Information for WHO – from your director, Jake!

Good morning starshine, the Earth says “Hello!”

This is Jake from the WHO, did you know that it could be possible to *catch* madness? I don’t mean the same type of madness that The Hulk thrives on, but fully fledged psychotic madness! A recent book from medical author Harriet A. Washington titled “Infectious Madness: the Surprising Science of How We ‘Catch’ Mental Illness” explores the possibility that our thoughts, emotions, and even sanity are governed by microbes.

According to Washington, “some researchers in the field believe microbes may be responsible not only for clear-cut diseases like typhoid and tuberculosis, but also for mental illnesses such as anorexia, obsessive-­compulsive disorder and schizophrenia” (New York Times). This could mean that we’re on the verge of redefining the germ theory, making room for more biological factors in the potpourri of causes for neuropsychiatric illnesses.

I started this book over my winter break, and I think it’s absolutely fascinating. Washington recounts evidence that schizophrenia is linked to pathogens that we pick up from our pet cats, and that strep-throat can result in obsessive compulsive disorder among children! Although the evidence in her book only suggests links, I hope that research continues to explore the infectious origins of mental illness, because the medical and public health implications could be huge.

If you’re interested, check out “Infectious Madness: the Surprising Science of How We ‘Catch’ Mental Illness” from your local library, and I’ll see you all on February 25th in Philadelphia!

  • J

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