New toxoplasma findings
February 8, 2012 8:15 PM   Subscribe

 
Hasn't this been common knowledge for years? dangerous to pregnant women, and apparently responsible for reckless behavior in rodents.

also, see AskMe...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:19 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, seems about right that it's catching.

What I don't get is why this guy settled on that as the cause of his nuttiness? Why not that fact that he shaved often?

Seems I am not infected, as I think cat pee is the worst. I can barely manage to drink the stuff.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:21 PM on February 8, 2012 [28 favorites]


Ha. It sounds crazy, which is why the corroborating evidence later on comes as such a surprise. Who knows whether there's anything to it, but what's described here goes well beyond the usual dangers involved with toxoplasmosis.
posted by texorama at 8:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If that's the case, how come my cat's the one who is running around like crazy after his sardine?
posted by arcticseal at 8:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, that's some crazy shit.
posted by justalisteningman at 8:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am extremely risk averse. Perhaps I should stop washing the vegetables in my cat's favourite part of the garden.
posted by lollusc at 8:29 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Finally. Someone is investigating how T. gondii has managed to subjugate both humans and felines for its own benefit. I, for one, welcome our tiny overlords.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read somewhere that motorcycle riders are eight times more likely than the general population to test positive for t. gondii. The only biker I know has six cats and did not seem to fear that he would lose his job in spite of his poor performance. Yay for anecdata!
posted by infinitewindow at 8:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meh, it's too late for me.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2012


I think this is kinda old news, but it's still awesome. The bugs need to reproduce in a cat, get excreted through the cat urine/feces, infect mice in the environment, alter mouse behavior toward risk-taking and lack of fear of cats, cats catch infected mice, cats eat infected mice, bacteria are back in cat gut where they can make sweet, sweet conjugation. If what I read previously was correct.

Evolution, man. Crazy shit indeed.

Good kitty.
posted by maryr at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yup. Our cats make us crazy. I could have told you that.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:33 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


No

rick

rick

rick

jokes yet?

posted by gingerbeer at 8:35 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.

Sounds like traditional gender roles amped up. Interesting!
posted by bleep at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding

...Hello Kitty?
posted by maryr at 8:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


This doesn't explain the crazy cat hoarder archetype, you know, the people who have like 12 cats. Wouldn't such people be completely reckless?

Or maybe you have to be totally reckless to own 12 cats?
posted by axiom at 8:40 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ai WUB tha KITTIES!!!! Awwwww! Snuggle-wuggles!
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2012


Previously.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2012


I have 3 cats and this reminds me of a story that I think is relevant to the conversation.
posted by AugustWest at 8:42 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Indoor cats pose no threat, he says, because they don’t carry the parasite. As for outdoor cats, they shed the parasite for only three weeks of their life, typically when they’re young and have just begun hunting.

Or maybe that's what the Toxo told him to say.
posted by bleep at 8:47 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is a surprisingly fun Radiolab episode about parasites that talks about this, which I am reluctant to link to because of the likely inevitable flood of derail comments about how much half the members here HATE HATE HATE how the show is produced, but for the rest of you, there is a Radiolab episode about this.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I don't even have a cat. *looks around* or do I?
posted by neuromodulator at 8:49 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyone who hasn't actually read the article but instead is spouting things they've previously heard about this particular parasite will be surprised to hear that the research shows that it does different things to men than to women and that schizophrenic patients who also tested positive for the parasite showed decreased grey matter in their brain compared to non-infected schizophrenic patients.
posted by hippybear at 8:50 PM on February 8, 2012


rick
rick
rick

What is it Lou? I'm busy here.

rick
i can kill you rick

Not now Lou.

it's serious rick i'm not joking
there's a virus i have that can make you do bad things
very bad things

Can we talk about this later? Turn off the Space Channel.

rick
rick
rick

WHAT LOU?

don't stab yourself
look both ways before crossing the street

Goodbye Lou.

rick
rick
rick

rick
posted by jimmythefish at 8:54 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


At least I'm not French.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:55 PM on February 8, 2012


Hello Kitty?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:57 PM on February 8, 2012


So what is the extent healthy people should worry about this? Healthy people with cats that sit near their pillow, in particular.
posted by Pope Xanax IV at 8:59 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hello Kitty?

I got that beat.
posted by Artw at 9:00 PM on February 8, 2012


This bit from the article was also kind of interesting:
For example, she [Colorado State University’s Janice Moore] and Chris Reiber, a biomedical anthropologist at Binghamton University, in New York, strongly suspected that the flu virus might boost our desire to socialize. Why? Because it spreads through close physical contact, often before symptoms emerge—meaning that it must find a new host quickly. To explore this hunch, Moore and Reiber tracked 36 subjects who received a flu vaccine, reasoning that it contains many of the same chemical components as the live virus and would thus cause the subjects’ immune systems to react as if they’d encountered the real pathogen.

