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Medicine

Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success 366

Posted by kdawson
from the yeah-yeah-not-causation dept.
mahiskali writes "A parasite commonly found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, has an unnerving relation to World Cup victories by country. (This parasite was discussed here twice in 2006.) Toxo can be found in almost every type of mammal, from rats to humans. The overall goal of the parasite is to end up in a feline stomach, which is the only place it can reproduce. In other mammals, humans for example, the parasite heads for the brain. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the human population has a latent Toxo infection, with individual countries having infection rates varying from 6% (Korea) to 92% (Ghana). Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without. The article, written by a Stanford University neuroscientist, goes on to try out various rationales for such a correlation, ranging from increased testosterone to increased dissent of authority — all symptoms of a Toxo infection. Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out."
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Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success

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  • by ChrisK87 (901429) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:57PM (#32818146)
    Fortunately here in the States we don't have to worry about such dangerous things as world cup victories.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Nor does the bulk of Asia.

      It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited.

      The US is top tier in FIFA rankings compared to China, India, Russia, the Islamic World. I'm also amused that they put Israel in with UEFA and not in AFC because the Islamic nations won't play them. Put Israel in AFC and if they won't play then they forfeit.

      • by socz (1057222) <socrates AT ghettobsd DOT org> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:17PM (#32818362) Homepage Journal

        It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited.

        Now THAT makes sense! That's why we have the world series of baseball with only 2 countries playing!

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          If anything the UEFA cup should be called the World Cup because players from all over the world are in the European Leagues.

          I know they call it the World Series because the best players in the world come to the MLB and all that, it's a dumb name for a series.

          How many countries have a serious interest in Baseball? US, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, RoK and Japan, that's pretty much it.

          The MLB series should be called the Commissioner's Series.

          • How many countries have a serious interest in Baseball? Canada.

            HA

            That's stretching it. Sure we got a team but nobody roots for them, not even Canadians.

            • by Nethead (1563)

              That's OK, we'll gladly let you have the Curling World Series.

              I was in St. Louis during the Olympics and hung out at a Irish dive bar (JP's) that was TOTALLY into the matches... mostly trying to figure out the rules.

        • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:12PM (#32819754) Homepage

          ...That's why we have the world series of baseball with only 2 countries playing!

          You know, I've always been surprised by how often a woman from Earth wins the Miss Universe contest. You think it's rigged?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by SharpFang (651121)

            Oh, why would you think any part of the universe other than this unfashionable backwater planet has such an impractical invention as "a woman"?

      • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Informative)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:00PM (#32818830)

        The US is top tier in FIFA rankings compared to China, India, Russia, the Islamic World.

        Russia (#11) is ranked higher than the US (#14)

        "the Islamic World" doesn't have a team, but one predominantly-Islamic country (Egypt) is ranked above the US (Egypt; #12).

        OF course, FIFA rankings and FIFA World Cup qualifications aren't all that tightly linked; many of the countries (including Asian countries) that qualify for the WC do so over higher-ranked countries (North Korea, ranked #105, being a prime example this year.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bert64 (520050)

          Turkey are also an islamic nation, and their national team tends to be quite good... They made it to the last 4 in 2002 for instance.

          Because of the way qualifying is done in regional groups, you usually get some low ranking teams qualifying... If qualifying was entirely based on ability you'd typically only see european and south american teams at the finals.

          North Korea did surprisingly well, they held their own against Brazil who have traditionally been one of if not the best team.. People were amazed when

      • by ColaMan (37550)

        It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited.

        So....

        Group from eastern hemisphere + group from western hemisphere + smattering of other groups from northern / southern hemispheres != world?

      • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Informative)

        by unix1 (1667411) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:33PM (#32819256)

        It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited.

        "Invited?" Every World Cup tournament is preceded by World Cup qualifying matches [fifa.com] in which every country meeting FIFA criteria (which is pretty much every country) participates. That's why it's called the World Cup.

      • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:07PM (#32821164)
        "It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited."

        What makes you say that? Because the bulk of the entries come from Europe and South America? Or because that is where the winners come from, because they play the best football? The World Cup is open to all nations who ware willing to play by FIFA rules, meaning FIFA rules of the game and no (major) political interference with the tournament. In fact, I think FIFA would love it if more Asian countries put forth serious entries and improved their level of play. The increasingly strong representation of Africa in recent years has been welcomed by all, and fans around the world enjoyed seeing Ghana defeat the USA and battle Uruguay to a shoot-out, in a game they should have won. That is not to mention that both Japan and South Korea advanced past group play, Australia missed only missed out on goal differential, New Zealand were not beaten, and two CONCACAF representatives, USA and Mexico (not Honduras), faired okay.

