Toxoplasma gondii infects approximately 30% of the world’s population, but causes overt clinical symptoms in only a small proportion of people. In recent years, the ability of the parasite to manipulate the behaviour of infected mice and rats and alter personality attributes of humans has been reported. Furthermore, a number of studies have now suggested T. gondii infection as a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia and depression in humans. As T. gondii forms cysts that are located in various anatomical sites including the brain during a chronic infection, it is well placed anatomically to mediate these effects directly. The T. gondii genome is known to contain 2 aromatic amino acid hydroxylases that potentially could directly affect dopamine and/or serotonin biosynthesis. However, stimulation of the immune response has also recently been associated with mood and behavioural alterations in humans, and compounds designed to alter mood, such as fluoxetine, have been demonstrated to alter aspects of immune function. Herein, the evidence for T.-gondii-induced behavioural changes relevant to schizophrenia and depression is reviewed. Potential mechanisms responsible for these changes in behaviour including the role of tryptophan metabolism and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis are discussed.
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