Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Okay, maybe I read too many journals, but I remember when this study was first reported. Now it has made it to the general media...

It seems that there is a one-celled parasite that specializes in rat brains. Only place it can live happily, it seems, and it reproduces there like mad -- asexually.

The only place where this parasite -- remember? It's one-celled -- can have sex, is in cat stomachs.

So, what happens is that when the parasite population in the rat's brain gets large enough, the rat's behavior towards predators -- specifically, cats -- changes dramatically. Not only does the rat not run from cats, it may run towards cats!

Are you following the implications here? A one-celled organism, when its population gets large enough, changes basic survival behavior of a multi-celled organism...

That's just freaky!

Rats aren't that different, physiologically, from us humans. No, really. That's why rats are used extensively in physiology research.

So, if that sort of thing can happen to rats, can it happen to me? Or you? (There are already some studies that suggest this particular organism does, in fact, cause some strange behaviors when it infects humans. See link below.)

Consider sneezes: they do spread cold germs pretty effectively......and they aren't generally considered a voluntary response, meaning we don't sneeze when we decide to do it...

Or how about sexually transmitted diseases? They are spread by promiscuous sexual activity, which in most cultures' lore is considered immoral even though it may in practice be common. Current preventive education even gives notion that promiscuity causes STDs.

What if an infection of genital herpes virus, for instance, when it reaches sufficient numbers in its host, actually influences behavior that will result in transmission of the disease cells? Will it soon be an acceptable excuse to wail: "It wasn't my fault. I couldn't help myself. Must have been the herpes.....?"

This is National Public Radio report which set off this blog. And the article that set them off.

And the link to an in depth article on Toxoplasmosis on the Emerging Infectious Diseases site .


Just because you are paranoid about bugs eating your brain...

...doesn't mean they aren't.

Your only recourse is to develop strong supportive relationships, a whole network of family and friends you can trust when they tell you something. The more eyes and ears and perspectives you can rely upon, the healthier you will be.

Because it is clear that one person, looking from inside the envelope, really can't see the 'big' picture.

But we can get by, with a little help from our friends!