Here’s bad news for cat owners as scientists have warned that the pet may be a cause of brain cancer in humans.
Scientists have found a link between brain tumours and a parasite that is found in both cats’ stomachs.
The parasite in the frame – Toxoplasma gondii – is carried by around a third of the world’s population deep inside their brains and has been linked to personality changes, in people as well as animals.
T. gondii has a complicated lifecycle but can only breed inside cats, which then pass their microscopic eggs, spreading the infection.
Pregnant women are already advised not to empty cat litter trays, as the parasite can be fatal to unborn babies, and now it seems the health risks may extend to other people.
French scientists collected global data on brain cancers in men and women and compared it with figures on T. gondii infection rates.
This showed brain cancer rates to be highest in countries where the parasite was most prevalent – even when other factors such as income were taken into account.
“We feel our results are sufficiently strong to propose that T. gondii potentially increases the risk of brain cancer in humans,” the Daily Mail quoted the scientists, led by Frederic Thomas, from the CNRS research institute in Montpellier, as saying.
The parasite has already been linked to brain tumours in animals.
The scientists behind the latest study acknowledged that they hadn’t proved that cats are spreading brain cancer but added: “Clearly, further research is necessary to determine the proximate links between T. gondii and different types of brain tumours and to investigate a mechanism of action.”
“Establishing a link between T. gondii and brain cancers could open the door to potential means to reduce cancer risk,” they added.