So that's what happened to me!
'Cat parasite can change human behaviour'
- By Our London Correspondent
London, Sept. 21: Cats have the ability to influence human behaviour. Britain' s estimated nine million domestic cats are being blamed by scientists for infecting up to half the population with a parasite that can alter people's personalities.
The figures emerge from studies into toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by almost all the UK's feline population and maybe elsewhere in the world. They show that half of Britain's human population carry the parasite in their brains, and that infected people may undergo slow but crucial changes in their behaviour.
Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive. Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the "sex kitten" effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun-loving and possibly more promiscuous.
The number of people infected in France is much higher than in the UK.
The findings will not please cat lovers. The research, conducted at universities in Britain, the Czech Republic and America, was sponsored by the Stanley Research Medical Institute of Maryland, a leading centre for the study of mental illness. The institute has already published research showing that people infected with the toxoplasma parasite are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and manic depression.
The study into more subtle changes in human personality is being carried out by professor Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague. In one study he subjected more than 300 volunteers to personality profiling while also testing them for toxoplasma.
He found the women infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. "We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked," he said. "However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men."
By contrast, the infected men appeared to suffer from the "alley cat" effect: becoming less well groomed undesirable loners who were more willing to fight. They were more likely to be suspicious and jealous. "They tended to dislike following rules," professor Flegr said.
He also discovered that people infected with toxoplasma had delayed reaction times, and are at greater risk of being involved in car accidents. "Toxoplasma infection, could represent a serious and highly underestimated economic and public health problem," he said."