Toxo keeps popping up again and again on behavioral and neurological research. I talked about it awhile ago in Toxoplasmosis and Personality Changes, but a friend brought to my attention the following paper:
Infect Genet Evol. 2012 Mar;12(2):496-8. Epub 2012 Jan 25.
Brain cancer mortality rates increase with Toxoplasma gondii seroprevalence in France.
IRD, MIVEGEC (UMR CNRS/IRD/UM1), 911 Ave. Agropolis, BP 64501, FR-34394 Montpellier Cedex 5, France; Centre de Recherche de la Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, France.
The incidence of adult brain cancer was previously shown to be higher in countries where the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is common, suggesting that this brain protozoan could potentially increase the risk of tumor formation. Using countries as replicates has, however, several potential confounding factors, particularly because detection rates vary with country wealth. Using an independent dataset entirely within France, we further establish the significance of the association between T. gondii and brain cancer and find additional demographic resolution. In adult age classes 55years and older, regional mortality rates due to brain cancer correlated positively with the local seroprevalence of T. gondii. This effect was particularly strong for men. While this novel evidence of a significant statistical association between T. gondii infection and brain cancer does not demonstrate causation, these results suggest that investigations at the scale of the individual are merited.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
There is still more research to be done, as it is usually said “correlation does not imply causation”. But toxoplasma gondii is turning out to be much more problematical than people will like to admit. In fact, I stumbled upon an interesting remark on the paper:
Latent T.gondii infections are traditionally considered benign by conventional medicine, but evidence is accumulating that the bradyzoite stages encysted in the brain during the latent phase are responsible for diverse neurological pathologies (see Flegr,2010 for a recent review). T.gondii is sufﬁciently common in humans that it could lead to a large proportion of brain cancer cases (Thomasetal.,2012).”
Toxoplasma gondii is the most common protozoan parasite in developed nations and up to 80% of the population may be infected, depending on eating habits and exposure to cats. After the initial acute infection, the latent and dormant form of T. gondii is found predominantly in nervous and muscle tissues in infected people. Until recently, latent infections in humans were assumed to be asymptomatic but personality profiles, behavior, and psychomotor performance tells a different story. The evidence accumulating is indeed a bit frightening.