WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A 14-year-old boy who was scratched by his pet cat tested positive for a bacteria that triggers neuropsychiatric problems including developing fears of murdering his family and suicidal thoughts.
- Published in the Journal of Central Nervous System Disease, Bartonella henselae, a bacteria coming from cat bites and scratches were found in the boy’s blood which seemed to be the cause of his schizophrenia.
- Since the boy’s mental health quickly recovered after receiving antimicrobial medications to treat the infection, the discovery suggests that bacterial or viral infections may have a role in mental disorder symptoms.
Psychiatrists are baffled with a case of a teenager who had no previous signs of mental illness started exhibiting mental health symptoms including disturbing psychotic thoughts. However, a team of doctors asserted in a new case report that his acute mental illness was caused by a cat scratch.
Midwest doctors have documented a case of sudden-onset adolescent schizophrenia that was sparked by a bacterial infection that possibly came from a cat scratch. The case was reported in the Journal of Central Nervous System Disease.
Described as “socially, athletically, and academically active,” the 14-year-old teen was in fairly good health when out of nowhere, he suddenly felt suicidal and started believing he was a “damned son of the devil”. Furthermore, he started developing phobias including fears that he might kill his family and friends and being afraid that he might be killed by the family cat.
While doctors immediately admitted the boy for emergency psychiatric hospitalization and treated with antipsychotic drugs, his psychotic symptoms went on for 18 months. Though his family had some mental illness history, there was no clue whatsoever that sparked the sudden onset of symptoms.
Until one day, a doctor noticed cuts along the boy’s thighs and armpits that looked like stretch marks. For this, physicians started to examine whether the teen had an infection.
Through a blood test, the boy tested positive for the bacteria Bartonella henselae which is linked with infections originating from cat bites or scratches. Incidentally, the boy’s family had adopted two stray cats in 2010.
Following the antimicrobial treatments for the bacterial infection, the boy’s mental health made a quick recovery. It appears that the bacteria mainly caused the sudden-onset schizophrenia, and may also contribute to other progressive neuropsychiatric disorders.
“This case gives us proof that there can be a connection between viral and bacterial infections and medically complex diseases, and offers an opportunity for future investigations,” said Dr Ed Breitschwerdt, lead author and Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine at North Carolina State University.
Previous studies also suggested that a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which is commonly found in cats could be connected with mental health problems by changing its host’s mindset causing them to engage in aggressive behavior.
Source: IFL Science