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Scientists believe that not only the infectious parasite carried by cats could affect human personality but also intelligence. Further more, the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to schizophrenia and increased chances of being knocked down by a car.

Previous studies have shown that the parasite could affect unborn children and this is why pregnant women are advised not to clean the cat litter tray.

The parasite is an intracellular protozoa and a relative of the malaria bug. It affects all mammals and this is actually the biggest risk of contraction by human – by eating an undercooked burger or bacon sandwich.
Lately, scientists have begun to unpick the parasite effects on behaviour.

They found that the infected rats lost their aversion to cats and were more likely to be eaten by them, allowing this way the parasite to complete its life cycle.

There are not so many experiments in humans, but results from some student studies showed that infected people had different personality traits in comparison to non-infected people - and that the differences were dependant on sex. While infected men were more likely to be aggressive, jealous and suspicious, women became more outgoing and showed signs of higher intelligence.

Back in 2001, Czech scientists had found that toxoplasma infection and subsequent delayed reaction times were linked to a greater risk of traffic accidents. If this were true, then about a million people a year could be dying just because they are infected with toxoplasma.

While there is no information for human infections, in rats, the infection has been shown to affect the brain chemical dopamine, thus affecting behaviour. Scientists believe that there might be similar association in people.

In Britain, one third of population are the carriers of the parasite and this statistics show us that the parasite effects may be less pronounced than some press reports have led people to believe.
For those who are interested, a simple blood test for antibodies raised against the parasite could tell if infected or not.

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Wow, that sounds like the beginnings of one of those science fiction movies where the parasite takes control of people.
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