Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mind-Control Parasite Kills Mice's Fear of Cats Permanently

The loss of mice's innate fear may persist after the parasite responsible (T. gondii) is no longer detectable in their brains, suggesting that initial infection may cause permanent changes in the mechanisms underlying their fear of predators.

a cat and mouse on friendly terms 

A fair amount of research has taken place on Toxoplasma gondii, the bizarre parasite that makes mice unafraid of cats, and the latest chapter is a strange one.

A new study shows that even a brief infection with a weakened form of the protozoan caused mice to permanently lose their innate fear of cats.

The protozoan is known to cause this change in mice after a lingering infection and after it produces cysts in the mouse brain, according to the study, published online Sept. 18 in the journal PLOS ONE. But until now scientists didn't know this apparently long-lasting change could occur after only a short infection, and without development of cysts and brain inflammation. The study also showed the change occurred with weakened forms of all three major variants of the protozoa found in North America. [The 10 Most Diabolical & Disgusting Parasites].

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