Do you love Cats? Maybe you’ll change your mind after reading this article. According to a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the brain-dwelling cat parasite known as Toxoplasma Gondii could change and augment several neurological or neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, neural cancer.

Did you know that over two billion people (including more than 60 million in the United States) or almost one in three individuals are suffering an enduring T. gondii infection? This protozoan parasite is known to thrive in the brain and is often transmitted to humans through cat feces contact or eating raw or uncooked meat.


Toxoplasma infection or toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the single-celled parasite T. gondii. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infected individuals show very few symptoms because the immune system of a healthy individual often keeps the parasite from causing illness.

Those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, however, should avoid cats because Toxoplasmosis could result in serious health problems. In fact, the parasite produces proteins that can affect the brain chemistry of the infected individual.

In addition, Toxoplasma infection is also associated with behavior-altering disorders, and it modifies the functions of the immune system. For pregnant women, however, the impacts to the unborn child could be quite serious, such as profound damage to the eyes, brain, and nervous system, News Medical Life Sciences noted.

A paradigm shift

The latest study on the effects of T. gondii has been termed a “paradigm shifter” by Tufts University neuroscientist Dennis Steindler, one of the 32 researchers from 16 different institutions who conducted the study. Steindler explained that their findings suggested the missing link between the infectious disease and neurological disorders.

University of Chicago’s Toxoplasmosis Center medical director and researcher Rima McLeod added that the proteins secreted by the parasite are responsible for some alterations in the brain that affected the neural chemistry, leading to neurodegenerative diseases. But McLeod stressed that they are looking into several factors like the genes involved, pregnancy, stress, other infections and a “deficient microbiome,” according to Science Alert.

Potential impacts

Even though the researchers stressed that it remains uncertain if the brain-dwelling parasite is really causing the development of several neurological disorders, they found evidence suggestive of the potential impact of the parasite’s protein secretions in the brain.

Experts also found that the proteins and microRNA found in kids with severe toxoplasmosis correlated with the biomarkers seen in patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered the parasite can increase the risk of epilepsy by modifying the communication between the brain cells known as GABAergic neurons. They also found a connection between the parasite and 1,178 human genes, which are associated with various cancers.

How infectious is T. gondii?

In a span of a few weeks, an acutely infected cat can defecate up to 500 million oocysts. So, can a single oocyst cause an infection? The answer is yes — one oocyst that is found in the soil or water for up to one year can be infectious, Reliawire revealed.