The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (a.k.a. “that one parasite you get from cats”) generated a lot of buzz recently, especially after the Toxo expert Jaroslav Flegr was featured in an article in The Atlantic last year. But while the article (and most of the buzz) justifiably focuses a lot on the mounting evidence that toxoplasmosis causes behavioral effects (including severe complications such as schizophrenia), the sad truth is that T. gondii infection sometimes has non-behavioral effects that we’ve known about for a while, but are similarly devastating. The above image illustrates what can happen when an eye is infected: inflammation of the retina and the eye’s vascular layer [A], retina capillary leakage [B], and finally, retinal scarring [C], causing serious loss in eyesight. Most folks are able to fight off this parasitic inflammation of eye tissue (called “Toxoplasmic chorioretinitis”), but immunocompromised people (with AIDS, for example) are still vulnerable.
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