New research shows 350,000 Britons a year are being infected with pet-borne parasite linked with schizophrenia and increased suicide risk
A parasite spread by cats is infecting 1,000 new people every day in Britain – about 350,000 a year – according to an official assessment of the risks posed by toxoplasma, which can cause serious illness and has been tentatively linked with schizophrenia and other psychotic disturbances.
In news that will challenge public perceptions about the country’s most popular pet, official figures to be published later this week will reveal the shocking levels of infection within the UK human population of Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that forms cysts in the human brain and other vital organs of the body.
Toxoplasma infections come either through direct contact with cats or from eating contaminated meat or vegetables, tests on British blood donors have revealed.
Although the clinical signs can be mild, risk groups, such as pregnant patients with compromised immune systems, can suffer very serious side-effects, leading to congenital birth deformities, blindness, dementia and even death.
The true scale of the hidden problem has shocked experts who believe not enough is being done to warn the public of the known risks posed by toxoplasma, which they judge to be one of the worst food-borne illnesses because of the severity of its effects.