Toxoplasma gondii moderates the association between multiple folate-cycle factors and cognitive function in US adults
Berrett, A. N., Gale, S. D., Erickson, L. D., Brown, B. L., Hedges, D. W.
Nutrients 2017; 9
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Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a microscopic, apicomplexan parasite that can infect muscle or neural tissue, including the brain, in humans. While T. gondii infection has been associated with changes in mood, behavior, and cognition, the mechanism remains unclear. Recent evidence suggests that T. gondii may harvest folate from host neural cells. Reduced folate availability is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and cognitive decline. We hypothesized that impairment in cognitive functioning in subjects seropositive for T. gondii might be associated with a reduction of folate availability in neural cells. We analyzed data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine the associations between T. gondii infection, multiple folate-cycle factors, and three tests of cognitive functioning in U.S. adults aged 20 to 59 years. In these analyses, T. gondii moderated the associations of folate, vitamin B-12, and homocysteine with performance on the Serial Digit Learning task, a measure of learning and memory, as well as the association of folate with reaction time. The results of this study suggest that T. gondii might affect brain levels of folate and/or vitamin B-12 enough to affect cognitive functioning.