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Cat parasite toxoplasma uses ‘Trojan horse’ to infect human brain and may cause suicidal thoughts and risk-taking

Monday, December 17, 2012 20:01
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life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii
life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A food-borne parasite that infects domestic cats can get inside the human brain by commandeering special cells of the immune system which it uses as a Trojan horse to enter the central nervous system, a study has found.

Scientists believe they have finally discovered the mechanism that allows Toxoplasma gondii – a single-celled parasite – to pass from the human gut to the brain where it may cause behavioural changes.

Researchers have shown that the parasite can infect the dendritic white blood cells of the immune system causing them to secrete a chemical neurotransmitter that allows the infected cells, and the parasite, to cross the natural barrier protecting the brain.

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