Toxoplasma (cat-poo parasite) hypnotizes rats by making them horny for cat pee

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29 Responses to “Toxoplasma (cat-poo parasite) hypnotizes rats by making them horny for cat pee”

  1. Brainspore says:

    I still think that brain-altering parasites might play some role in “crazy cat lady” syndrome.

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      I agree. Some who make fun of them have noted that they tend to be unmarried (or widowed, or divorced) middle-aged ladies who do not have a sexual partner. I don’t mean to be cruel or to stereotype them, but I seriously wonder if the parasite’s impact on female mammals might have something to do with that noted generalization.

  2. everythingis says:

    Toxoplasma was also featured in an episode of Radiolab called “Parasites.” Robert Sapolsky is interviewed: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2009/09/25

  3. Anonymous says:

    For everyone who digs this I’d recommend the Radiolab podcast very highly. Just tremendously interesting stories related to scientific ideas.

  4. The Chemist says:

    Whoa! I didn’t know Alan Moore knew so much about parasites!

  5. redesigned says:

    there are a lot of parasites that affect host behavior. many humans have liver flukes, and if you read about what they cause it is frightening.

    i love reading studies in this field, so many fascinating examples.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Toxoplasmosis is also a common cause of eye disease, and it can even cause encephalitis. Here’s another article discussing it with research studies showing wide spread infection in humans:
    Mind Control – Can Parasites Alter Cognitive Behavior?
    http://sites.google.com/site/knowledgenutritionhealth/Explorations/mindcontrol-canparasitesaltercognitivebehavior

  7. Anonymous says:

    The hurt locker bomb tech Jeremy Renner’s character ! he didn’t know why he did the shit he did ! omg, everything makes sense now!!

    • Mark Temporis says:

      Dude, he was married to Kate from LOST! His decision was the only rational one.

      Re:Toxo; a disease that makes you like cats seems somewhat benign save for very specific circumstances.

      Perhaps children guilty of committing acts of animal cruelty could be forcibly infected with this. It may prevent them from becoming serial killers.

      Well, one way or another…

  8. somethingclever says:

    I read a Cracked article (scientific reasons zombies could actually happen) that mentioned this before. One points was along the lines of the virus mutating, passing to us humans, and resulting in a rage virus a la 28 days later.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird did a song called ‘Parasites’ on toxoplasma gondii and other parasitic organisms.

  10. DrPretto says:

    Interesting study of Dr. Sapolsky, Neuroinfection by toxoplasma in humans keeps latent in form of cysts after acute infection (with neurologic symptoms)unless immunosuppresion happens (immunodeficiencies such as AIDS or malignancies), rupture of cysts results in disease reactivation, including encephalitis or disseminated toxoplasmosis.

    I hope nobody starts treating post-traumatic syndrome with toxoplasma gondii going directly to amygdala ==> JOKE

  11. redesigned says:

    Sapolsky says motorcyclists have a high probability of being infected with Toxo.

    @Xeni – Maybe my understanding of what he was saying was different then yours, but my understanding was that people that died in motorcycle accidents were more likely to be infected by toxo, not that people that chose motorcycles are more likely to be infected. He says this right after he talks about two independent studies that show that toxo infected people are more likely to speed and get into accidents in cars.

    In other words toxo infected people are more likely to speed and be unsafe in their vehicle of choice and get into accidents, not necessarily that people who choose motorcycles are more likely to be infected. Toxo infected motorcyclists are more likely to be in fatal accidents then non-toxo infected motorcyclists.

    Granted there may or may not be a correlation between choosing a less safe vehicle, but I don’t think that is what he was stating/implying, imho.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting. thx

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sapolsky’s statement about motorcyclists comes from the fact that T. gondii has been implicated to change the behavior of humans which includes making them get into more traffic accidents (based on a study of 8000 soldiers who were in traffic accidents) by testing them for antibodies to T. gondii. It makes women more flirtatious as well. You may want to do a search on Google Scholar for “taxoplasma gondii” before making statements that you cannot back up and trying to label someone a fool just because they are involved with research that you have not read yet. By the way, Toxoplasma has been known for over 100 years and they have only started looking into it when AIDS patients started dieing from it in the 80s.

  14. strangefriend says:

    He farted (0:25)
    heheheheheheheheheheh

  15. lewis stoole says:

    this post needed a “not safe for hypochondriacs” (nsfh) warning
    i wish i could afford a brain scan
    something is obviously wrong with it
    and i need a liver scan for flukes

    • Lilah says:

      Get in line, lewis. Not to mention a comment thread on a recent BB post caused me to go and read “The Hot Zone”. Can’t sleep, ebola will eat me.

      • dw_funk says:

        There are so many topics Boing Boing covers that stress me out. Crazy cat parasites, tongue x-rays, crazy chemicals in soy burgers, terrifying diseases, etc.

        Luckily, my disgustingly short attention span means that I can often get on with my life after I’ve forgotten. Whew!

  16. pixleshifter says:

    I’ve seen a few of Dr Sapolsky’s lectures and they’re always great.
    Someone’s cellphone was buzzing in the beginning, I thought it was mine for ages.

    By the way, you spelled Sapolsky wrong. I’m a stickler.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Motorcycles are inherently greater risks and tend to attract a certain type of personality. Maybe people who are infected and so seek greater risks would be drawn to motorcycles in the first place. Obviously they only tested people who died in accidents. They’d also have to have living riders to test to confirm this.

  18. Graham says:

    This is a good caution against flushable cat litter. This parasite is scary hard to kill and it does not die even in our normal water treatment processes.
    Please don’t flush your cat litter down the toilet.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The Stuff You Should Know podcast on how stuff works, did a great episode on this. Parasites are scary cool.

  20. jphilby says:

    It’s a long, long chain of deductions from the gut of a cat to the status of “free will” – a vague concept like “god” or “terrorist” that never gets defined – so that everyone can carry around a different idea of it, and everyone can convince themselves that *they* have got it.

    This ‘revelation’ isn’t new. If, chopping wood in the forest, an axe slips and cuts off your arm, you have no “free will” to do anything that requires using that arm. We are far, far from distinguishing “how much” “free will” we have compared to cockroaches. Interjecting this ‘revelation’, therefore, is sophomoric.

  21. dr80085 says:

    This study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12095427 showed people involved in traffic accidents (driving or being hit) were twice as likely to have latent Toxoplasma infections than the general population. The effect was highest at acute infection and then slowly decreased.

    I can’t find the reference, but owning a cat is actually only a minor risk factor for being infected – most risk is from eating undercooked meat (sushi, rare steak).

    Anyway, sure you’re more likely to die, but some would say taking more risks is a good thing.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting. I personally had an infection of Entamoeba Histolytica after visiting South America. For roughly a year afterward I experienced mood swings, heightened aggression and geophagia impulses.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Another reason not to flush your cat litter–the Toxoplasma being washed into the oceans on the Pacific Coast is infecting and killing sea otters.

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