People with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) or those with explosive rage disorder are twice as likely to be infected by the toxoplasmosis cat parasite. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that is generally harmless when it is latent and can be found in feces of infected cats, undercooked meat and contaminated water.
IED is defined as "recurrent, impulsive, problematic outbursts of verbal or physical aggression that are disproportionate to the situations that trigger them." According to Medical News Today, approximately 16 million American citizens may be affected by IED, a group larger than individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found a link between the toxoplasmosis parasite and psychiatric disorders like IED. Researchers looked at more than 350 adults who were closely observed for psychiatric disorders like IED, depression and personality disorders.
They were also surveyed on feelings like aggression and anger. Researchers found that a third of the participants were diagnosed with IED, another third were diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders and the last group was considered to be healthy with no mental disorders.
"Our work suggests that latent infection with the toxoplasma gondii parasite may change brain chemistry in a fashion that increases the risk of aggressive behavior," senior study author Dr. Emil Coccaro and Dr. Ellen Manning said in a press release. "However, we do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone that tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues."
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According to the Humane Society, there are more than 70 million pet cats in the US. However, the researchers say that their study only saw a link between toxoplasmosis and IED, but it does not say that cat owners should get rid of their pets.
"We don't yet understand the mechanisms involved -- it could be an increased inflammatory response, direct brain modulation by the parasite, or even reverse causation where aggressive individuals tend to have more cats or eat more undercooked meat," co-author Dr. Royce Lee said in a press release.
More research is needed to understand the association they found between toxoplasmosis and IED. Once they determine the relationship, this could be used to diagnose and create new treatment strategies for IED. What do you think about the possibility of getting toxoplasmosis from your pet cat? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.
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