People with ‘rage’ disorder twice as likely to have toxoplasmosis

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A DISORDER that causes the individual to fly off the handle unexpectedly, as in road rage, has been significantly linked with toxoplasmosis, a parasite commonly associated with cat feces, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Toxoplasmosis is a common and generally harmless parasitic infection that is passed on through the feces of infected cats, contaminated water or undercooked meat. It affects around 30% of all humans but is normally latent1.
Research has revealed that the parasite is found in brain tissue, and it has been linked to a number of psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and suicidal behavior.
Researchers from the University of Chicago, led by Dr. Emil Coccaro, have been looking for more effective ways to diagnose and treat IED and impulsive aggression.
In the current study, the authors evaluated 358 adult Americans for IED, personality disorder, depression and other psychiatric disorders and gave them scores for traits such as anger, aggression and impulsivity. They also screened for toxoplasmosis using blood tests.
They then classified the participants into three groups: approximately one third had IED, one third were healthy controls with no psychiatric history, and one third had received a diagnosis for a psychiatric disorder but not IED. The purpose of the last group was to enable the team to distinguish IED from other psychiatric factors.
Findings showed that 22% of those with IED tested positive for toxoplasmosis exposure, compared with 9% of the healthy control group and 16% of the psychiatric control group. The psychiatric group and the healthy group had similar scores for aggression and impulsivity, but the group with IED scored far higher on both counts than either of the other two groups.
An association emerged between toxoplasmosis and impulsivity. However, when the team adjusted for aggression scores, this association became non-significant, indicating a strong correlation between toxoplasmosis and aggression.
The authors point out that the findings do not mean that toxoplasmosis causes IED, or that people with cats are more likely to have the condition. It simply reveals a relationship. Coauthor Dr. Royce Lee, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, says: “This is definitely not a sign that people should get rid of their cats. We don’t understand the mechanisms involved.

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