How It Works

4 year ago · Bobbie · 0 Comment
When a rat or other small creature becomes infested with Toxo, the parasite finds its way to the host's brain. Here it effectively "rewires" the rat's brain to ignore its natural fear of predators like cats. The parasite wants the host to be eaten by a cat. So it alters the rat's behavior, making it bolder and more tolerant of risky behavior. It also makes the rat find the scent of cat urine attractive. Once the cat kills the rat, the Toxo is transferred to the new host, the cat, and the cycle begins anew.

How it works

Are you infected? This brain parasite is far more common than you think. (6 Photos)

"Toxoplasma gondii." That's the fancy name for it. "Toxo" is its shortened nickname. You've probably never heard of it, but odds are you've probably got it.

This is not some deadly disease that's going to turn you into a zombie or some other marauder. Toxo is a parasite that normally makes its home in rats, but it actually breeds more of its own kind in the belly of cats. Sounds weird, right? Toxo is insidious in its nature. It works its way into the brains of the rats, essentially making the rats think the cats look quite attractive. The rat basically becomes suicidal, placing itself in positions where it can actually attract the cat's attention. The cat does what comes naturally to it, of course. The result is a dead rat, a well-fed cat, and a parasite that is now transferred from host to incubator.

The traditional thinking was that Toxo was not a real problem for any human who happened to pick it up. If a person had an impaired immune system, the parasite's presence could cause complications. But, for the most part, healthy adults who contracted the parasite would experience flu-like symptoms for a short period of time. The body would fight off the parasite, the parasite would be forced into a dormant state, and there it would remain, doing no harm and going unnoticed.

That used to be the school of thought on the matter, anyway.

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