Infection produced by the brain parasite Tocoplasma gondi (T.gondii) directly affects the production of a key chemical messenger, according to a recent study at the University of Leeds.
The parasite is found in ten to 20 per cent of the UK population and affects the dopamine levels in the brain.
It is believed that the discovery will shed new light on treating neurological disorders that are dopamine related, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.
Dr Glenn McConkey, lead investigator on the project, stated: "Humans are accidental hosts to T. gondii and the parasite could end up anywhere in the brain.
"This may explain the observed statistical link between incidences of schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis infection."
In 2002, researchers discovered how to weaken the parasite in an animal model.
It was found that by inactivating a single enzyme in a key biochemical pathway, T.gondii could be prevented from causing infection that leads to neurological diseases.
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