[NetBehaviour] Toxoplasma Parasite Mind Control
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sun Feb 12 19:46:54 CET 2006
Toxoplasma Parasite Mind Control
Half of the world's human population is infected with Toxoplasma.
Parasites in the body - and the brain. Remember that.
Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite found in the guts of cats; it
sheds eggs that are picked up by rats and other animals that are eaten
by cats. Toxoplasma forms cysts in the bodies of the intermediate rat
hosts, including the brain. Since cats don't want to eat dead, decaying
prey, Toxoplasma takes the evolutionarily sound course of being a "good"
parasite, leaving the rats perfectly healthy. Or are they?
Oxford scientists discovered that the minds of the infected rats have
been subtly altered. In a series of experiments, they demonstrated that
healthy rats will prudently avoid areas that have been doused with cat
urine. In fact, when scientists test anti-anxiety drugs on rats, they
use a whiff of cat urine to induce neurochemical panic. However, it
turns out that Toxoplasma-ridden rats show no such reaction. In fact,
some of the infected rats actually seek out the cat urine-marked areas
again and again. The parasite alters the mind (and thus the behavior) of
the rat for its own benefit.
If the parasite can alter rat behavior, does it have any effect on
humans? Dr. E. Fuller Torrey (Associate Director for Laboratory Research
at the Stanley Medical Research Institute) noticed links between
Toxoplasma and schizophrenia in human beings, approximately three
billion of whom are infected with T. gondii:
* Toxoplasma infection is associated with damage to astrocytes,
glial cells which surround and support neurons. Schizophrenia is also
associated with damage to astrocytes.
* Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to Toxoplasma are
more likely to give birth to children who will develop schizophrenia.
* Human cells raised in petri dishes, and infected with Toxoplasma,
will respond to drugs like haloperidol; the growth of the parasite
stops. Haloperidol is an antipsychotic, used to treat schizophrenia.
Dr. Torrey got together with the Oxford scientists, to see if anything
could be done about those parasite-controlled rats who were driven to
hang around cat urine-soaked corners (waiting for cats). According to a
recent press release, it turns out that haloperidol restores the rat's
healthy fear of cat urine. In fact, antipsychotic drugs were as
effective as pyrimethamine, a drug that specifically eliminates Toxoplasma.
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