Current Affairs Czech scientists discover link between accidents, blood group and parasite

28-05-2009 16:12 | Chris Johnstone

A team of Czech scientists has come up with startling findings that a certain segment of the population could be as much as six times more likely to have car accidents. The findings follow research into the links between blood groups and a common human parasite that was previously thought to be relatively harmless.

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Scientists and researchers from Prague’s Charles University and Central Military Hospital studied the connection between blood groups and the affects of the parasite toxoplasma gondii. The cat is the parasites main host but it can live in other mammals and is estimated to be present in around a third of humans. It often causes flu like symptoms.

The Czech scientists tested around 4,000 army drivers for the parasite and then compared the accident records of those in the Rh-positive and Rh-negative blood groups.

The results were startling: Rh-negative drivers infected with toxoplasma were found to be 2.5 times more likely to have traffic accidents than those who had not been infected or were in the positive blood group. The research bore out earlier findings that infected Rh-negative people suffered severely slowed down reaction times. Around 15 – 18 percent of the European population is Rh-negative.

The results showed the affects could be even worse for those recently infected by the parasite. Research team leader Jaroslav Flegr explains:

“When this infection is relatively fresh – it means one or two years – the affect is about six times higher. The probability of a traffic accident is about six times higher than for toxoplasmosis free Rh-negative drivers.”

Mr Flegr says the results are likely to spark more research in finding a treatment for the parasite.

“Until now there are no effective methods of treating latent toxoplasmosis but until now there were no reasons for such treatment. I believe now that situation has changed”

Among the recommendations from the Czech scientists is for example that pilots and air controllers in the at risk blood group are given regular health checks to see how they are performing.

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