Hi all. So while speaking to a friend with schizophrenia a thought popped up, what if schizophrenia or other intrusive thoughts were caused or influenced by parasites? So I decided to Google search for it and I came across this very interesting article on Psychology today:
Some quotes from the article:
Some quotes from the article:
E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist with the Stanley Medical Research Institute, has been studying the connection between cats, parasites, and mental illness. According to Torrey, a known parasite that can lead to madness is carried by the common household cat. In his book, The Invisible Plague, he reveals that around 1808, schizophrenia was swiftly transformed from a rare to a relatively common disease. That same year, as cat ownership became popular in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world, U.S. schizophrenia rates rose sharply.
This is no coincidence, Torrey contends. Cats transmit the one-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii that causes the disease toxoplasmosis. It is already implicated in prenatal brain damage, abnormal head size, deafness, seizures, cerebral palsy, retinal damage, and mental retardation. Torrey and others think it does more: They argue that T. gondii infection causes schizophrenia.
Researchers are unmasking the microbial roots of myriad illnesses; maladies as seemingly trivial as a sore throat can breed anorexia, Tourette's, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia. Researchers estimate that infectious organisms cause from 10 percent to 75 percent of serious mental disorders. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other infectious agents are responsible for many of the illnesses that we have long ascribed to genetics.
As for T. gondii, Torrey and colleagues suspect that it causes subtle changes to an infected fetus that could lead to schizophrenia 20 years later. In 2008, Torrey and Robert Yolken of Johns Hopkins published a study indicating that the peak age for becoming infected by T. gondii, between 18 and 35, coincides with the peak age for the first signs of schizophrenia. They also noted that in areas where felines are rare the prevalence rates of both toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia are low. By 2005, studies reported in journals like the American Journal of Psychiatry found that children of mothers who contracted T. gondii while pregnant had higher rates of schizophrenia in adulthood than did other children. But Torrey also found that, in fact, the most strongly positive schizophrenia correlations were not with T. gondii infections acquired in the womb, but with those that struck children and teenagers.
Torrey and Yolken argue that sandboxes are a possible culprit. "A likely mechanism for exposure to T. gondii in childhood is playing in the dirt of sandboxes contaminated with T. gondii oocysts," they write, explaining that each uncovered public sandbox studied is used as a litterbox by four to 24 cats. The cats shed T. gondii eggs and cysts that find their way onto the hands of children. The sandboxes provide convenient sites for research showing how urban areas where cats have a high rate of infection become areas where children's later schizophrenia rates are similarly elevated.