In a recent scientific study, it has been observed that the Toxoplasma gondii virus is not only restricted to cats. The study showcased that the virus reduced fear in rats, making them prone to be preyed upon on by other animals. The virus is an intestinal coccidium (protozoan parasites) that tag member of the cat family as absolute hosts.
The study states that human beings can also be infected with the virus. According to the study, when a human being contracts the virus, it forms a cyst that can affect any part of the human body and cause toxoplasmosis. It further states that the decrease in anxiety levels induced by the protozoan parasite is also termed as a fatal attraction.
In the study, the scientists conducted an analysis of changes caused by the virus on the behaviour and physiology of the host along with parasite cyst load and distribution. Following this, the virus-infected rats showcased curiosity and an increased want of exploring things in a challenging environment. The subjects were also found to not differentiate live and immobile stimuli. The initial altered sociability factor of the rodents resulted in an ability to properly process signals that may give an indication about potential threatening situations.
One of the scientists working on the study, Pierre-Mehdi Hammoudi said that the results were different from an already present idea. Hammoudi said that the T. gondii virus's ability to influence the host's behaviour specifically targeted neural circuits responding to predators belonging to the feline family.
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasitic one-celled apicomplexan that causes Toxoplasmosis. According to reports, the T. gondii virus has the capability to affect almost all warm-blooded animals but feline animals such as cats are the only known definitive hosts in which the protozoan parasite can go through sexual reproduction. The lifecycle of the virus may be described as a sexual component that occurs only in cats and an asexual component that can affect virtually all warm-blooded animals such as humans, birds, cats etc.