        It is a World Cup, and open to all countries with a team good enough to earn a spot by winning some qualifying matches and showing a dedication to and respect for the beautiful game. Bangladesh or Cambodia should not be handed a ticket to Brazil in 2014 just so Asia will have more teams, they have to earn it by competing and succeeding. More competitive play could garner more regional teams in the final tournament. Until then, sorry.
    • Turkey (Score:3, Informative)

      by Weezul (52464)

      I don't buy the article's conclusions. Ghana has cats? fine. Turkey has mucho cats everywhere! A cat might even shit on your head while you eat in a fancy restaurant in Taksim. All middle eastern countries have oodles of cats, afaik. Yet they suck ass at soccer?

      Germany is a dog country, very few cats here. Brazil doesn't have street cats like Turkey either. etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sznupi (719324)

        Germany is a dog country, very few cats here. Brazil doesn't have street cats like Turkey either. etc.

        That is usually a misconception BTW. From a quick search, Germany appears to have almost two times more domestic cats then dogs [slashdot.org]. Just domestic. When it comes to "stray"/half-wild/etc. animals cats also typically dominate, they are more suited to such life (and people are more likely to leave them alone)

        Cats simply aren't so visible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zill (1690130)
        Toxoplasmosis is more often transmitted through raw meat than with cats, contrary to popular belief.
  • by masterwit (1800118) * on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:58PM (#32818154) Journal

    Mr. KDawson,

    To correctly link to a text only version, use the MySlate feature found here [slate.com], select your story, press view story, and link the new link. That way thousands of users will not have to press "cancel print".

    thanks,

    -Everyone

    Link without the print:

    http://www.slate.com/Apps/MySlate/action/read.aspx?action=read&ids=2259350&sortmethod=false [slate.com]

  • by hkz (1266066) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:00PM (#32818174)
    Sorry for shooting for the obvious, but the old trope about correlation and causation seems exactly in order here.
    • I would like to see the correlation betwen per capita income versus toxoplasmosis infection and versus world cup wins. I suspect that is the driving factor for both of those.
    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:19PM (#32818382)

      Not to mention they're very nonchalant about a parasite that is extremely harmful to pregnant women and their unborn child. It's not exactly harmless in other adults either; a girl I know was seriously sick from some weeks after contracting toxoplasmosis and said she felt weakened for months afterward. Last thing we need is idiots going around licking cats [blogspot.com] to improve their football (that's right America football not soccer) skils.

      • (that's right America football not soccer)

        If you insist on using British English in all circumstances, try entering an American bar and telling the guy next to you that you're dying for a fag.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by iNaya (1049686)
          And if you insist on using American English on all occasions, try entering a British bar and telling the girl next to you that you like her pants.
      • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:33PM (#32819254) Homepage

        > ...that's right America football not soccer...

        Association football. Wouldn't want to confuse it with rugby football or gridiron football...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Cimexus (1355033)

          Indeed. The problem with a word like 'football' is how generic it is. It's not just North America that doesn't call association football, 'football'. It ain't usually called football in Australia or New Zealand either. Or Canada. Or South Africa (ironically enough).

          From Wikipedia (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_(word)) [wikipedia.org]:

          "Soccer has been the prevailing term for association football in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where other codes of football are dominant."

          S

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kasimbaba (1813770)
            The thing is, in American football (and rugby), the ball is mainly held by the hands rather than kicked. So why do these people insist on calling the game 'football'?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by nedlohs (1335013)

              Because "football" has nothing to do with the ball mainly being kicked. Not by the modern meanings and not by the original usage of the word.

              So those people insist on using the word correctly, so I guess the real question is why do you want it to mean something entirely new?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ejecta (1167015)

              Because handball is already a defined sport and "football" is a ball game with major plays involving the kicking foot, so foot+ball = football.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:20PM (#32818386) Journal
      It's more than that, the article is an effective demonstration of how you can prove anything with statistics, and if you want to make sure you are right, you have to make sure the statistics actually establish the case.

