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Biotech Science

Parasites Makes Us Dumber or Sexier 240

Posted by Zonk
from the that-explains-hollywood-zing dept.
odie_q writes "It has long been known that the Toxoplasma gondii parasite alters its host's behavior, but now it seems the way it alters it depends on the sex of the host. From the article: 'A common parasite can increase a women's attractiveness to the opposite sex but also make men more stupid, an Australian researcher says ... Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women. On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.'"
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Parasites Makes Us Dumber or Sexier

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  • Mod Parent +5 Funny (Score:2, Informative)

    by mikeisme77 (938209) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @05:18AM (#17407468) Homepage Journal
    For those who didn't RTFA, one of the ways of catching this disease is by accidentally digesting cat feces (if the cat is effected with the bacteria). Smokey is a fairly common name for a grey cat here in the States.
  • Re:Remember, kids! (Score:2, Informative)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @05:48AM (#17407556)
    Wow, thanks for the science lesson!

    Actually, real science is done by noting correlations, hypothesizing a mechanism that explains the correlation, and testing it.

    The researchers have tested the mechanism. RTFA.
  • Re:Goa'uld tag... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MWoody (222806) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @06:08AM (#17407612)
  • Re:Remember, kids! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @06:36AM (#17407704) Homepage
    Remember, kids! RTFA!

    The article clearly states that the changed behaviour could be seen after infecting the mice with toxoplasmose and be reversed by treating the infection. So we have something that looks a lot more like a causation and less a pure correlation (with currently unknown relation).
  • FTA (Score:3, Informative)

    by eneville (745111) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @09:15AM (#17408270) Homepage
    It doesn't look to me as this is a terminal illness, the infection is gone in a few weeks to months, so it's hardly an explanation for the world's stupidity.
  • by mrtrumbe (412155) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @11:22AM (#17408808) Homepage
    Sorry, bad formatting, let's try this again...

    How do you like your steak? Unless your answer is "well done", you are at greater risk for toxoplasmosis than any cat owner.

    From wikipedia: "The most common means of transmission to humans is raw or undercooked meat."

    Further, based on research it is *extremely* unlikely that you could pick up this parasite from casual contact with cats. Handling cat feces and not washing your hands? Sure. Petting a cat? No way.

    From wikipedia: "Although the pathogen has been detected on the fur of cats, it has not been found in an infectious form, and direct infection from handling cats is generally believed to be very rare."

    Further, cats must contract the disease from somewhere and are only infectious for a brief period right after contracting the disease. Which means that indoor cats that don't have access to infected prey can't get the disease (except by other transmission methods which are the same for humans). Or, if your cat already has toxoplasmosis, it means that it can't transmit the parasite to you (except for that brief period right after infection.

    From wikipedia: "Cats excrete the pathogen in their faeces for a number of weeks after contracting the disease, generally by eating an infected rodent. Even then, cat faeces are not generally contagious for the first day or two after excretion, after which the cyst 'ripens' and becomes potentially pathogenic. Studies have shown that only about 2% of cats are shedding at any one time, and that shedding does not recur even after repeated exposure to the parasite."

    Further, the disease *is* treatable. The cysts are resistant to common forms of treatment for parasites (antibiotics). However, there are treatments available which seem to eliminate the cysts.

    From wikipedia: "The antibiotic atovaquone has been used to kill Toxoplasma cysts in situ in AIDS patients.[3] In mice, a combination of atovaquone with clindamycin seemed to optimally kill cysts."

    Here is a link to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasmosis [wikipedia.org]

    Every time a toxoplasmosis article comes up, someone will make a post like this, saying that *for them* cat ownership is simply too risky. This, of course, completely ignores the reality of the situation, where cat ownership is actually far less risky than eating, where mishandling of food or "undercooked" meat (may I be the first to say, yum!) are far more likely to score you an infectious parasite.

    Please inform yourself and stop spouting this trollish bullshit.

    Taft
  • by Five Bucks! (769277) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @12:02PM (#17409050)
    Actually, Toxoplasma gondii is a eukaryote [wikipedia.org] and is not a bacteria.
  • by tgeller (10260) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @03:52PM (#17411078) Homepage
    I can't believe nobody's made the obvious and obligatory Futurama reference [tv.com].
  • by yali (209015) on Saturday December 30, 2006 @04:01PM (#17411152)
    You have been infected with a rare and deadly disease. A new drug has become available. In clinical trials, if people are left untreated (control group), only 31% survive and the rest die. If they are given the drug, 69% survive. Do you take the drug, or ignore it because its effects are "unimpressive"? Because that example expresses an effect size of r=0.38 [nih.gov].

    The "anywhere else" you refer to is in areas of science that deal with deterministic phenomena. In many areas of social science, medicine, and other fields, the phenomena are probabilistic, and effect sizes are judged accordingly.

The Universe is populated by stable things. -- Richard Dawkins

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