Cat-borne brain disease no trifling matter

Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013

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While Gareth Morgan's gripe with cats had more to do with their threat to native birds, scientists say there may be another reason not to trust your favourite feline.

University of Auckland scientists have found acute toxoplasmosis, an infectious disease carried by cats, may be a much more serious illness than previously thought.

About 40 per cent of Kiwis are infected with toxoplasmosis at some time in their lives and it cannot be cured.

"While chronic toxoplasmosis has been shown to have a strong association with conditions affecting the brain such as schizophrenia . . . the disease in its acute phase has usually been seen as a benign, trivial and self-healing illness," Associate Professor Mark Thomas of the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology said.

"We were surprised, when the results came in, to discover how common it was for patients to report significant and prolonged symptoms such as impaired memory and concentration, headaches and extreme fatigue."

The study was unique in its focus on people in the community rather than in hospital.

Of the 31 patients who completed the questionnaire, 90 per cent reported fatigue, 74 per cent reported headaches and 52 per cent found they had difficulty in concentrating.

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- The Dominion Post

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