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Surprising Science

Common Brain Parasite Linked to Suicide in Women

Through a collaboration of studies researchers have identified a parasite they believe is linked to suicide in women.

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development?

According to researchers, women who are infected with Toxoplasma gondii are one and a half times more likely to attempt suicide than women who are not infected. The study was conducted on over 40,000 women in Denmark who had given birth between 1992-1995, and whose babies screened for Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that lives discreetly in cells within the brain and muscles. It is often found in cat feces, uncooked meat and unwashed vegetables. “Humans can become infected by changing their infected cats’ litter boxes, eating unwashed vegetables, drinking water from a contaminated source, or more commonly, by eating undercooked or raw meat that is infested with cysts.” Scientists at the University of Maryland believe it is a huge public health issue around the world, and most people are unaware they harbor the infection. “Around one million people commit suicide and another 10 million attempt suicide worldwide each year.”  

What’s the Big Idea?

Researchers have found a link between the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii and mental illness, which can lead to suicidal behavior for women. The parasite is commonly contracted from the careless handling of cat litter boxes, consuming food that is undercooked or raw or from unwashed vegetables. Researchers believe this information will be vital as they continue to seek ways “to save many lives that now end prematurely in suicide.” 


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