Infectious Courage

mouseNever knew he had it in him, this unabashed, slightly crazy, almost aggressive courage… Have you noticed how his behavior changed lately? I wonder if he got himself into a pile of cat’s litter…

Improbable thought, isn’t it? Not at all. The hypothetical he might be infected with a microscopic protozoa that causes a disease called toxoplasmosis that he could get from (among few other things)

  • ingesting water, soil (for example, putting dirty fingers in your mouth) or anything else that has been contaminated with cat feces.

I found these articles on the subject:   Your cat is making you crazy, says scientist, also Russian: Шахид? Иди лечи глистов!  (Shahid? Go and get rid of worms!). The site Parasites In Humans  published a much less sensationalist article, and Fatal attraction in rats infected with Toxoplasma gondii on the National Institute of Health site is a no-nonsense scientific one.

mouse2What is this about rats/mice fatal attraction?

Apparently, infected rodents become absolutely determined to end up eaten by cats.  In its relentless fight for survival, Toxo has evolved to increase the likelihood that it will end up in a cat’s tummy.

Toxoplasma gondii is known to change the host’s behaviour. Studies show the capability for the parasite to make rats fearless near cats. This indicates the evolutionary need for Toxoplasma gondii to get inside felines. When a rat is eaten by a cat the parasite gets inside the primary host.

There have been a few studies with humans, too. Some results indicate a strong correlation between schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis. According to some studies women with toxoplasmosis are more likely to cheat their husbands. Men with the parasite have shown to be more aggressive. Infected humans also have slower reaction times.

mouse1From another study: While men with toxoplasmosis are more likely to act suspicious, infected women show warmth.

Toxoplasma gondii cares less about getting into humans. Human body is a dead end for it. But humans love their kitties and clean their  litter, and the kitties — particularly the “free range” ones who hunt rodents — might get infected with nasty parasite that can turn human into a nasty SOB, or a courageous rebel, or schizophrenic, or cheating wife.  Who knew?

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States are said to be infected.

Speak of warm cheating wives and suspicious husbands with slow reactions! 



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