Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most common parasites in the world and is usually transmitted to humans from infected cats. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One showed that domestic and wild cats are more likely to spread toxoplasma in areas densely populated by humans.
Toxoplasma gondii is a dangerous parasite
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite that can be transmitted from animal to human, most commonly through contact with cat feces. In humans, it can cause a benign but sometimes life-threatening acute infection called toxoplasmosis. It leads to physical and behavioral changes, such as increased testosterone production and uncontrollable bouts of aggression. Some studies show that Toxoplasma gondii can even influence a person’s political views.
Research: Where is the bigger parasite?
Researchers at the University of California analyzed data from 47 studies of wild cats (bobcats and cougars), as well as free-range domestic cats, outdoor cats and those pets that live with their owners. The data covered a large part of the world, and the work took into account various human and climatic factors that may be associated with the development and spread of Toxoplasma gondii.
The results of the study showed that densely populated areas were more likely to spread the parasite through domestic and feral cats. The more people who live in an area, the higher the likelihood of infection. According to the researchers, large cities are safer places for free-ranging cats. In addition, they are also home to a greater number of rodents, through which Toxoplasma gondii can also spread.
Urban infrastructure and feral cat populations
The scientists add that urban infrastructure, including roads and architecture, can also contribute to the wider spread of the parasite’s eggs. Finally, the authors conclude that policymakers should focus on managing feral cat populations to curb the spread of Toxoplasma gondii.
According to zoonosis expert Professor Andrew Tyler of the University of Exeter, “This is an important study that highlights the importance of controlling feral cat populations.” He also notes that “people should be aware of the risks associated with contact with feline feces and take precautions to protect themselves and their pets.”