Toxoplasmosis, the ‘litter tray parasite’, is good for business which means that by most people’s standards it is good for the world 🙂
This is because increased business activity means economic growth which in turn means the generation of wealth which filters down to increase overall well-being. Or the money stays at the top! It depends on your viewpoint. In general increased wealth creation is probably a good thing.
An interesting if not slightly strange study conducted by Dr Stephanie Johnson from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business together with colleagues, concluded that populations of people with higher Toxoplasma gondii infection had a greater desire to start businesses. Their entrepreneurial skills were fired up by the protozoan. Nice thought. Starting a business is one of the riskiest things a person can do.
Dr Johnson said that she was unsurprised by the results.
“Other data has looked at autopsy results from people who died doing risky things – riding a motorcycle without a helmet or skydiving”. These people were more likely to have toxoplasmosis.
This finding from a study of 1,300 US students is a reflection of previous studies on rats. Infected rats take more risks around predators such as cats. Infected rats explore unfamiliar places and may be attracted to cat urine.
The students exposed to the parasite were 1.7 times more likely to be majoring in business.
As for professionals attending business events the study found that they were almost twice as likely to have started their own business when infected by the parasite.
The study examined databases from 42 countries (see below) and decided that the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infections was a “consistent predictor of entrepreneurial activity”.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The reason why this article is relevant to this site is because the cat sheds Toxoplasma gondii oocysts which is part of the lifecycle of this parasite. The feces of infected cats are a source of infection. But the oocysts are only passed for a very short time after exposure.
So the domestic and feral cat is attacked by people who dislike cats (the oocysts can (rarely) be washed into the oceans causing damage to whales and otters). The point of this article is to demonstrate that there are some unlikely positives to a T gondii infection (if you believe the conclusions)! That said most infections come from eating raw or undercooked lamb and pork which contains toxplasma organisms.
In an earlier post I mentioned that this parasite can be used to treat cancer believe it or not. Feline intestinal toxoplasmosis is normally asymptomatic (no apparent symptoms).
A note about the study
There were three groups of students. The first group was a sample of 1,500 students who were on business or biology courses. The students on the business course were 50% more likely to be infected by Toxoplasma gondii. The second group concerned 200 people attending entrepreneurship events. In this group infected people were 80% more likely to start their own business.
Thirdly they investigated how infection rates globally affected entrepreneurial activity. Again there was a link. The fear of failure was less of a barrier for those infected.
How can this information be used if at all?
Britain, apparently has one of the lowest infection rates of this parasite in the world. I have no idea why. Even though those infected are more likely to take risks and start a business we don’t know if they made better or worse business decisions or whether they succeeded. Perhaps there risk taking lead them towards recklessness.
P.S. Personally I have some doubts about the study. I’d welcome comments even from cat hating, toxoplasmosis loving trolls provided they curtail the insults.
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