Cat-Lady Parasite May Be Linked to Suicide

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 1:45 PM EDT

A new study suggests a link between infection with a cat-borne parasite and the risk of a suicide attempt—a creepy-sounding finding that actually fits with previous research on the pathogen, toxoplasma gondii. When rodents infected with t. gondii smell cat urine, they’re aroused rather than frightened, so they don’t run away—and then they get eaten.

That’s the parasite's brilliantly evolved strategy to gain entry to the gut of a cat or other feline—the only place where it can complete its reproductive cycle, although it can survive inside many other species. In fact, eating contaminated and undercooked meat, not cleaning cat litter, is the main route through which Americans get infected, according to studies.

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