January 11, 2012

Are cats driving us crazy?

Is it possible cats are causing mental illness in humans? If you’re a cat lover, don’t worry. This isn’t an anti-cat article. But it is a very entertaining and revealing story. New evidence suggests some mental diseases might actually be due to infection! And the infection comes from cats.

This new study suggests that a mom’s exposure to infectious bugs can harm their children. In fact, this study suggests it might be responsible for up to 30% of schizophrenia cases (especially in children, but it can affect adults as well). Here’s where science can get stranger than fiction.

You know that cats love to eat mice. That part is good for us. But there’s a catch. When a rodent contracts Toxoplasmosis (Toxo), an amebic-like parasite whose natural host is cats, a strange thing happens. The mouse becomes fatally attracted to cat urine. They lose their natural fear of cats and, naturally, the cat will scarf it down. The Toxo will wind up in its natural host, the cat. This is quite interesting, since if the parasite remained in the rodent, it would reach a dead end. But, by manipulating the behavior of the rodent to be a suicidal “sitting duck,” the parasite gains a survival advantage. It’s created a “fatal attraction.”

But this story gets better. Toxo carries an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase. That’s the enzyme involved in the manufacture of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter. There is growing evidence that dopamine or similar molecules are upregulated in schizophrenia. That means they generate greater levels of the neurotransmitter than non-psychotic people.

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A number of papers have come out showing greater antibodies to Toxo in schizophrenia. And, yes, Toxo can jump from your cat to you. What’s more, the risk of schizophrenia goes up 260% in offspring of mothers contracting Toxo in pregnancy.

So what is happening? Quite possibly, Toxo is doing to us what it does to rodents. We are not the natural host. So Toxo gets into our nervous system and alters our behavior as if we were a mouse. There it can disrupt the normal ebb and flow of neurotransmitters. In mice, Toxo can induce “fatal attraction.” In us, perhaps it’s schizophrenia.

If you or a loved one (regardless of age) has schizophrenia, or perhaps any mental disorder, you might consider an antibody test for Toxo. It’s a simple blood test any doctor can order. If positive, check with your integrative physician about treatment. There are some highly effective drugs that are relatively safe for this problem. I’d also consider luteolin, a bioflavonoid that crosses the blood brain barrier and protects neurons. It’s been shown to have anti-parasite activity against both Toxo and even malaria. You can find luteolin in Advanced Memory Formula.

Ref: Psychiatric News March 19, 2010

Soundview Communication, Inc.

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