Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite, triggers one of the most common infectious diseases: toxoplasmosis. It is infested with birds and mammals – and therefore humans as well. For a long time, the first infection was especially for pregnant women as particularly dangerous pathogens that pass on the fetus and can cause miscarriage damage. Researchers have now been able to prove that a parasite has a negative effect on signal processing in the brain.
The risk is not just for pregnant women
Scientists from the Institute of inflammation and cerebral degeneration at the University of Otto von Guerke (Magdburg) and the Leibniz Institute of Neurobiology (LIN), also in Magdeburg, can prove in the study that the mono-thalassic antibody of the synapses is a change in the brain.
Toxoplasma gondii is absorbed by humans through digestion, enters the bloodstream and also migrates to the brain, where it lingers to life in nerve cells.
In previous animal experiments, the researchers from Magdeburg were able to demonstrate that there were strong behavioral changes in infected mice. For example, mice showed less anxiety after toxoplasmosis – for example, in cats. To find an explanation, mouse brain synapses were examined more closely. They are responsible for transmitting signals from nerve cells to a nerve cell.
More often than thought
It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of people experience exposure to toxoplasma during their lives. Often, those affected do not notice that the infection is usually not noticeable. Cold symptoms in the short term such as chills, fever and body aches can be a result, says Ildiko Rita Donaye, who heads the Institute for Inflammation and Brain Degeneration at OvGU. For pregnant women or people with weakened immune system, however, such infection can be dangerous.
There is no treatment to get rid of the parasite when it attacks the brain. So once you are infected, it will last a lifetime.
Hypotheses suggest that toxoplasmosis in the brain can even be a risk factor for neuropsychological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, or autism.
Protection against pollution
The most common source of transmission is cat feces, because cats are mostly infected with toxoplasma. Even cleaning the cat toilet can be enough.
Also, meat that has not been heated enough, the parasite can enter the body, so it should always be well cooked. Raw fruits or vegetables should always be washed thoroughly. In moist soil, toxoplasts survive for several months. Therefore, it is also possible to stick with the pathogen during gardening.