Skip to comments.To Get to Cats, Common Parasite Hijacks Ratsí Arousal Circuitry
Posted on 08/24/2011 10:04:50 PM PDT by neverdem
Sometimes its hard to tell the difference between danger and sex appeal, at least for rats infected with a parasite that twists ancient rat instincts to its own advantage.
The parasite, a common single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii, infects all sorts of animals, including rats, in which it causes a strange transformation.
For obvious reasons, rats normally avoid cats. In the presence of cat urine they become very timid — unless they’re infected with Toxoplasma. Research over the past 10 years has shown that infected rats drop their normal fearful “freezing” response, and instead go exploring. They even approach the cat smell.
Bad news for the rats, but very good news for the parasite, because Toxoplasma reproduces sexually only in cats. Parasite infects rat. Cat eats rat. Parasite reproduces.
The parasite can also infect all sorts of other animals, including humans, in which it causes toxoplasmosis — one of many good reasons to...
“Thousands of scientists are trying to figure out how to tamp down anxiety, and this tiny parasite has already figured it out,” said Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist and co-author of a paper reporting the discovery in the journal PLoS One
Dr. Webster was the first to report, in 2000, that Toxoplasma infection piqued rats’ interest in cat urine...
At least two billion people worldwide are infected by the protozoan, many from eating infected meat. Initial symptoms are mild flu, after which the parasite forms cysts that lodge in the brain. There they remain for decades and are thought to have little or no effect in adults, except in people with compromised immune systems.
Infection does, however, pose serious dangers for a fetus, so pregnant women are advised to take special care to avoid infection.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
I hear that.
Crazy cat lady...
but cats kept indoors don’t contact rats so should be ok
but i’d wash my hands anyway after digging up the almond rocas..
Cysts in the brain?
I always suspected something was going on with cat-people...
Being one of the people in the world that has like zero uses for cats, you know what happens if I visit people with cats.
Not two minutes go by before one of them things are trying to ferret it’s way on to my lap...
Isn’t there a theory going round that Toxoplasmosis Gondii is the agent behind schizophrenia in humans?
And that schizophrenia was all but unknown until people started keeping cats in large numbers?
Similarly, the Guru announced related findings wherein acceptance of collectivist principles was demonstrated to lead to aberrant sexual, political and economic behavior with consequential negative individual and societal impacts.
Article makes the parasite sound like a sentient being. I kinda doubt that.
I saw something similar on NatGeo. A jungle parasite infects a snail’s brain and takes over the snail. The snail leaves the shade and crawls up a tree and stands in the sun, something it would normally never do. Then, a bird can easily eat the snail and then become infected by the parasite. The parasite is then spread in bird droppings which are then eaten by the snails, continuing the cycle. NatGeo called the snails “zombies”.
Sure are cute little buggers, tho.
Thanks for the link.