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Regina Bailey

Parasite Influences Behavior

By December 7, 2012

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This dendritic cell is infected by Toxoplasma gondii (in red).
Copyright: A. Barragan

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet medical university in Sweden have discovered how a parasite that is commonly seen in domesticated cats can infect the human brain and influence behavior. The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is estimated to infect as much as half the global population. It causes the disease toxoplasmosis which is commonly contracted by eating undercooked meat from infected animals or by handling cat feces. Toxoplasmosis generally causes flu-like symptoms, but most infected individuals do not experience illness as the immune system keeps the parasite in check. In some cases however, toxoplasmosis can be deadly for those with compromised immune systems. Mental disorders are also seen in those with this disease.

According to researcher, Dr. Antonio Barragan, "We've shown for the first time how the parasite behaves in the body of its host, by which I mean how it enters the brain and manipulates the host by taking over one of the brain's neurotransmitters." In humans, Toxoplasma gondii commonly infects body tissues such as skeletal muscle, heart muscle, and eye and brain tissue. In the study, immune cells known as dendritic cells were infected with the parasite. The dendritic cells began to secrete the signaling substance GABA which is known to influence fear and anxiety related behaviors. Individuals with toxoplasmosis sometimes experience mental diseases such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety syndrome.

Learn more about this study, see:

Comments

December 9, 2012 at 8:21 pm
(1) plengdut says:

hi regina, i’m blogger from indonesia, and i’m iterest about this article you write. can i post this article using indonesian language on my blog at pustaka online ?? sorry if my english grammar bad :p thnks b4

December 15, 2012 at 12:12 am
(2) Deep says:

Nice article…….Thanks regina

January 3, 2013 at 7:54 am
(3) ambika pradhan says:

thank you regina for your useful informations.

January 19, 2013 at 2:41 am
(4) moshood says:

Bravo Regina for this article

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