Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cat ladies suicide

Study says 'cat ladies' at increased risk of suicide, Women who contract a common parasitic disease from their cats are more likely to attempt suicide, according to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The study, which has been labeled as a warning to "cat ladies", claims that women who've been infected with the parasite are one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide than uninfected women, and that pregnant women are particularly at risk.

'Cat ladies' likelier to commit suicide, A common parasite that is found in the cat litter box may cause undetected brain changes in women that make them more prone to suicide, a new study has revealed.

The study involving more than 45,000 women in Denmark reported that women infected with the Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) parasite, which is spread through contact with cat faeces or eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables, are at increased risk of attempting suicide.
The infection called toxoplasmosis, has been linked to various mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behaviour.
"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," the Telegraph quoted study's senior author Doctor Teodor Postolache as saying.
Doctor Albert Reece, vice president of medical affairs at the University of Maryland, said that T. gondii infection is a major public health problem around the world, and many people don't realize they're infected.
"Dr Postolache is a leading expert on suicide neuroimmunology. Suicide is a critically important mental health issue. About one million people commit suicide and another 10 million-attempt suicide worldwide each year. We hope that this type of research will one day help us find ways to save many lives that now end prematurely in suicide," Reece said.
The study is the largest ever of T. gondii and attempted suicide and the first prospective study to document suicide attempts that occurred after the infection was discovered.
The T. gondii parasite flourishes in the intestines of cats, and it is spread through oocysts passed in their faeces.
All warm-blooded animals can get infected through ingestion of these oocysts.
The organism spreads to their brain and muscles, hiding from the immune system within "cysts" inside the cells.
Humans can get infected by changing their infected cats' litter boxes, eating unwashed vegetables, drinking water from a contaminated source, or more commonly, by eating undercooked or raw meat that is infested with cysts.
Not washing kitchen knives after preparing raw meat before handling another food item also can lead to infection. Pregnant women can pass the parasite directly to their unborn babies and are advised not to change cat litter boxes to avoid possible infection.
Babies don't produce antibodies to T. gondii for three months after they are born, so the antibodies present in their blood represented infection in the mothers.
The researchers checked Danish health registries to determine if any of these women later attempted suicide, including cases of violent suicide attempts which might have involved guns, sharp instruments and jumping from high places.
They found that women infected with T. gondii were one and a half times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who were not infected, and the risk seemed to rise with increasing levels of the T. gondii antibodies.
Dr Postolache, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the United States, noted limitations to the study, such as the inability to determine the cause of the suicidal behaviour.
"T. gondii infection is likely not a random event and it is conceivable that the results could be alternatively explained by people with psychiatric disturbances having a higher risk of becoming T. gondii infected prior to contact with the health system," he added.

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