There is a specific diagnosis that I often think of when we are talking about someone who has a buttload of ideas but never put them into action cause that particular idea is just one out of a thousand more to be explored and considered, something we called as a flight of ideas; just so you know, if you didn't know what I was talking about, it is bipolar disorder. In the medical world, it was discovered recently that there is a group of people who bear latent infection of a specific disease which might have the capability to alter or control an individual's mind, thus, deviate them into doing high-risk activities such as business.
For some, business is a challenging area to succeed in so it is, therefore, reasonable to assume, even though there are a lot of people who have a lot of creative ideas, only a small portion would dare to continue realising those ideas. We do need a lot to start up a business; we need a huge amount of capital, a good relationship with people (networking) and a well-devised strategy to ensure its success and continuity. If you have read a book entitled The Art Of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, you would know that, in order to effectively make a decision regarding a new thing that we would like to venture in, don't be biased with what you were reviewing; other than successful people, you need to visit the graves of a failed one.
Putting a sum of money into a business and only making a small crap by the end of the day/month could be demotivating and thinking about it could impose a certain level of fear which might be hindering someone from starting a business. Infection by a parasite named Toxoplasma gondii seems to reduce that level of fear and encourage people to go ahead and immerse in high-risk activities, mostly are businesses. It's still a hypothesis but backed by a lot of evidence which might need to be reinvestigated to confirm its validity.
A Global Threat Parasitic Infection
Although cats are the only definitive host for the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, it can also reproduce in other animals as long as it possessed nucleated vertebral cells (usually warm-blooded animals). We can find people who were infected with this parasite, dogs, mice and even rabbits. The thing is, except for cats, we are their (parasites) intermediate host, agents which potentially can be the key/route to enter definitive hosts i.e. via ingestion. If you were thinking, it is practically impossible for us (humans) to be eaten by cats, then you must mean domestic cats while I'm talking about the whole cat family; lions, panthers, tigers etc.; if we are being eaten by man-eating cats while having tissue cysts of this particular parasite, then they can get infected. Though we (humans) can sustain the life of this particular parasite, they couldn't reproduce sexually to yield an infectious organism called the oocyte until they are being taken into a feline's gut.
The reproductive cycle of a Toxoplasma gondii can be divided into two which are sexual and asexual reproductions. Asexual reproduction took place in all organisms which can sustain this parasite while sexual reproduction can only happen if the parasite is introduced into the cat's gut. There are three types of infectious forms exhibited by this particular organism depending on the type of host they were currently residing in which are oocytes, tachyzoites and bradyzoites. To make it simple, oocytes is the external infectious agent which is usually produced by cats to infect other animals, bradyzoites are the slow-replicating parasitic form and tachyzoites are the fast-replicating parasitic form of Toxoplasma gondii. The most infectious form out of the three is the bradyzoite which is usually wrapped in a capsule forming tissue cysts; up to 90% of cats ingesting bradyzoites will shed oocyst in their faeces compared to approximately 40% of cats producing oocysts after ingesting either oocysts or tachyzoites.
When a cat eats an infected meat, during the ingestion, the capsule that wrapped around bradyzoites will be broken down by a series of enzymatic reaction releasing bradyzoites. These bradyzoites will either penetrate or remain in the epithelial cell of the cat's small intestine to reproduce by sexual or asexual reproduction. For those of which remain in the epithelial cell, they will multiply by asexual reproduction at the surface of the epithelial cell and later, sexual reproduction to produce male and female gametes that will be fertilised into a zygote and later oocytes. These oocytes will be later excreted in an unsporulated form which will later be sporulated in the external environment. Sporulation is an important process for the oocyte to survive in a harsh condition by providing a high degree of resistance before being taken up by other organisms who were having contact with the infected faeces or soil, whichever they will end up in.
What about the bradyzoites which penetrate the epithelial cell of the cat's intestine? They will penetrate through the lamina propria layer of the intestine and later multiply in the form of tachyzoites. These tachyzoites would then be distributed to all of the extraintestinal tissues (anywhere in the body) in which they will enter host cells, multiply to the point of cellular death, creating a micro area of infarction (micronecrotic area). This process will eventually be slowed down by the immune system which would cause the parasite to form bradyzoites and multiply slowly in the host tissue, mainly in brain and muscles. Even though some might have considered this stages as a dormant stage of Toxoplasmosis, but some rodents and according to the latest research, humans might experiences some kind of behavioural changes that would cause them to become fearless towards certain stimuli. I will be explaining this in the later part of this article.
People who were immunocompromised are easily affected by this pathogen. A study published by Foroutan M. et al in 2018 has found that, among 1048 haemodialysis patients, 50% of them were found to exhibit a positive immunoglobulin G against Toxoplasma gondii and 2% positive immunoglobulin M (Source). This study provides a perspective towards the importance of regular monitoring and screening of Toxoplasma infection among immunocompromised patients to avoid serious complications. In the United States, Toxoplasmosis has been regarded as the second commonest cause of death among people when it comes to food-borne diseases, ranging from serious complications caused by the disease itself or congenital complications (Source).