The difference in the subjects’ behavior before and after vaccination was pronounced: the flu shot had the effect of nearly doubling the number of people with whom the participants came in close contact during the brief window when the live virus was maximally contagious. “People who had very limited or simple social lives were suddenly deciding that they needed to go out to bars or parties, or invite a bunch of people over,” says Reiber. “This happened with lots of our subjects. It wasn’t just one or two outliers.”
posted by hippybear at 9:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [35 favorites]


infected women tended to be more meticulously attired, many showing up for the study in expensive, designer-brand clothing.

Not me! All my clothes are covered in cat hair. So I guess I don't have toxoplasmosis. Hear that, cat? You can have my clothes, but you'll never take my brain!
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:20 PM on February 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


double triple quadruple pentuple same old shit
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:24 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


same old shit

You didn't actually read the article, did you?
posted by hippybear at 9:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was crazy for years before I had cats. Next theory.
posted by padraigin at 9:26 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


WORTH IT.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:34 PM on February 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


So it's the parasite that's making me reach for the cat treats? Damn you for manipulating me yet again!
posted by arcticseal at 9:49 PM on February 8, 2012


The difference in the subjects’ behavior before and after vaccination was pronounced: the flu shot had the effect of nearly doubling the number of people with whom the participants came in close contact during the brief window when the live virus was maximally contagious. “People who had very limited or simple social lives were suddenly deciding that they needed to go out to bars or parties, or invite a bunch of people over,” says Reiber. “This happened with lots of our subjects. It wasn’t just one or two outliers.”

It's just as likely this is a case of "your body is sensing shit is about to go wrong so it's directing you to get lots of social support" just as much as "a virus controlled my mind".

In the end, the virus is still the cause of the action, but it's an important difference whether the virus is directly pushing the buttons for its gain or the the body is reacting to preserve itself.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:53 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


(e.g. when I have the flu, I like to call my friends, even ones I haven't talked to for a while, cause I feel like crap and talking to friends makes me feel good)
posted by 3FLryan at 9:57 PM on February 8, 2012


Amazing. A near infinite amount of possibilites. Maybe some strains caused men to crawl into a hole and die. One strain, one time, cause men to act in a crazy reckless manner and beat out some other strains.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:12 PM on February 8, 2012


In that picture he is actually literally making a troll face. CASE CLOSED.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:24 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to wait for cars to pass before crossing the street. Now I run like hell to cross in front of them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Down on the kitchen table the cat is licking me and giving me his tapeworms parasites.
posted by Redfield at 10:32 PM on February 8, 2012


I'd really love to see their stats from these studies, because, flying my correlation-does-not-equal-causation flag here, I'm just wondering whether they took into account the possibility that people with these traits just might be more likely to become infected? Something like, you're more trusting so you're more likely to trust raw or undercooked meat as okay, eat it, and get infected. Or you're less meticulous, so you don't wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning the cat box and get infected. Or some such.

"I may have dodged T. gondii, but given our knack for fooling ourselves—plus all those parasites out there that may also be playing tricks on our minds—can anyone really know who’s running the show?"

I hope no one ever tells this writer what percentage of the cells in their body are human cells. Making a tin-foil hat won't work! They're calling from inside the house your brain!!
posted by clavier at 10:35 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?

The prolific what??

This byline makes me wonder if this is really the article Kathleen McAuliffe wanted us to read, or if her brain organisms intervened at the last moment.

THIS IS THE CAT PARASITE CONSPIRACY THAT WAS FORETOLD IN THE SHINING.
posted by dgaicun at 10:51 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


So... No more licking cat asses year around. I mean, it's delicious and makes for clean happy cats. But, I ask, why does medicine have to fuck EVERYTHING up?
posted by Samizdata at 10:57 PM on February 8, 2012


From the article:
Toxo makes cat odor smell sexy to male rats.” . . . Infected men like the smell of cat pee—or at least they rank its scent much more favorably than uninfected men do. Displaying the characteristic sex differences that define many Toxo traits, infected women have the reverse response, ranking the scent even more offensive than do women free of the parasite.
Darn. I was starting to think that an unsuspected Toxo infection accounted for my MIL not noticing or minding her house and car and clothes smelling of cat pee (with overlays of detergent, scented candles, etc). I guess she's just used to it by now.

