard about how owning a cat is linked to Schizophrenia. Experts have conducted a study which leads to another brain-related problem-Anxiety.

A study was conducted at University of Michigan where four hundred fifty people participated. Blood samples were taken from the participants and were tested for antibodies to Toxoplasma  gondii. Toxoplasma  gondii (T. gondii) is a parasitic organism that could harm animals . Feline cats are its primary host since it only breeds in them. T.gondii can have a harmful effect on a person's brain, muscles and even his heart once infected. From the study, the existence of antibodies is an indication that a person has been infected.

Research participants were then checked and diagnosed for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The result of the study, published in the journal Brain, shows that people with antibodies to the parasites were twice likely to be affected by GAD. Participant who were more exposed to the parasite, having greatest level of antibodies were three times likely been checked with GAD.

According to WebMD, anxiety is a common human emotion as it is normal to feel nervous when faced with a problem or making choices. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) however is a severe mental illness that could affect a person's well-being. Research shows that at around seven percent of population are experiencing symptoms leading to GAD such as shortness of breath, racing heartbeat and consistent fear.

Researchers claimed, "Our study is the first to examine the association between T. gondii infection and diagnosed anxiety disorder.", though previous studies have related T. godii to other mental issues Other than Schizophrenia, previous studies proved that the parasite also influence the learning capabilities of kids.

Professor Joanne Webster, from the Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic Diseases at the Royal Veterinary College in London conducted a research on the effect Toxoplasma had on rats' behavior. She concluded, "There are even some fascinating studies showing Toxoplasma can cause decreased reaction times and a greater chance of being involved in road accidents."

Many cat owners might feel worried about this new discovery. Maggie Roberts, director of veterinary services at Cats Protection has one suggestion to prevent infections from T.gondii-"To be on the safe side, wear gloves when cleaning a litter tray and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.'"

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