Infection with toxoplasmososis increases the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident

A new study published in BMC Infectious Diseases reveals that people with latent toxoplasmosis (a harmless form of the disease) are more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident. These findings may well be due to the presence of cysts formed in nerves and muscle tissue, which may reduce the ability of infected individuals to concentrate.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease, which affects between 30-60% of people across the world. However, very few people have symptoms because our immune systems usually keep the parasite from causing illness. This form of the disease, known as latent or inactive toxoplasmosis is characterised by the formation of cysts in nerve and muscle tissue and is thought to be harmless. However, new behavioural studies suggest that people with latent toxoplasmosis may find it more difficult to concentrate compared with uninfected individuals.

This prompted a research team from the Czech Republic to test whether latent toxoplasmosis was increasing the risk of being involved in road traffic accidents. The study examined motorists and pedestrians who were thought to be responsible for an accident to see how many were infected with the disease.

Analysis of the data showed that people with latent toxoplasmosis were 2.65 times more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident than uninfected individuals. At first researchers thought that the age of people tested could be having responsible for this result because age is also likely to affect an individuals ability to concentrate on a task such as driving. However, when they separated the people in their study into different age groups and repeated their analysis they found that infection with toxoplasmosis increased the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident irrespective of a person`s age.

The researchers conclude that latent toxoplasmosis is not as harmless as previously thought. With between 30-60% of the world population affected it represents a serious risk to public health by more than doubling the chances of being involved in a road traffic accident.

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