      For this story we can look at it another way, and see that toxoplasmosis mortality [nationmaster.com] shows the final four in this year's world cup should be Brazil, USA, Mexico and South Africa. Obviously that didn't happen, so this story is wrong.

      Obviously my evidence there is weak too, but it shows you can prove anything if you look at it correctly. In the case of this story, he cherry picked statistics that supported his thesis (which is also what I did). Of course the author knows this, and pointed out some contradicting data himself:

      The relationship is neither linear nor foolproof. Italy managed to win the World Cup in 2006, despite its relatively average infection rate of 33 percent. Certain African countries plagued with public health problems have astronomical Toxo rates. Yet the heavily infected players of Ghana, Gabon (71 percent), and the Ivory Coast (60 percent) have not yet managed to win a single cup. On the other end, England (6 percent), the U.S. (12 percent), and Japan (6 percent) are pretty OK at soccer yet have some of the lowest rates in the world.

      Basically it is a case of someone noticing an interesting coincidence and wanting to point it out to everyone, but it seems there's about as much evidence for it as there is for an octopus choosing world cup winners.

      Bottom line: if you want to know for sure, you have to make sure the statistics are sound.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Surt (22457)

        Yeah ... this kind of 'shorten your shotgun barrel til you hit something' research bugs me.

        This is so easily tested, too. Pick a loser country with a relatively small population, and start infecting their water supplies with toxo. Watch them start to win year after year. Case proved.

      • by mangu (126918)

        For this story we can look at it another way, and see that toxoplasmosis mortality shows the final four in this year's world cup should be Brazil, USA, Mexico and South Africa. Obviously that didn't happen, so this story is wrong.

        Wait, you should look further. The four finalists are Spain, Netherlands, Germany, and Uruguay.

        Uruguay lost to Netherlands today, which is consistent with them being in the last place in the list you linked. Netherlands won, which means the worst place they will get in this cup is

      • Researcher: "We found an interesting correlation between A and B, and here's a possible mechanism by which A may increase the probability of B."

        Press release: "Scientists prove A causes B!"

        Random /. reader: "Here's a case where B happened without A! Lies, damned lies, and statistics! Stupid scientists! Correlation is not causation! Look how smart I am!"

        You can be as confident in predicting this cycle in any /. story which mentions anything having to do with statistics as you can in predicting that th

        • To be fair, in this case, the story is actually written by the scientist himself.
          • True. It's also true that the researcher/writer is very careful not to make any absolute claims. He's just saying, as I said above, "here's this interesting correlation, and here's a possible causal mechanism." In such cases, a lot of people seem to take step two in my list above themselves -- they read the reasonable claim, turn it into an unreasonable claim in their own heads, and then proceed to tear that unreasonable claim down. It's amusing and a little sad that such people often link to the Philos

            • He's just saying, as I said above, "here's this interesting correlation, and here's a possible causal mechanism."

              And this disagrees with what I said, how? Either you need to improve your reading comprehension, or I need to improve my writing.

      • by zz5555 (998945)

        "For this story we can look at it another way, and see that toxoplasmosis mortality [nationmaster.com] shows the final four in this year's world cup should be Brazil, USA, Mexico and South Africa. Obviously that didn't happen, so this story is wrong."

        I'm not saying this story is correct, but your reasoning is definitely incorrect. The summary says, "Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without." This would just imply that

    • by hkz (1266066) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:20PM (#32818390)
      Holland has an infection rate of "eventually 80%" (source: http://www.nvkc.nl/tijdschrift/content/1999/nr%201/p65/1999-1-p65.pdf [www.nvkc.nl] ), which does eerily correlate with our soon-to-be world cup win. (Disclaimer: there are orange crowds singing outside after "our" win to Uruguay, and to Germany I would like to say, "Schade Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!" ;-)
    • Even the correlation is not absolute here.

      TFA mentions that Korea has the lowest infection rate in the world. Both Koreas qualified for this Workd Cup, while some 170+ other countries didn't.

      TFA also mentions Ghana has the highest infection rate. They are already out of this Cup, have never won any.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Well great... you just proved one thing. If you aren't severely infected with Toxo, they will agree with you. If they are severely infected, they will agree with the main drive of the story.

        If it weren't for the fact that this particular parasite has existed for thousands and thousands of years, I would think it was some sort of government conspiracy. That Toxo-parasite scares the crap out of me frankly. Think about it -- it has the potential to make smart people into stupid people and stupid people int

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          You had better be careful with those IQ points, does not seem you have many to spare.

