Folia Parasitologica, vol. 63 (2016)

Folia Parasitologica 63:032 (2016) | DOI: 10.14411/fp.2016.032

No association between current depression and latent toxoplasmosis in adults

Shawn D. Gale1,2, Andrew N. Berrett1, Bruce Brown1, Lance D. Erickson3, Dawson W. Hedges1,2
1 Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA;
2 The Neuroscience Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA;
3 Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA

Changes in behaviour and cognition have been associated with latent infection from the apicomplexan protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (Nicolle et Manceaux, 1908) in both animal and human studies. Further, neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia have also been associated with latent toxoplasmosis. Previously, we found no association between T. gondii immunoglobulin G antibody (IgG) seropositivity and depression in human adults between the ages of 20 and 39 years (n = 1 846) in a sample representative of the United States collected by the Centers for Disease Control as part of a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from three datasets collected between 1999-2004. In the present study, we used NHANES data collected between 2009 and 2012 that included subjects aged 20 to 80 years (n = 5 487) and used the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) to assess depression with the overall aim of testing the stability of the results of the prior study. In the current study, the seroprevalence of T. gondii was 13%. The percentage of subjects reporting clinical levels of depression assessed with the PHQ-9 was 8%. As before, we found no association between T. gondii IgG seroprevalence and depression (OR = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.81-1.25; p = 0.944) while controlling for sex, educational attainment, race-ethnicity, age, poverty-to-income ratio and cigarette smoking. We also found no positive associations between anti-T. gondii antibody titre and depression (OR = 1.00, 95% CI = 0.96-1.06; p = 0.868). Moreover, we found no association between T. gondii seroprevalence or antibody titre and suicidal ideation (seroprevalence: OR = 1.22, 95% CI = .85-1.75; p = 0.277, titre: OR = 1.05, 95% CI = 0.98-1.14; p = 0.177). Defining depression to also include subjects currently taking antidepressant medication even with non-elevated questionnaires did not find evidence of a positive association between latent toxoplasmosis and depression. In the present study, neither T. gondii seroprevalence nor anti-T. gondii antibody titre was positively associated with depression or suicidal ideation among subjects aged 20 to 80 years.

Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii, major depressive disorder, NHANES

Received: March 4, 2016; Accepted: August 2, 2016; Published online: September 26, 2016


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