Toxoplasma gondii

 

An astonishment a day- 
drives your depression away...

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Why do we have cat mothers, but not cats fathers?

 

There is a certain disease called toxoplasmosis, that we can catch from animals,  predominantly from cats, however other mammals can also be carriers. The cat hunting for mice, birds and even insects, can become infected with the unicellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The animal itself does not suffer from this, but it does excrete many bacteria in its faeces. In normal living conditions with a cat, it is almost impossible to not become infected. In people this infection is usually without symptoms and it is only people with weakened immune system (for example as a result of AIDS, or immunosuppression, as well as pregnant women) that such an infection can pose a problem.
And this would still be okay, if not for the long-term effects of toxoplasmosis. It turns out that the carrying of these seemingly harmless parasites over time, changes the personality of the carrier. What’s even stranger is that these changes depend on the sex of the carrier. Women change from being normal housewives, usually provident and grumpy, they become overly friendly and light-hearted. Men on the other hand become extremely jealous and grim. In some cases these changes can even lead to schizophrenia. These were the results of studies carried out by Czech scientists Jaroslav Flegra, Petr Kodyma, and Vera Tolarova.

In my opinion this is an example of tricking the host of the parasite for its own good. There are many examples of this kind of tricking in the animal world, some also in th plant kingdom, in which the behaviour of the infected animal is changed.

In this particular example the matter is obvious – the parasite does not do any harm to the carrier, but changes its personality in such a way that by building up friendliness and light-heartedness, the person becomes a 'cats mother'. And for men? As far household matters are concerned, they do not count, but as for becoming moody, they can’t be 'cats fathers' …

 [QZC08::043]1,3

 

 


 

© (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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