Study: Cat Parasite Can Increase Risk of Mental Illness

Jose Florez

You may want to be extra careful the next time you clean out your cat's litter box.

According to a new study from Stanley Medical Research Institute, scientists are now once again raising awareness of a dangerous parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (or T. gondii). The parasite can be easily found in your cat's poop, and is also believed to be responsible for serious mental disorders in humans -- including schizophrenia.

The study was led by E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Robert H. Yolken, M.D., of Stanley Laboratory of Developmental Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Researchers of the study stated the following.

"Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness."

This might sound like breaking news for some, but a few years back, the infamous cat-carrying parasite made headlines after researchers found a potential increased health risk.

A psychiatrist named Torrey, who is head of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, made a statement.

"It may be a much bigger problem than we realize."

The new study, which was published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, proposes a link between children who own a cat and the potential impact it has on children later on in adult life. According to the researchers, schizophrenia is being looked at as the mental illness with the highest risk.

However, despite the new study and its surprising findings, cat lovers have voiced their opinion on the deadly parasite.

News outlets such as Bustle reported that the findings from this new study shouldn't impose fear on cat owners just yet. In fact, it reports that researchers at Washington State University are pointing at other parasites as more likely for humans to contract -- such as the parasites found in meat -- rather than contracting T. gondii from your fluffy pet.

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