Studies show that protozoa toxoplasmosis can interfere with the functioning of the brain. Diseases are associated with schizophrenia, depression, and autism. Rats infected with toxoplasmosis-causing parasites behave strangely, losing their natural fear of cats, definite hosts of the protozoa that cause this disease. Research shows that, when exposed to the smell of cat urine, it seems that they are attracted by the very predator.
And just like in mice, research shows that protozoa toxicosomal cause can also cause behavioral changes in humans. The parasite is associated with schizophrenia, depression, autism and even increased risk of participation in traffic accidents.
A new study found that this protozoan could interfere with the functioning of the brain. Scientists at the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg and the Leibniz Institute of Neurobiology have discovered that this parasite affects the brain's metabolism of its host.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by the protozoa Tokoplasma gondii, which exists all over the world. He infects birds and mammals, including humans. The parasite, however, can reproduce only sexually in the digestive system of cats and cats, its definite hosts.
The pathogen toxoplasmosis is eliminated along with cat catches. Transmission of disease occurs through contact with contaminated feces or by ingestion of contaminated food and water.
It is estimated that half of the total adult population of the planet is infected with these protozoa, but in most cases, its presence remains unnoticed and presents symptoms such as influenza, fatigue and muscle pain, as well as diarrhea. Toxoplasmosis is dangerous, however, for people with a weakened immune system, and during pregnancy.
Once infected, the parasite is found in the muscle tissue and in the brain and remains calm for the rest of their life, in what they call occult doctors of infection.
According to a German study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, the parasite changes the molecular composition of the synapse, which are responsible for transmitting the signal of the brain.
"Gondii toxins are absorbed by humans by digestion, entering the bloodstream and also migrating to the brain, entering the nerve cells for the rest of their lives," said Karl-Heinz Small of the Molecular Biology Specialist at LIN.
In collaboration with the Helmholtz Center for the Study of Infection, researchers could prove that the infection changes the amount of 300 synaptic proteins in the rat brain.
Animals have shown, in particular, fewer proteins in the vicinity of excitatory receptors that release glutamate. At the same time, there is an increase in proteins involved in immune responses.
"The defect of glutamatergic synapses is associated with depression, schizophrenia and autism, and components of these immune responses are also associated with these diseases," says Ildiko Rita Dunai, who worked on the study. "This suggests that immune responses can cause changes in synapses that can lead to neurological disorders," he adds.
The researchers also found that sulfadiazine, an antibiotic used to treat toxoplasmosis, can normalize metabolism in the brain of infected mice. "All the analyzed proteins that are responsible for transmitting the glutamatergic signal have returned to normal, and inflammatory activity has also declined measurably," said Bjorn Schott, a research scientist.
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Deutsche Welle is a German media broadcaster and produces independent journalism in 30 languages.