"Johns Hopkins University scientists trying to determine why people develop serious mental illness are focusing on an unlikely factor: a common parasite spread by cats. The researchers say the microbes, called Toxoplasma gondii, invade the human brain and appear to upset its chemistry — creating, in some people, the psychotic behaviors recognized as schizophrenia." Read more here.
It turns out that toxoplasma can only reproduce in the guts of cats. It also comes out with their feces. [Do not continue to read if you are squeamish.] And when rats eat cat poop, the toxo alters the rats' brain chemistry. They become aroused by the smell of cat urine - and start hanging out where cats pee. Which leads to them getting eaten - and the toxo ends up back where it wanted, in the cat's gut.
Could toxo also be changing the brain chemistry of people who inadvertently come into contact with cat feces?
And, in related news, Oregon is having some success helping people with schizophrenia early on. The Oregonian reports that "By attacking the illness early and aggressively, with tools ranging from psychiatry to job training, EASA programs hope to move people from that tragic path to a healthy, productive life." Read more here.