Toxoplasmosis and behavioural changes

J Fr Ophtalmol. 2020 Mar;43(3):e89-e93. doi: 10.1016/j.jfo.2020.01.001. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


Nearly one-third of the planet's population is affected by Toxoplasma gondii infection. In ophthalmology, toxoplasmosis is even considered to be the most common cause of posterior uveitis of infectious origin. Humans are only an intermediate host and T. gondii needs to infect cats for its sexual reproduction. All the elements increasing the risk of predation by the definitive host are then favourable to the parasite. Numerous experimental animal model studies have shown that T. gondii infection is associated with predatory risk behaviours such as an attraction of infected mice to cat urine. Infection with the parasite is associated with a demethylation of the promoters of certain genes in the cerebral amygdala of the intermediate hosts, modifying dopaminergic circuits associated with fear. Similarly, T. gondii has been linked to behavioural changes in humans. Toxoplasma infection is classically associated with the frequency of schizophrenia, suicide attempts or "road rage". A more recent study shows that toxoplasma infection prevalence was a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity. Fear of failure would be less important in infected individuals, who are more willing than others to start their own business. These elements shed interesting light on behaviours and their possible relationship with toxoplasmosis, which is generally considered benign in adults.

Keywords: Human behaviour; Ocular toxoplasmosis; Parasite manipulation; Toxoplasma gondii.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Road Rage / psychology
  • Schizophrenia / parasitology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • Toxoplasma / physiology
  • Toxoplasmosis / complications
  • Toxoplasmosis / epidemiology
  • Toxoplasmosis / physiopathology
  • Toxoplasmosis / psychology*