Humans Infected With ‘Mind-Altering’ Parasite Seen as More Attractive

Humans Infected With ‘Mind-Altering’ Parasite Seen as More Attractive. By Ross Pomeroy.

The single-celled protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is a fascinating parasite. Replicating only in cat intestines, it is excreted in feces and subsequently spreads to many other organisms, not just felines. Inside these critters, it winds its way to the brain and transforms into numerous cysts, patiently waiting to return to its desired nine-lived host. But, though dormant, it is not entirely inert.

T. gondii actually alters its host’s behavior. Mice, for example, grow less fearful of cats, making them easier prey. Just like T. gondii wanted

Humans are also affected by T. gondii. About one in ten Americans and a third of people globally host the parasite. And yes, it seems to sneakily mess with our minds, too. Studies suggest that infested humans have ever-so-slightly impaired motor skills, undertake additional risks, and get into more automotive accidents. The parasite’s presence is also linked to an elevated risk of schizophrenia.

Curiously, as as new study published in PeerJ finds, T. gondii may also change humans’ physical appearance. An international team turned up a link between a latent infection and facial attractiveness. …

“T. gondii infection may produce changes in facial symmetry of its hosts through changes in endocrinological variables such as testosterone levels,” the researchers wrote. .. Participants with T. gondii tended to have more symmetrical faces. Facial symmetry is commonly associated with beauty. …

However, a simpler explanation for the association is that attractive people are more likely to contract T. gondii as they might engage in more sexual activity. (T. gondii can be transmitted sexually.) The researchers did find that Toxoplasma-positive subjects reported having more sexual partners.