The Toxoplasma . . . protist is shed in cat feces, which are eaten by rats; infected rats become fearless in the presence of cats, which makes them easier to catch, which, in turn spreads the disease to new cats.Link. Recent studies have shown that men and women who ingest toxoplasma end up at opposite ends of the niceness scale:
Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.Link. Yet another reason to fear pumas.
It's controversial work, disputed by many. But it attracted the attention of E. Fuller Torrey of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Torrey and his colleagues had noticed some intriguing links between Toxoplasma and schizophrenia. Infection with the parasite has been associated with damage to a certain class of neurons (astrocytes). So has schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of Toxoplasma antibodies in their blood were more likely to give birth to children who would later develop schizophrenia.
Indexed by tags science, nature, parasite, toxoplasma, mood, behavior, schizophrenia.