Teodor Postolache, M.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine
Standard Research Grant (2009): $75,000
Number and Severity of Suicide Attempts: Relationship with Toxoplasma Gondii Antibodies
Abstract: This preliminary case-control study is based on the hypothesis that Toxoplasma Gondii(the most common parasitic infection of the nervous system, which shifts between silent and micro-activated states) and the immune response that keeps the parasite in check may contribute to suicidal attempts in the presence of other vulnerabilities. The investigators preliminarily studies confirm an association between levels of antibodies to Toxoplasma and a history of attempting suicide in patients with recurrent mood disorders. In this current study bloods from healthy controls and patients with mental illness who either attempted or did not attempt suicide will be analyzed for Toxoplasma antibody levels. Considering the high prevalence and the neurotropism of Toxoplasma Gondii, confirming a role in predisposing or triggering suicidal attempts or exacerbating other suicide risk factors may have public health implications for treatment of mental illness and suicide prevention. Success in finding a connection between Toxoplasma Gondii infections and attempting suicide will lead to a focus on behavioral, cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the connection; expand to suicide completion and modeling suicide risk factors in animals; and design intervention trials in animals and then humans.
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