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Litter tray parasite toxoplasmosis could turn you into business fat cat

28 July 2018

Scientists have suggested that Toxoplasma gondii may increase the tendency to risky behavior not only in rodents but also in humans, while entrepreneurship requires a willingness to take risks, including financial. This indeed works well for the T. gondii parasite which reproduces inside the cat once.

Research led by the University of Colorado has combed databases of information examining the coincidence of T. gondii infections and entrepreneurial activity across the globe.

Dr Stefanie Johnson, from the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business in the USA, and her fellow authors wrote: "Populations with higher T. gondii infection had greater intentions to start a business and higher levels of active entrepreneurship behaviours". They also noted that in countries that had a higher prevalence of the parasite had more people who had lower "fear of failure". This is the first time that an infection is associated with reduction of this rational fear. The human gut microbiome contains bacteria that have been linked to mood, diet and immune system functions in previous studies.

It is known that infection with Toxoplasma may influence the behaviour of small animals, including mice and rats. Of the group, 22 per cent tested positive. The team then analyzed the results of the test and compared it with the subject that the student majored in. Students who tested positive were more likely to have a degree in business studies and those who were professionals were more likely to start their own business.

However, there's no need for alarm over this global cat parasite.

"We can see the association in terms of the number of businesses and the intent of participants, but we don't know if the businesses started by T.gondii- positive individuals are more likely to succeed or fail in the long run", according to Stefanie Johnson.

The researchers also collected saliva samples from almost 200 people who attended entrepreneurship events. They found that those who tested positive for the parasite were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own company.

Humans can be infected with Toxoplasma gondii parasite if they come into contact with cat faeces or contaminated products
Litter tray parasite toxoplasmosis could turn you into business fat cat

Analysis of 42 countries that had higher exposure to the parasitic infection showed an increase in 'entrepreneurial activity'.

"If you've got someone with aggression problems, you might check them for toxoplasmosis", Dr. Emil Coccaro, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago who led the 2016 study, said at the time.

Johnson said the team's research brings up other questions that she'd like to get answered with further study. Like what happens to the businesses that are created by people with toxoplasma. What if that fear was a good thing? "There's got to be many, many more", she said. Symptoms usually are flu-like with fever, swollen glands and muscle pain etc. Severe toxoplasmosis may include damage to the brain and eyes, such as reduced or blurred vision.

A study published in 2016 suggested that people diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder are twice as likely to carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

A 2012 study analysed decades of health records from women in Denmark to investigate the link between toxoplasmosis and mental illness.

As a result the parasite improves its chances of reproductive success.

Litter tray parasite toxoplasmosis could turn you into business fat cat