A new study says that women who become infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which causes toxoplasmosis, are more likely to attempt suicide than those who aren’t infected. We just want to make it clear that people have a higher risk of being infected by food or soil than they do by a litter box. Cats can shed Toxoplasma in their feces, and a person can come in contact with it while cleaning a litter box. If a healthy person, or a person who is not pregnant, is infected with Toxoplasma, the symptoms will usually go away on their own.
“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,” said Dr. Teodor T. Postolache of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who wrote the study, in an interview with ABC News.
Toxoplasmosis affects more than 60 million people in the United States according to the CDC, but few people have symptoms. The parasite can’t infect a healthy immune system, so the people at greatest risk for infection are those with compromised immune systems or pregnant women.
Good hygiene can help to prevent an infection. Practice proper hand-washing. Don’t use a knife you used on raw meat to then cut cooked meat. Make sure your meat is stored at the proper temperature, and wash all fruits and vegetables. Simple steps can keep you and your family healthy. The CDC has a list of more preventive measures at their toxoplasmosis FAQ page.