(TELEGRAPH) — Women who own cats are more likely to have mental health problems and commit suicide because they can be infected by a common parasite that can be caught from cat litter, a study has found.

Researchers found women infected with the Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) parasite, which is spread through contact with cat faeces or eating undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables, are at increased risk of attempting suicide.

The study involved more than 45,000 women in Denmark. About a third of the world’s population is infected with the parasite, which hides in cells in the brain and muscles, often without producing symptoms.

The infection, which is called toxoplasmosis, has been linked to mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and changes in behaviour.

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