Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite spreads by the ingestion of infected meat or the feces of
an infected cat, or by vertical transmission from mother to fetus. From one-third to half of the world's human population is estimated to carry a
Don't worry that much about the numbers. I too was shocked reading the one-third to half
statement. That means you have a 50/50 chance that
this little fellow will be accompanying you on your morning drive to work. You may as well educate yourself about your new companion!
unsure exactly what a parasite is
an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host
The first question one is likely to ask is "What exactly does this parasite do?" To answer that we will first look at what it does to rats and mice.
Toxoplasma cycles between its rodent and feline hosts, living out different phases of its existence in each. Rats and mice infected with Toxoplasma
start wandering around and drawing attention to themselves—in other words, behaving in ways that will bring them to the attention of cats. They are
even, Dr Webster's work suggests, attracted to the smell of cats.SOURCE
You see over years of evolution (possibly), rodents "developed" an innate fear of the felines "scent" into their neurochemistry. What this
ingenious parasite does is reverse this effect. Instead of the rodent fearing and avoiding the smell of cat urine, they now (when infected) are drawn
towards that smell. Think Tom & Jerry, but Jerry is chasing Tom.
The affect this has on humans is quite varied, so I will be sticking one in particular. You are more than welcome to do more research yourself.
Before I continue I want to make this clear. I do not want this to end up turning into an argument about mental illness. I am simply offering one
perspective to something that I know is a touchy subject. If you feel offended by my views towards mental illness I do apologize, and I hope you see
that is my NOT my intent here.
One correlation we have discovered between this parasite and humans infected with it, is an increased risk for developing schizophrenia.
The connection with schizophrenia was originally suggested in the 1950s, but only really took off in 2003, when it was revived by Fuller Torrey of the
Stanley Medical Research Institute, near Washington, DC. In collaboration with Bob Yolken of Johns Hopkins University, Dr Fuller discovered that
people who suffer from schizophrenia are almost three times more likely than the general population to have antibodies to Toxoplasma. That does not,
of course, prove Toxoplasma causes schizophrenia. As every science student is taught from the beginning, correlation is not causation. It could be
that schizophrenics are more susceptible to the infection, or some third, as yet unidentified variable may be involved.
From my personal experience with schizophrenia and from being around those that have been diagnosed with this condition, more often then not they are
some very creative and intuitive people. If you take the time to Google the "famous" people over the course of our history who have had this disease,
you will see they have been some of the most progressive thinkers in our history. "Schizophrenics" have an easy time deducing various patterns and
seeing the way individual pieces come together to complete the whole. See the works of John
for those who have never heard of this man before it would behoove you to look him up (after you finish reading this post of course). Here
is a little about the man.
John Forbes Nash, Jr. (born June 13, 1928) is an American mathematician whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential
equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life. His theories are used in market
economics, computing, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, accounting, politics and military theory. Serving as a Senior Research
Mathematician at Princeton University during the latter part of his life, he shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game
theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi. Nash is the subject of the Hollywood movie A Beautiful Mind. The film, loosely based on the biography of
the same name, focuses on Nash's mathematical genius and struggle with paranoid schizophrenia.
The film is wonderful, however certain details of his life and battle with schizophrenia were left out of the film to make it more acceptable to the
masses. For example this I find to be most interesting.
A Brilliant Madness is the story of a mathematical genius whose career was cut short by a descent into madness. At the age of 30, John Nash, a
stunningly original and famously eccentric MIT mathematician, suddenly began claiming that aliens were communicating with him and that he was a
Interesting right? I thought so too. I also find it interesting that today mainstream psychiatry is coming up with more and more labels for various
forms of mental illness, which in my humble opinion I see as a modern day witch hunt of sorts. They are so quick to call someone "crazy" and prescribe
them with a pill to heal something that they created in the first place to sell us a pill and profit from.
Back to our favorite parasite!
Rats and mice are in the same "family" but they are NOT the same "species".
Many people think that rats and mice are members of the same family and some may think that they are even the same species, because they look so
similar to each other. In fact, rats and mice are members of the same family, but they are definitely not the same species; rats and mice have both
very visible noticeable differences, and different characteristics that you can’t see just by looking at them.
As it turns out, this parasite affects them both in a similar but different way..
T. gondii–infected mice interact with their environment and novel stimulation arising from it in a different way than uninfected mice. Initial
studies observed that laboratory mice inoculated with T. gondii showed significantly diminished learning capacity and memory in double-training maze
Hmm.. What happens in rats?
Initial studies with laboratory rats found that, while learning capacity was also reduced in some individuals, this was much milder and
rarer than that observed for laboratory mice
I had hoped to delve into this topic even further but I am running out of room and this has taken me longer than initially thought and my brain is
insisting I shut it down for now and get some sleep. When I have time I would like to discuss the Egyptians and there fascination with cats. Those
guys were definitely progressive thinkers.
edit on 25-10-2012 by MyParadoxicalSelf because: (no reason given)
25-10-2012 by MyParadoxicalSelf because: (no reason given)