Suicide Risk in New Moms Linked to Parasite in Cat Litter

Holy Hormones Honey! Exposure to a parasite in cat litter is something that every pregnant woman needs to be aware of.

Cat Litter Parasite Tied to Suicide Risk in New Moms

MedPage Today

By Nancy Walsh, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: July 02, 2012
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Mothers with IgG antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii at delivery are at risk for later self-harm or suicide, particularly if they have higher titers against the parasite, a Danish study found.

The risk of self-directed violent behavior was increased 1.53-fold (95% CI 1.27 to 1.85, P<0.001) for women who tested positive for the antibody compared with those testing negative, according to Teodor T. Postolache, MD, of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues.

For those whose titers exceeded 83, placing them in the 90th percentile, the relative risk rose to 1.91 (95% CI 1.25 to 2.79, P<0.001), the researchers reported online in Archives of General Psychiatry.

Toxoplasma gondii is a common protozoa that, if ingested, can migrate to the brain, where it can remain in a cystic form in glial cells and neurons.

Typical sources of infection include cat litter boxes, undercooked meat that contains parasite cysts, and unwashed vegetables.

Areas in the brain favored by the parasite include the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, regions that play prominent roles in the regulation of emotion and behavior, and that show abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.