There's more on Toxoplasmosis, the oppressively subtle brain parasite that 20% of us have. An association with increased suicidal behavior played out strongly in both women and men.
I, for one, welcome our new feline overlords. [moyan_brenn/Flickr]
PROBLEM: Toxoplasmosis gondii, the parasite that uses cats as a host and is easily transmitted to humans (about 1 in 5 people in the United States have it, primarily via cat feces), is associated with a series of personality and behavioral changes. We become more "expedient, suspicious, jealous, and dogmatic." Those infected are three times more likely to die in car accidents, and more likely to develop schizophrenia. It even appears to alter our sexual attractiveness. Last month there was a massive study in Denmark that noted an association between Toxoplasmosis and suicidality in women. But the effects of toxo notoriously vary with the gender of the host.
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METHODOLOGY: Fifty-four patients of both sexes in a Swedish hospital who had histories of attempting suicide were assessed, along with 30 control subjects, using a standardized self report for a history of self-directed violence and current suicidality (SUAS-S) and evaluated by psychiatrists. Blood tests determined their history of exposure to Toxoplasmosis. They also tested for commonly associated infections.
RESULTS: Testing positive for exposure to Toxoplasmosis (as well as the degree of one's immune response to it) correlated strongly with suicide attempts.
CONCLUSION: Both men and women who tested positive for immune responses to toxo were seven times more likely to have a history of "nonfatal suicidal self-directed violence."