Could cats be to blame for road rage? A new study has discovered a potential link between Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by cats, and intermittent explosive disorder (IED) in humans. But don’t give up your cats for adoption just yet.
According to the CDC, over 60 million people in the United States could have the parasite, which can be passed from cats to humans via cat feces or litter, and may change brain chemistry. Cats aren’t the only carriers of the parasite, however; it’s also present in some undercooked meat.
Since there are often no symptoms of a toxoplasma gondii infection, most people won’t ever know they have it. Yet the researchers believe that in some cases, the presence of toxoplasma gondii could lead to IED.
IED expresses itself in bursts of anger after relatively mild frustrations, such as another driver getting in the way on the road. The scientists say that nearly 16 million Americans could have IED. They tested 358 American adults, and found that in those with IED, around 22 per cent also had toxoplasma. Out of a control group of people who didn’t have toxoplasma, only 9 per cent had IED.
The scientists said their findings provided more evidence for a relationship between aggression and toxoplasma gondii, but that we probably don’t need to ditch our furry friends. For now it is still unclear whether the parasite is acting directly on the brain, or if aggressive people are simply more likely to own cats.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Royce Lee, said “Correlation is not causation, and this is definitely not a sign that people should get rid of their cats. We don’t yet understand the mechanisms involved…Our study signals the need for more research and more evidence in humans.”
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, humans become infected with toxoplasma at a much higher rate from raw meat and unwashed food than from cat feces.
Via Yahoo! News