Relationship between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia: A review

Adv Clin Exp Med. 2017 Sep;26(6):1031-1036. doi: 10.17219/acem/61435.


A growing body of evidence suggests a correlation between schizophrenia and exposure to infectious agents. The majority of studied cases concerns the infection caused by T. gondii, an obligatory intracellular parasite that infects about 1/3 of the entire human population, according to the available data. The acute stage of the disease, predominantly short-lived and transient, transforms into the latent and chronic phase in which the parasite localizes within tissue cysts, mainly in the central nervous system. The chronic toxoplasmosis, primarily regarded as benign and asymptomatic, might be responsible, in light of current scientific evidence, for a vast array of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Numerous epidemiological case-control studies show a higher prevalence of T. gondii infestation in individuals with various psychiatric and behavior disorders, including schizophrenia. This paper tends to review the relevant studies that demonstrate links between schizophrenia and T. gondii infestation, of which the latter may be acquired in different developmental phases. Apart from epidemiological correlation studies, some papers on other associations were also presented, describing putative patophysiological mechanisms that might be at least partly responsible for chronic infection-induced neuromediator disturbances, together with morphological and functional alterations, e.g., low-grade neuroinflammation, which are likely to induce psychopathological symptoms. Toxoplasmosis is only one of the putative infectious agents that derange correct brain growth and differentiation, alongside genetic and environmental factors. All of them may lead eventually to schizophrenia. A better knowledge of infection mechanisms and its influence on neurobiochemical and neuropathological pathways may enable more efficient therapy and the prevention of this devastating disease.

Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii; neuropsychiatric symptoms; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiparasitic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / parasitology*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Toxoplasmosis, Cerebral / diagnosis
  • Toxoplasmosis, Cerebral / drug therapy
  • Toxoplasmosis, Cerebral / epidemiology
  • Toxoplasmosis, Cerebral / parasitology*


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents