These parasites are generally found in the guts of cats. They complete their life cycle when their eggs in the cat faeces are ingested by rats or other animals. Under the influence of T.Gondii, rats start behaving unnaturally. They don’t run away on getting the signal of a cat’s presence in the near vicinity, rather, almost present themselves as a prospective meal to the cats. Similarly, caterpillars under this parasite’s influence eat themselves to death, grasshoppers drown themselves, spiders makes webs not for themselves but tailor-made for the parasitic wasps. There are numerous such examples in nature where these mind controlling bugs use their hosts for their own advantage.
Infection of T.Gondii in humans has known to cause a disease called Toxoplasmosis. The symptoms are often influenza-like: swollen lymph nodes, or muscle aches and pains that last for a month or more. It can prove to cause more damage in people with weak immune system or pregnant women.
But can they really control human mind, like they do to rats and spiders?
Scientists have found a link between Toxoplasmosis and diseases like brain cancer, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Schizophrenia. 11 out of 19 patients of Schizophrenia, according to a research, had a history of Toxoplasmosis. Moreover, when the scientists administered anti-neurotic drugs, commonly given to patients suffering from psychotic diseases, to the infected rats, they started behaving normally. Also, T.Gondii is known to produce an enzyme in the hosts body that can alter the production of dopamine, the secretion of which controls mood, attention, emotional behaviour and sleep patterns. Schizophrenia is also related to dismal production of dopamine in the body.
Although this has not been proven yet, these evidences leave very little doubts as far as Toxoplasma gondii is concerned.
Still want to savour that yummy pork meat burger? Think wisely….as long as you can!