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BRAIN ALTERING

Cindy Maddera

I know I saw an episode of the X-files that sounded very much like this story. A parasite called Toxoplasma gondii has the ability to control your brain and make you crazy. Though we’ve known for quite some time that different bacterial infections like syphilis can make people mentally unstable, T. gondii actually alters brain chemistry. Five years ago, zoologists at Oxford University showed that T. gondii altered the brain chemistry of rats so that they were more likely to actually seek out cats. So the rat gets eaten by the cat and parasite moves on into the cat. The cat is the only host that T. gondii can use to complete the reproductive step of its life cycle.

Apparently the parasite resides in something like 60 million symptom-free Americans as well as in thousands of other species. Recently biologist Kevin Lafferty has linked T. gondii and toxoplasmosis infections with elevated incidences of neuroticism. Your neurotic behavior could very well be caused by a parasite and let me just spin this out of control for you. Your neurotic behavior is being caused by a parasite that drug companies put in the water so you would get infected and then have to buy their behavior modifying drugs. Not really, that’s just the parasite talking.

Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of the Charles University in Prague thinks that T. gondii is even skewing our sex ratios. He looked at the clinical records for more than 1,800 babies born between 1996 and 2004 and found that the normal sex ratio was 104 boys born for every 100 girls. Flegr discovered that for women with high levels of antibodies against T. gondii, the ratio was 260 boys for every 100 girls. His study has been rejected by eight journals without any formal review. He had the same problem publishing an earlier study showing that toxoplasmosis infections increase the odds of someone having a traffic accident. Flegr says “People don’t like the possibility that their behavior and life are manipulated by a parasiteâ€?.

But Judge, I didn’t mean to stab my husband 48 times. The parasite made me do it.