This connection between cats and mental illness is, disturbingly, growing stronger.
A new study has found that a bacterium known to cause the disease, cat scratch fever, named for cats’ propensity to spread it through bites and scratches, is found in the bloodstream of schizophrenics more frequently. than those without the mental disorder.
The research, published this month in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, only looked at a small contingent of people and is not definitive. But it adds to a growing body of work that supports that being infected with the Bartonella bacteria can cause neurological problems.
“Our research to date continues to support the role of Bartonella species as a cause or cofactor in neuropsychiatric disease,” study author Edward Breitschwerdt, who has been studying the bacteria for years, told Gizmodo. “There is a lot of work to be done to clarify these preliminary results.”
Breitschwerdt previously worked on a study on a 14-year-old Midwestern boy who suddenly began experiencing psychosis-like symptoms after his cat scratched him.
“Historically, prior to the onset of psychiatric symptoms, the child was socially, athletic, and academically active, as evidenced by participation in national geography and history competitions, and a leading actor in a school play, winning an award in fencing and getting excellent grades, ”A 2019 study from Breitschwerdt reported on the boy, who was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He was once put in psychiatric detention for a week after saying he was a “fucking son of the devil,” according to a report at the time.
Doctors quickly began reviewing the boy’s medical records, waiting for answers that would explain the boy’s sudden and strange behavior.
After many years in and out of hospitals, they discovered that he did indeed have a Bartonella infection. After receiving antibiotics to treat the infection, the boy made a “full” recovery.
Late last year, Breitschwerdt published a study in the journal Pathogens in which 33 participants, 29 of whom were infected with Bartonella, had self-reported neuropsychiatric symptoms. The findings from that study also reported evidence of a connection between the bacteria and mental illness.