The incidence of Toxoplasmosis differs between countries, affected by a multitude of factors that could have influenced the survival of sporulated oocytes i.e. climate. Arid countries usually have the lowest incidence of this disease while tropical countries exhibit the highest infectious rate influenced by dietary habits such as hand washing before eating, methods of cooking and consumption of vegetable. In some low-income countries, most of the Toxoplasma cases are caused by waterborne contamination. Unless you have a 100 bucks to spend on a Lifesaver bottle that have the capabilities of filtering up to the smallest 20 nm virus, people will suffer from a multitude of diseases, particularly Toxoplasmosis if the problems were not being handled by the authorities. Curbing Toxoplasmosis is important as it could cause serious complications to a newborn if a pregnant mother is affected; screening for Toxoplasma gondii has been an important screening test for a newly diagnosed, pregnant mother.
Encouraging Risk Taking Behaviours
The mechanism of behavioural changes among people who bear the latent infection of Toxoplasma gondii is still unknown but there seems to be quite a number of evidence that pointed out said changes. Although one might argue that most of the conducted studies were using mice as its subject, however, the human's brain does resemble a mouse's brain in parts making it relevant to assume, whatever changes adopted by the affected mouse could have happened in humans as well. Mice which have become infected by the disease seems to literally walk toward cats instead of away from it, signalling lost of its natural fear towards its predator. A study published by Ajai Vyas et al in April 2009 has found that rodents who were infected by Toxoplasma gondii suddenly became attracted to cat's odour (Source). This behavioural change seems to elevate the chances for the parasite to propagate its number through sexual reproduction inside of the cat's gut; in other words, it controls the mind of its intermediate host for the sake of gaining access into its definitive host so that they can infect more rodents.
What about humans? Does it mean that we will become attracted to cats after we are being infected or are we going to jump into the tiger's or lion's den willingly? Fortunately, that's not the case. It was postulated that the parasite will modify the pattern of behaviour from a safe-player to a risk-taker as a side effect in humans. In 2002, a study was published in the Infectious Disease Journal of the Bio-Med Central, emphasizing that Toxoplasmosis might have been the most underestimated public health diseases that could have influenced the mortality rate. Through the research, it was found that people with a latent phase of Toxoplasmosis seem to have an increased risk to be involved in a traffic accident compared to the normal, healthy subject (Source).
Okay, the study could just have been an exaggerated reaction from the researchers since there were many factors that can contribute to the outcome of the event (which is an accident) but a few studies conducted afterwards seems to support that people who bear the latent infection of Toxoplasmosis tend to be reckless in making life choices. In 2007, a paper published by Jaroslav Flegr in the Journal of Psychoses and Related Disorders has found that Toxoplasmosis can increase the level of dopamine in the brain that can lead to schizophrenia. It also has the role of increasing the level of testosterone in the blood to ensure their survival against the body immune system which might have lead to behavioural changes such as fearless, aggressive and reckless (Source). So what about business? Why people who were infected tend to pursue businesses instead of other risky activities?
Scientists seem to be determined that people often linked a risky behaviour with business so a few series of research have been conducted to determine its validity. The first one was conducted among 1500 college students who are currently studying in the University of Colorado. Salivas were taken to have it screened for Toxoplasma antibody and it was found that infected people were 1.4 times more likely to pursue businesses course. Among all of the students who were taking business as their major subject, infected people are 1.7 times more likely to choose a much risky field such as entrepreneurship and management compared to the healthy people.
Next, they went ahead and tested a total of 197 people who attended a few social meetups and lectures related to entrepreneurship. They found that infected people were 1.8 times more likely to dive in and start up their own company while healthy people seem to either procrastinate or didn't start anything at all. Last but not least, after gathering some data from various countries, they found that people who are from a higher infectious rate country tend to involve more with businesses or were planning to start one. If the conclusion provided by the study is, in fact, accurate, then this disease can pose a significant effect towards the national economic foundation. Nevertheless, despite all of the results presented by the study, I think, further study should be carried out before appropriate plans can be initiated to curb the growing needs to pursue high-risk activities (I don't mean pursuing business only). Also, not all of the people who dare to take risk were infected, but there is no harm in getting tested right? Just to be safe.
- Cat Parasite May Make People More Entrepreneurial
- Toxoplasmosis: A Global Threat
- Medical Microbiology. 4th edition - Toxoplasma Gondii
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of the prevalence of toxoplasmosis in hemodialysis patients in Iran.
- Risky business: linking Toxoplasma gondii infection and entrepreneurship behaviours across individuals and countries
- The Neurotropic Parasite Toxoplasma Gondii Increases Dopamine Metabolism
- Epidemiology of and Diagnostic Strategies for Toxoplasmosis
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