[extropy-chat] Controlled by a cat parasite

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Mon Mar 12 08:51:12 UTC 2007


Instead of finding drugs to alter our moods, let's infect ourselves with
toxoplasmosis instead! OK, maybe not.

I wonder if those cultures that value boys beyond the normal sex ratio
would take to this? Or maybe they already are? Or maybe the parasite
is the result of practices already in place, now in a feedback loop?



 From Boing Boing

<begin quote>

Cat parasite rules our lives

Vann sez, "As a follow-up to Cory's entry in January of last year on how
toxoplasmosis may alter people's moods (women become more friendly; men
become more paranoid), recent studies suggest that infection by the
parasite may also cause people to become more prone to feeling guilty,
develop schizophrenia, have auto accidents, or be born male."

U.S. Geological Survey biologist Kevin Lafferty has linked high rates of
toxoplasmosis infection in 39 countries with elevated incidences of
neuroticism, suggesting the mind-altering organism may be affecting the
cultures of nations.

Stranger still, parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in
Prague thinks T. gondii could also be skewing our sex ratios. When he
looked at the clinical records of more than 1,800 babies born from 1996
to 2004, he noted a distinct trend: The normal sex ratio is 104 boys
born for every 100 girls, but in women with high levels of antibodies
against the parasite, the ratio was 260 boys for every 100 girls.
Exactly how the parasite might be tipping the odds in favor of males
isn't understood, but Flegr points out that it is known to suppress the
immune system of its hosts, and because the maternal immune system
sometimes attacks male fetuses in very early pregnancy, the parasite's
ability to inhibit the immune response might protect future boys as well
as itself.

<end quote>


Amara Graps, PhD      www.amara.com
INAF Istituto di Fisica dello Spazio Interplanetario (IFSI), Roma, ITALIA
Associate Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute (PSI), Tucson

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