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June 7, 2010 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to gain a better understanding of toxoplasmosis. What should I know?

After seeing a recent post on the blue about toxoplasmosis and reading about the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, I have a few questions. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there on the web regarding both the parasite and the disease, so I'm looking for some answers.

What exactly does this parasite do to humans? I've been reading some of the more reputable health sites on the web (unfortunately I don't have access to a university library or full journal articles to investigate toxoplasmosis in-depth) and the claims are all over the place. Some sources say that infection makes men more impulsive; other references claim that some studies have found that it makes them more anti-social.

Are there definitive reports that toxoplasmosis has a profound effect on the human brain, or is that only a hypothesis at this point?

I've been around cats my entire life. Does this mean that there's a good probability that I'm infected? Is there any estimate of the proportion of cat owners who are infected?

Have people with latent toxoplasmosis ever sought treatment for it? If some of these reports are true, toxoplasmosis is said to cause dramatically slowed reaction times and even schizophrenia. Again, there doesn't even seem to be a consensus on whether or not the parasite can be killed once it's lodged in your brain. I'd be interested to know if anyone ever asked to be tested or treated for toxoplasmosis on its own (I know it sometimes manifests in immunocomprimised patients) terms.

I'm really curious about this disease in general, and I know there are a ton of smart people / scientists around here, so if anyone could help me out, I would greatly appreciate it.
posted by Despondent_Monkey to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just saw this via mental floss (plug: my favorite magazine in the world, started by someone who graduated from my HS). Has a video with the "leading" expert on this and a neat description of the disease's life cycle and what it causes. (First link has some NSFW language).
posted by quodlibet at 5:58 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

From Wikipedia: "Although cats are often blamed for passing toxoplasmosis, contact with raw meat is a more significant source of human infections... and fecal contamination of hands is a risk factor."

See the Wikipedia article on Toxoplasmosis

In other words, cats are very unfairly blamed (I'd say scapegoated) for toxoplasmosis. You're better off avoiding raw meat and washing your hands after you get shit on them.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:40 AM on June 8, 2010

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