the toxoplasma, the parasite that causes the often mild disease, toxoplasmosis, has a mind-boggling effect on rats and mice. Once infected, these mice are attracted, even sexually aroused, by the scent of cats.
toxoplasmaa parasite that “hijacks” the sexual attraction of Meridians
Science says so! A joint team between Stanford (in the US) and Nanyang (in Singapore) universities spent ten years studying this phenomenon and the results are clear: the parasite will trigger sexual attraction in rats and mice toward cats.
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled organism, with a nucleus but without chlorophyll, and is essentially a primitive organism. However, it is a tremendous achievement for its ends. In particular, the researchers were able to compare the neural circuits of 36 mice, some infected with the parasite and some not, once they were exposed to the urine of a cat and an ovulated female mouse.
The patterns observed were identical for infected mice, both in the presence of cat urine and in the presence of ovulatory odor from the spleen.
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Rodents turned into “Trojan horses” to get to the cat
The worst thing in this story is that the rodent is just a vehicle for Toxoplasma gondii, which, in fact, is aimed at … the cat.
To achieve its goals, Toxoplasma works to nullify the effect of fear of rodents under its influence, so that it throws itself into the mouths of cats, as shown. Slate.com. It settles in the brain, near the tonsils of its temporary host. Thus the amygdala, the “control center” of fear, is transformed so that rats and mice no longer flee their predators.
Why cat? Admittedly, they are generally irresistible, but Toxoplasma is more interested in the fact that the cat’s organism helps its reproduction. According to the work of House, Vyas, and Sapolsky, Toxoplasma does not multiply in mice, but in cats, or even more specifically in a cat’s stomach.
We should also specify that humans, like these rodents, are potential carriers of toxoplasma. One in three people carry it, even if they don’t pass the parasite on to each other. However, pregnant women are at risk of miscarriage with some infections.
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