New Research Shows Link Between Cat Parasites and Brain Diseases

first_img A common parasite found in cats might be a bit more dangerous than we thought. The bug, known as Toxoplasma gondii, can be transmitted from cats to humans via feces. In other creatures, like mice, the toxoplasmosis can actually compel mice to go towards cats instead of away. Then, once eaten, it reproduces inside cat until it’s excreted via poop.If you love cats even half as much as the rest of the internet, then chances are good you already that much, at least. Thing is, it’s been taken for granted that toxoplasmosis is essentially harmless in humans. Beyond the initial infection which can cause flu-like symptoms, most people shouldn’t notice anything. But the evidence has been mounting that, even though mice brains and human ones are very different, the parasite can still attack and severely damage human neural tissue.A new study by researchers at 16 different labs across the world shows that the human brain has specific weaknesses that can dramatically affect the course of toxoplasmosis, especially when it occurs at the same time as other brain-damaging diseases, like Alzheimer’s. To be clear, there’s still no evidence that toxoplasmosis causes specific conditions, but this study shows that it can alter how each disease progresses, making a very bad thing much, much worse.“At the core [of this are] characteristics of the parasite itself,” study co-author and director of the Toxoplasmosis center at the University of Chicago, Rima McLeod told Gizmodo. The genes it expresses in the infected brain, susceptibility genes that could limit the host’s ability to prevent infection, and genes that control susceptibility to other diseases present in the human host. Other factors may include pregnancy, stress, additional infections, and a deficient microbiome. We hypothesized that when there is a confluence of these factors, the disease may occur.”The complexity of the interaction, though, makes specific effects hard to pin down. Toxoplasmosis is a living parasite with effects on the brain that can change and shift over time in response to dozens of factors. More research will need to be done to figure out exactly how these conditions, and our own genetic code interact with the parasite, but for now it’s an unnerving initial result.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. ‘Chonky’ 26-Pound Cat Goes Viral Online, Receives Potential AdoptersFirefighters Respond to Fire Alarm at Shelter, Discover Cat Triggered It Stay on targetlast_img

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