Toxoplasma gondii and anxiety disorders in a community-based sample

Adam A. Markovitz, Amanda M. Simanek, Robert H. Yolken, Sandro Galea, Karestan C. Koenen, Shu Chen, Allison E. Aiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of literature suggests that exposure to the neurotropic parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is associated with increased risk of mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia. However, a potential association between T. gondii exposure and anxiety disorders has not been rigorously explored. Here, we examine the association of T. gondii infection with both anxiety and mood disorders. Participants (n = 484) were drawn from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study, a population-representative sample of Detroit residents. Logistic regression was used to examine the associations between T. gondii exposure (defined by seropositivity and IgG antibody levels) and three mental disorders: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. We found that T. gondii seropositivity was associated with a 2 times greater odds of GAD (odds ratio (OR), 2.25; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11-4.53) after adjusting for age, gender, race, income, marital status, and medication. Individuals in the highest antibody level category had more than 3 times higher odds of GAD (OR, 3.35; 95% CI, 1.41-7.97). Neither T. gondii seropositivity nor IgG antibody levels was significantly associated with PTSD or depression. Our findings indicate that T. gondii infection is strongly and significantly associated with GAD. While prospective confirmation is needed, T. gondii infection may play a role in the development of GAD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-197
Number of pages6
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Infection
  • Mental health
  • PTSD
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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