People With Road Rage May Be Infected With Cat Parasite

Posted: Mar 24 2016, 7:15am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

People with Road Rage may be Infected with Cat Parasite
This is a scanning electron micrograph of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, tissue cyst in brain of an infected mouse. Credit: David Ferguson
  • People with Road Rage may be infected with Cat Parasite

It has been found that people with road rage may be infected with cat parasite.

Some people suffer from a psychiatric illness in which they have recurring bouts of extreme anger and rage. They seem to impulsively lash out at others at the least bit of provocation.

The most common example of this is chronic road rage. Those who showed these symptoms were found to be infected with a certain parasite found in the feces of cats.

The study involved 358 adults. The researchers were from the University of Chicago. As for the parasite it was named toxoplasmosis. It is inherent in 30% of human beings.

This parasite which is otherwise harmless leads to intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and high levels of aggression. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry on March 23, 2016.

Termed the toxoplasma gondii parasite, it is responsible for transformations in the chemistry and tissues of the brain. The causality of this disease remains mysterious though.

Also not everyone who has the disease suffers from the symptoms of aggressive feelings which are acted upon at the drop of a hat.

"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," said senior study author Emil Coccaro, MD, Ellen. C. Manning Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

"However, we do not know if this relationship is causal, and not everyone that tests positive for toxoplasmosis will have aggression issues," Coccaro said, adding that additional studies are needed.

Intermittent explosive disorder is labeled by the DSM as a series of repeated impulsive outbursts of verbal and physical aggression that is problematic for society.

The chief characteristic of this disease is that it is an exaggerated response to stuff that normally happens in everyday life. The irritant is shown such hypersensitivity that the outcome is toxic and nasty.

16 million Americans suffer from this disorder. That is more than those who suffer from bipolar and schizophrenia. The parasite responsible for this disease may have come into contact with the sufferers via cat feces, uncooked meat and dirty water.

While healthy adults are unaffected by this parasite, it remains dormant in brain tissue once it is contracted. It may be responsible for bipolar, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.

The 358 psychiatric patients who were included in the study were evaluated on anger, aggression and impulsive behavior. One third of them have IED. One third were control subjects without any history of mental illness.

The last one third had a psychiatric disorder, but they had no IED. The IED group tested positive for toxoplasmosis. A smaller portion of the psychiatric disorder sufferers had the parasite normally found in cat feces.

The ones with toxoplasmosis were more likely to suffer from impulse disorders where they burst out in chronic displays of aggression and violence.

The fact that correlation does not equal causation remains a stumbling block for the study. More research needs to be done to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that this feline parasite causes IED among human beings.

"It will take experimental studies to see if treating a latent toxoplasmosis infection with medication reduces aggressiveness," Coccaro said. "If we can learn more, it could provide rational to treat IED in toxoplasmosis-positive patients by first treating the latent infection."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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