Washington, June 15 (IANS) Owning a cat might be your pastime. But growing up with a cat is linked with developing schizophrenia, new research shows.
The current study corroborates two previous researches.
The parasite toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which can be passed from cats to humans, could play a role in the development of schizophrenia, said researchers.
“T. gondii gets into the brain and forms microscopic cysts,” Edwin Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute was quoted as telling the Huffington Post.
“We think it then becomes activated in late adolescence and causes disease, probably by affecting the neurotransmitters,” Torrey noted.
“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,” the researchers wrote.
They looked at a questionnaire that had been distributed to families in 1982 but whose answers had not yet been analysed by scientists.
It included data on 2,125 families who belonged to the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), and found 50.6 percent who developed schizophrenia owned a cat in their childhood years, Daily Mail reported.
The results were strikingly similar to two studies conducted in the 1990s.
These studies found a 50.9 percent and 51.9 percent of people with schizophrenia grew up with a cat, respectively.
If a person is generally healthy, their immune system should keep the parasite in check.
T. gondii may also cause miscarriages, foetal development disorders, blindness and even death.
The research was published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.