That was one hell of an interesting read. Thanks for posting.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:12 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the article: “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

Maybe this is how the Gates Foundation finally breaks into first-world philanthropy.
posted by diorist at 1:12 AM on February 9, 2012


Toxoplasmosis killed democracy.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:06 AM on February 9, 2012


As concerns about the latent infection mount, however, experts have begun thinking about more-aggressive steps to counter the parasite’s spread. Inoculating cats or livestock against T. gondii might be one way to interrupt its life cycle, offers Johns Hopkins’ Robert Yolken. Moving beyond prevention to treatment is a taller order. Once the parasite becomes deeply ensconced in brain cells, routing it out of the body is virtually impossible: the thick-walled cysts are impregnable to antibiotics. Because T. gondii and the malaria protozoan are related, however, Yolken and other researchers are looking among antimalarial agents for more-effective drugs to attack the cysts. But for now, medicine has no therapy to offer people who want to rid themselves of the latent infection; and until solid proof exists that Toxo is as dangerous as some scientists now fear, pharmaceutical companies don’t have much incentive to develop anti-Toxo drugs.

Yolken hopes that will change. “To explain where we are in Toxo research today,” he says, “the analogy I always give is the ulcer bacteria. We first needed to find ways of treating the organism and showing that the disease went away when you did that. We will have to show that when we very effectively treat Toxoplasma, some portion of psychiatric illness goes away.”
And this right here is the problem is for-profit medicine. You need to have a treatment to prove it is dangerous and you need proof it is dangerous to "incentivize" a treatment. Because money is the only way to make people want to study science or cure people of diseases, apparently.

The NIH should work on it and then give out treatment for free if it turns out to be necessary. Screw you, pharmaceutical companies.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Verrry interesting. I am going to pull up some of the articles.
posted by cashman at 4:57 AM on February 9, 2012


Perhaps T. gondii just increases the likelihood of sloppy hypothesizing in some epidemiologists.
posted by aught at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


DU, what you say is right, but is this necessarily a case of that, and can we do anything about it? Rather than having NIH take responsibility for this work, wouldn't we be better off demanding that any results be scientifically rigorous and defensible? Because publishing ideologically biased work seems like more of an immediate problem (see various kinds of denialism...).
posted by sneebler at 8:05 AM on February 9, 2012


I'm not a neurologist, but the science behind it seems relatively sound. The idea that you're not really in control of your behavior, so much as you are the product of various infections, parasitic relations, and inborn chemical imbalances is scary. If you carry that idea far enough then it shatters any concept of free will or sense of self.
posted by codacorolla at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a pretty kitty. Daddy will be back as soon as he finishes his base jump.
posted by davismbagpiper at 8:20 AM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


You don't need parasites to shatter a sense of free will or self. Without parasites, who is the "you" that is in charge of "your" behavior. You don't HAVE a brain, you ARE a brain. Chemical imbalances is all it is.
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2012


Hasn't this been common knowledge for years?

Toxoplasmosis has been all over the blue here for years. Not just a double post but a triple at the very least.
posted by y2karl at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ted Nugent said it all long ago (and at much less length)(SLYT)
posted by Twang at 1:39 PM on February 9, 2012


Anyone who hasn't actually read the article...

I tried. My cat won't let me click the link.
posted by amyms at 2:07 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's okay. I'm cool with that.
posted by Decani at 2:24 PM on February 9, 2012


They make it sound like all cats have this, and they don't.

Also, 1 in 10 people are infected with this.
posted by Catbunny at 4:13 PM on February 9, 2012


Like I need a cat for that.

Jaroslav Flegr is no kook.

Signs you are a kook #47: Prefacing statements that deny you are a kook.

Is it possible cat urine may be an aphrodisiac for infected men?,

Ah, that explains why those old women with 85 cats get so much action.

Phft. I don't even like cats. Whether they can control your mind or not.

They make it sound like all cats have this, and they don't.
Yes. Not only that, they say cats, who are awesome, barely have anything to do with it, that it's much more important to scrub vegies and purify drinking wate... wait a minute - Catbunny?

actually I do like cats. Just don't tell my dogs
posted by Smedleyman at 5:40 PM on February 9, 2012


So women who are infected are more anxious so they dress nicely and are friendly to compensate. But infection increases dopamine and reduces natural fear of risk-taking behavior, in fact rewarding it, so people who are infected will be less likely to show anxious gender stereotyped behavior. Ah, but you are from Australia, a country populated by prisoners who are known to be liars so you would put the poison in your own cup and I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you!

... Wait, what am I going on about? A round of kibble for the house!
posted by SakuraK at 12:52 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your cat may be giving you parasites....

Especially if it's been breaded...
posted by LeLiLo at 9:20 AM on February 10, 2012


Perhaps this man has been infected by toxoplasmosis. How else does one explain such behavior?
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2012


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