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Parasite in cats’ faeces may cause Alzheimer’s and CANCER 

 
  • The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is carried by around 30% of cats at any one time
  • It has been linked to more than 1,000 human genes associated with cancer
  • After infection, the parasite’s proteins alter brain cell communication
  • Such proteins may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy
  • Only pregnant women are advised to avoid cat’s faeces due to the parasite 

Alexandra Thompson Health Reporter For Mailonline

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A parasite commonly found in cats faeces may cause Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even cancer, new research suggests.

Toxoplasma gondii, which is carried by around 30 percent of cats at any one time and sheds in their stools, may alter more than 1,000 genes associated with cancer, a study found.

Once a human is infected, proteins from the parasite could also alter communication between brain cells, which may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, the research adds.

Up until now, only pregnant women were advised to avoid cat faeces as the parasite is known to cause miscarriages, still births and damage to foetus’ development, particularly their brain and eyes.

Infections often seem harmless, with few people experiencing symptoms and just a few showing signs of mild flu.  

Study author Dr Dennis Steindler from Tufts University in Massachusetts, said: ‘This study is a paradigm shifter.’ 

IS YOUR GUINEA PIG MAKING YOU ILL? THREE RUSHED TO HOSPITAL WITH DEADLY PNEUMONIA 

Guinea pigs are making people ill, a report stated earlier this month.

In three years, at least as many people have been taken to hospital after developing life-threatening pneumonia from their furry friends.

Most guinea pigs likely harbour the bacteria responsible for the inflammatory lung condition, which is detectable by the animals developing pink eye.

Dr Steven Gordon, chair of infectious disease at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘We love our pets, but we’ve got to be smart about pets and hygiene.

‘We should be washing our hands after pet contact, and certain high-risk people – like those with compromised immune systems – should avoid contact with pets.’ 

‘This study is a paradigm shifter’ 

Researchers from around the world analyzed data from a study that has monitored 246 infants with Toxoplasma gondii-related disease since 1981.

Results reveal a link between the parasite and almost 1,200 human genes that are associated with cancer.

Protein fragments from children with severe forms of the disease are also linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy.

The parasite is thought to increase the risk of these conditions by releasing proteins that alter communication between brain cells.

Dr Steindler said: ‘This study is a paradigm shifter.’

Only pregnant women are currently advised to avoid cat faeces, which often contain Toxoplasma gondii, as the parasite is known to cause miscarriages, still births and damage to foetus’ development.

Infections often seem harmless, with few people experiencing symptoms and just a few showing signs of mild flu.  

Other factors may be at play  

Yet, the researchers add other factors aside from Toxoplasma gondii infection likely also influence a person’s risk of developing such diseases.

They wrote: ‘We hypothesise that disease occurs in the presence of the relevant susceptibility genes, parasite genotype and other innate and environmental factors such as other infections, the microbiome or stress that influence immune responses.’

Dr Steindler added: ‘At the same time, we have to translate aspects of this study into preventive treatments that include everything from drugs to diet to lifestyle, in order to delay disease onset and progression.’ 

The findings were published in the journal Nature.  

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