Friday, February 10, 2012

Verbatim: "Cat Parasite Manipulates Humans"

Are cats literally driving us crazy?
It is well-established that viruses have only one goal in life - to reproduce in order to propagate the species - even if they kill their temporary host in the process. It certainly doesn't seem far-fetched then to this medical mind to suspect that perhaps higher biological life forms, in this case a parasitic protozoa, might exhibit the same game plan. The idea that a cat parasite could affect non-cat hosts in order to get back into a feline where it can reproduce has been controversial, until now. This from Eric Goldstein in The Business Insider: "A parasite found in cats could be manipulating our brains. A long-buried, oft-derided theory is gaining traction in the medical world: cats are harboring a parasite that can manipulate human behavior and personality, sometimes to fatal ends. According to The Atlantic's Kathleen McAuliffe, the work of Jaroslav Flegr is finding support from others in his field. Flegr theorizes that a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which is found in cat feces, can infect the human brain in a variety of ways. The effects of T. gondii range from seemingly benign - it makes men more introverted and women more extroverted - to deadly, as it may contribute to schizophrenia or to slower reaction times that lead to car crashes. In Flegr's estimation, the parasite's kill count can add up to at "least a million people a year.” Because the parasite can only reproduce inside of cats, it's in T. gondii's best interest to manipulate human beings so it can jump back to another cat. Though past reports on T. gondii have made this connection, there was little support for the theory that the virus could have an effect on people. But more and more big names in neuroscience, like Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, are throwing support behind the research. And two separate Turkish studies confirmed Flegr's findings on T. gondii's relationship to traffic accidents. Effects of the parasite are subtle, making it very difficult to detect on your own. But if you're a man and you rank the smell of cat urine much more favorably than your friend, you might want to get tested (the effect is the opposite for women)." Read more at: The Business Insider  "Toxoplasma gondii is a species of parasitic protozoa in the genus Toxoplasma. The definitive host of T. gondii is the cat, but the parasite can be carried by many warm-blooded animals (birds or mammals, including humans). Toxoplasmosis, the disease of which T. gondii is the causative agent, is usually minor and self-limiting but can have serious or even fatal effects on a fetus whose mother first contracts the disease during pregnancy, or on an immunocompromised human or cat." (Wikipedia) I wouldn't have one in the house.