Short Takes

March 2013 Issue

Tracking a Parasite as it Invades the Brain

It’s common knowledge that pregnant women should avoid litter boxes to avoid contact with toxoplasma. The parasite found in cat feces can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that may cause a number of developmental abnormalities in developing fetuses and neurologic, ocular and other potentially severe problems in people with compromised immune systems. Research in recent years has shown an association between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Studies also suggest that the disease can influence levels of human aggression, extroversion and risk-taking. Now a study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden suggests a mechanism by which toxoplasma may influence the behavior of its hosts.

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