          Some people have the cash to waste and don't care. I stopped smoking years ago, but you are still a douchebag. I am 100% sure my cat is smarter than you.

          • by erroneus (253617)

            Your cat has toxo and is controlling your mind with it. It's "okay" to not care about yourself... but most people see that as a sign of a mental problem in the classical sense of the word. It's anyone's right to not care about themselves, true. But isn't it also a rather large problem that has a rather large impact on society at large? I think the results are self-evident and quite demonstrable.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              He probably is.

              Considering that smokers pay in taxes far more than they cost society, I disagree that they have a negative impact on society.

              Either way I believe people should be free to ingest whatever they like.

      • Even the correlation is not absolute here.

        "A is positively correlated with B" does not mean the same thing as "if A, then B." So griping that the correlation isn't "absolute" is kind of silly.

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      Sorry for shooting for the obvious, but the old trope about correlation and causation seems exactly in order here.

      You make an excellent point. If the company that makes the World Cup trophies has a serious cat infestation, then winners will be more likely to be exposed to the parasite than losers.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Exactly.

      Although I don't know why they didn't use the correlation between World Cup success and genital shaving.

      This is the Internet, after all.

  • by nebaz (453974) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:01PM (#32818192)

    Do any of these parasites modify your voice timbre and give you glowing eyes and create in you a desire to build healing sarcophagi?

  • Poor Tommy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark72005 (1233572) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:06PM (#32818234)
    We've just come back from Tommy's funeral and you are talking about a skag deal?
  • ...Is this from the same group of scientist that claim parasites are responsible for EVERYTHING [discovermagazine.com]?
  • Interesting fact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Itninja (937614) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:12PM (#32818300) Homepage
    A bit OT, but I thought it was a fact worth mentioning:

    The most common carrier of Toxoplasma gondii are cats. When a cat with Toxo injures a rat (but does not kill it) it usually passes the infection to the rat. The effect of the parasite on rats makes them slower and far easier for predators (like cats) to catch/kill them. Which, in turn, passes the parasite on to the cat. The cat then takes a swipe at a rat...and so on ad infinitum.

    The parasite uses the natural predator/prey relationship to keep itself alive.
    • Re:Interesting fact (Score:5, Informative)

      by nweaver (113078) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:19PM (#32818384) Homepage

      Actually, its more subtle, it removes the FEAR of cats, and in fact makes male rats horney around the scent of cat urine!

    • Re:Interesting fact (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:21PM (#32818394) Homepage Journal

      The Toxo infection in rats not only makes the rats reaction time slower: It has been documented in detail that it also appears to modify the behaviour of the infected rats.

      Infected rats are likely to be "suicidal" insofar as putting themselves in the path of cats, hanging out near to where they smell feline urination and/or feces.

      It is in the interest of the parasite to make the rats exceedingly easy to find/kill so that they may complete their life cycle.

    • Re:Interesting fact (Score:5, Informative)

      by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @05:24PM (#32818424)
      More than that, the parasite doesn't just slow the rats, it actually modifies their behavior [wikipedia.org], sometimes making them attracted to cats and cat urine. It does do some strange things in humans too, e.g. it is possibly correlated to schizophrenia. I personally have always wondered if Toxoplasmosis is what causes people to keep dozens of cats in a confined space like an apartment. Having been in places like that, I can't think of a logical reason why one would otherwise want so many cats around.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I have two cats and probably this parasite, those people are just nuts. If you took away their cats they would fill the place with old newspapers or beany babies or just garbage.

  • Fry: Of all the parasites I've had over the years, these worms are among the... hell, they are the best.
  • Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out.

    That would probably be Onchocerciasis [wikipedia.org].

  • Now we know why they go crazy, riot, burn, and pillage when their teams win. Futball fans are craay-zie.
  • by kindbud (90044) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:12PM (#32818958) Homepage

    Lots of diseases and parasites that flourish in the less-developed countries have been wiped out (or nearly so) in more-developed countries. There are more less-developed countries in FIFA than there are developed countries. So the correlation should probably hold true for malaria and other parasites, as well as for things like education and poverty.

  • How about ohplease or maybe even spareus!

    absolutedrivel would be good too, though I'd rather not see this sort of trast on /. at all. I can dream, can't I?

  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#32819176)

    So Lucas didn't even come up with the force on his own, just a silly name for the soccer parasite. ;-)

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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