SYDNEY, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Each year hundreds of people died in Australia after being infected by cat-dependent diseases and the impact on the Australian economy had been finally quantified by Australian researchers and released on Friday.
The study, led by Sarah Legge from the Australian National University and the University of Queensland, revealed those diseases caused over 500 deaths and 11,000 hospitalizations in Australia each year, costing the Australian economy 6 billion Australian dollars (about 4.26 billion U.S. dollars) per year.
Legge said the cost they studied including medical treatment, lost income and other reasonable relevant expenses related to those cat-dependent diseases, which were not presented in Australia until cats arrived.
"Toxoplasmosis, cat roundworm and cat-scratch disease arrived in Australia with cats in 1788. The pathogens that cause these diseases depend on cats for part of their life cycle, so without cats, these diseases wouldn't be here," Legge said.
Among those three diseases, toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii makes the biggest damage to human health in Australia and can be lethal to immunocompromised people and unborn baby, according to Legge.
"Some of the most insidious effects of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite come from the possible long-term effects on behavior and mental health," she said.
"Toxoplasma gondii infections may increase risk-taking behavior and reduce reaction times, and this may explain why people involved in car accidents are more likely to have Toxoplasma gondii infections,"
"Without this parasite, about 200 deaths and 6500 hospitalizations due to car accidents could be avoided in Australia each year."
"Toxoplasma gondii infections are also associated with a higher risk for many mental health disorders. One in five (21%) cases of schizophrenia and one in ten (percent) suicides and suicide attempts could be avoided if we eliminated Toxoplasma gondii infections."
To reduce the human infection rate of cat-dependent diseases, researchers suggest cat owners keep their pet cats indoor all-time and wash their hands thoroughly after handling cat litter or gardening.
It is also important to reduce the feral cat's population around residential areas, according to co-author Dr. John Read from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
"Feral cats around towns are a disease reservoir. People can keep the feral cat population down by not feeding strays or letting them access bins, desexing pet cats by 5 months, and supporting local government initiatives to manage cats," Read said. Enditem