Until now, Toxoplasma gondii – spread by cats – has been a largely hidden problem. Although a minority of those people infected go on to suffer appalling effects, from birth defects to blindness, the parasite had appeared to be asymptomatic in around 80 per cent of the 350,000 people who pick it up each year.
The latest research, published by this newspaper today, suggests otherwise. Indeed, its authors make tentative links between toxoplasmosis and personality changes, even schizophrenia.
With some experts warning that much of the lamb on sale in the UK is likely to be contaminated with toxoplasma cysts, advice on the dangers of under-cooked meat are a good first step. But efforts cannot end there. A national register of confirmed cases also merits consideration. More than anything, however, toxoplasma needs more research – and fast.