Apr 3, 2007

Toxoplasma gondii, cat ladies, and cultural neuroticism

More research is shedding light on how Toxoplasma gondii works. For those who don't recall, T. gondii is the parasite that causes rats to lose their natural fear of the odor of cat urine, causing them to become meth addicts putting them at risk of being eaten, and thus passing on the parasite to a new host.

One scientist thinks the parasite, which infects half of humanity, could even shape entire cultures through neuroticism and schizophrenia. Not sure about that, but if I were a biologist, I'd round up a sample group of "cat ladies" and see if a profusion of the parasite is to blame for their obsessive cat-hoarding. It's a simple, elegant thesis. Probably simply and elegantly wrong, but worth grant money nonetheless. If there's one thing we need in this world, it's a cure for cat ladies.

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