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Parasites & Suicide Attempts

July 17, 2012

Researchers find a link between a common parasite and suicide attempts in humans.



Parasites and suicide…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Evidence has been mounting over the past few years that a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii may be linked to abnormal behaviors in both animals and people. Now, researchers have found a possible link between the microbe and suicide attempts in women. University of Maryland, Baltimore translational scientist Teo Postalache and his colleagues studied a large group of mothers in Denmark.

TEO POSTALACHE  (University of Maryland, Baltimore):

In those mothers who were positive for Toxoplasma gondii, we have found an approximately 50% elevation in the risk of suicide attempts.


Postalache says Toxoplasma gondii is widespread and common around the world, and can be spread via cat feces, undercooked meat, and unwashed vegetables. The parasite has previously been linked to schizophrenia and reckless behavior in humans, as well as a lack of fear in rodents. Researchers think it may upset brain pathways that regulate behavior. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Life-cycle of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. (LadyofHats/Wikimedia Commons)