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Thu Jul 5, 2012 6:1AM
A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection caused by cats.

A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection caused by cats.

A new study has found a link between owning a cat and running a greater risk of attempting suicide in women. Conducted among 45,788 women in Denmark, the study discovered that those infected with the Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a parasite found in cat feces, were 1.5 times more likely to kill themselves. “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,” noted Teodor Postolache of the University of Maryland medical school, the senior author of the study. The researchers further stated that cleaning cats’ litter boxes, eating unwashed and undercooked vegetables, as well as drinking contaminated water increase the risk of infection. Around one-third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with the T. gondii parasite, which can cause mental illness such as schizophrenia. This is while, the infection often lacks symptoms because the parasite hides from the immune system and stays in brain and muscle cells. The study is published in the July 2 issue of Archives of General Psychology. MR/GHN