London: Women cat owners are likely to develop mental health problems and commit suicide since they could be infected with a common parasite which can be caught from cat litter, a study has suggested.
Women infected with the Toxoplasma gondii, or T gondii parasite, which spreads through contact with cat faeces or eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables, are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts, Daily Mail reported.
About a third of the world’s population is infected with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms, the report added.
The infection — called toxoplasmosis — has been linked to mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behaviour.
Scientists from the US, Denmark, Germany and Sweden looked at over 45,000 Danish women who gave birth between 1992 and 1995.
The kittens don’t produce antibodies to T. gondii parasite until three months after they are born, so the antibodies present in their blood represented infection in the mothers.
The scientists researching if any of women diagnosed as infected later attempted suicide, found that women infected with T. gondii were one-and-a-half times more likely to attempt suicide than those who were not infected.
Lead researcher Teodor Postolache, from the University of Maryland, said: “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.”
The study is the largest ever to try and ascertain a link between T. gondii and attempted suicide.