Weird science: Kitty litter increases risk of suicide?
A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection that starts in the litter box. A new study suggests an association between Toxoplasma gondii and suicide attempts among women.
Interesting finding, to be sure, but how does one even begin to test a theory like this? Why in the world would anyone posit that kitty litter could be related to suicide attempts?
As it turns out, about one-third of the population is walking around right now with latent toxoplasma infection. Most people will never know they have it -- and most will not attempt suicide as a result of it. But the presence of T. gondii among women who attempted suicide raises interesting questions.
Those questions led senior study author, Dr. Teodor Postolache, to find out more. Postolache said he was at first puzzled by studies suggesting low-grade activity in the immune systems of suicide victims.
"We were puzzled," said Postolache, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We wanted to know what could contribute to that activation."