Discovery could lead to new treatments for hypertension, dementia
Further, the infected mice did not manifest the normal preference for interacting with a nonaggressive male mouse, than with objects like an apple or a metallic cube. Uninfected mice, on the other hand, exhibited defensive, avoidant, and anxiety-related behavioral responses to a potential threat, such as the hand of the scientist. Infected mice, however, even touched the hand of the experimenter, which is not normal for their nature.
“Collectively, these findings demonstrate that animals chronically infected by T. gondii display reduced anxiety levels and risk aversion, as well as increased curiosity and exploration when put in challenging situations. Furthermore, infected mice do not discriminate between live and inert stimuli. Taken together, these observations suggest an altered ability to adequately process signals that may represent potential threats,” the researchers wrote on the paper. Brain scan of mice
To study the theory further, the scientists performed brain scans on mice about 10 to 12 weeks after being infected with the parasite. They used light-sheet microscopy to perform accurate mapping of the brain-wide distribution, size, and number of cysts in the brain of mice.
They found that the cyst density was markedly high in the cerebral cortex of the brain, which is involved in visual information processing. But the researchers also found that the cysts were widespread across the brain, hinting a random infection process. What is toxoplasma gondii?
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite commonly found in cat feces. One the cat is infected; the parasite begins to reproduce in their intestines before going out in the stool. It is widespread across the globe, with an estimated 40 million people in the United States being infected.
In humans, there are very few symptoms since the immune system keeps the parasite at bay. However, in pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, the parasite can cause serious health problems. Toxoplasma gondii can pose a risk to an unborn baby, increasing the chance of the baby having hydrocephalus, intracranial calcifications, blindness, epilepsy, microcephaly, and other mental disabilities. Journal reference:
Boillat, M., Hammoudi, P.M., Dogga, S.K., Goubran, M., Roodriguez, I., Soldati-Favre, D., et.al. (2019). Neuroinflammation-Associated Aspecific Manipulation of Mouse Predator Fear by Toxoplasma gondii. Cell Reports. https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(19)31669-9
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