A recent study has revealed that a parasite commonly found in cat's faeces may cause Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even cancer.
The study found that the parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii is carried by "around 30 percent of cats at any one time and sheds in their stools may alter more than 1,000 genes associated with cancer," Daily Mail reported.
Previously, only pregnant women were advised to avoid cat faeces as the parasite is known to cause miscarriages, damage to foetus' development and stillbirths. However, now it is associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy.
University of Chicago's Toxoplasmosis Center medical director and researcher Rima McLeod said that proteins that are secreted by the parasite are responsible for alterations in the brain that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
The results came after researchers from around the globe analysed data from a study that has monitored 246 infants with Toxoplasma gondii-related disease since 1981.
It revealed a connection between the parasite and around 1,200 human genes that are associated with cancer. Also, the protein fragments from children suffering from severe forms of the disease were linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy.
"We hypothesise that disease occurs in the presence of the relevant susceptibility genes, parasite genotype and other innate and environmental factors such as other infections, the microbiome or stress that influence immune responses," the researchers said.
Dr Dennis Steindler from Tufts University in Massachusetts, who is one of the 32 researchers from 16 different institutions who all have conducted the study, added: "At the same time, we have to translate aspects of this study into preventive treatments that include everything from drugs to diet to lifestyle, in order to delay disease onset and progression."