Study suggests mind-altering parasites can make infected people more attractive

Parasite that hacks the brain Toxoplasma It seems to be everywhere. The microscopic invader is thought to infect up to 50% of humans, and numerous studies suggest it can alter human behavior, as well as many other animals.

The parasite has been linked to a wide variety of neurological disorders, including schizophrenia and psychotic episodes, and scientists are still discovering more mysterious effects that can result from infection.

In a new study like this, researchers found that men and women infected with the parasite were considered more attractive and healthier than uninfected individuals.

At first glance, this may seem strange and improbable. But in theory, the phenomenon could make sense from an evolutionary biology perspective, the scientists say.

Above: Composite images of 10 males and females with toxoplasmosis (A), alongside 10 composite images of 10 uninfected females and males (B).

Amid many neurological changes T. Gundy Infection appears to occur in its hosts, and the researchers hypothesize that certain effects may sometimes be beneficial to affected animals — which may also benefit the parasite, later helping to increase its own transmission capabilities.

“to a studyEn ToxoplasmaInfected mice were considered more sexually attractive and uninfected females preferred them as sexual partners. Explained in a new article Led by first author and biologist Javier Poraz Leon of the University of Turku in Finland.

Much research has been done to determine whether similar effects can be seen in humans. T. Gundy infection.

The evidence is far from clear, but there is some evidence that infected men have higher levels of testosterone than uninfected men.

Undoubtedly, men with higher levels of testosterone may be more susceptible to infection with the parasite in the first place, due to higher levels of risky behavior associated with the hormone.

The other view, however, is that the parasite may be able to alter its host’s phenotype and manipulate chemicals in the animal’s body, such as neurotransmitters and hormones, for its further purposes.

Boraz Leon and his team suggest these changes could be profound.

“Some parasites are sexually transmitted, such as: T. Gundychanges in the appearance and behavior of the human host can occur, either as a byproduct of infection or as a result of manipulation of the parasite to increase its spread to new hosts. Researchers write.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers compared 35 people (22 men and 13 women) with T. Gundy Compared to 178 people (86 men and 92 women) who did not carry the parasite.

However, all participants (including those infected) were healthy college students who had already had a blood test. Another study confirms T. Gundy

After a number of different tests involving participants, including surveys, physical measurements and visual assessments, the researchers found: ToxoplasmaInfected individuals have noticeably less facial asymmetry than uninfected individuals.

Volatile asymmetry is a measure of the deviation from symmetrical traits, where lower levels of asymmetry (ie, higher symmetry) are associated with, among other things, better physical health, good genes, and attractiveness.

In addition, women who carried the parasite had lower body mass and BMI than uninfected women, and they reported greater self-perception and more sexual partners.

In a separate experiment, a group of 205 independent volunteers reviewed pictures of participants’ faces, and raters found that affected participants appeared significantly more attractive and healthier than unaffected participants.

In interpreting the results, the researchers say it is possible T. Gundy Infections can cause changes in the facial symmetry of their hosts through changes in endocrine variables, such as testosterone levels.

In addition, the parasite can also affect metabolism in hosts, alerting infected people in ways that can influence their perception of health and attractiveness.

This is just speculation at this point, however, and the team recognizes that other explanations also apply, including the idea that highly asymmetrical and attractive people might better bear the physiological costs of parasitism, which are considered a health burden in other respects. †

As for a valid interpretation, it’s impossible to say for sure based on this study alone, and the researchers acknowledge that the small sample size of their experiment is a limiting factor for their statistical analysis.

For this reason, future studies with larger numbers of participants will be needed to confirm or refute their general hypothesis.

But maybe—just maybe, they say—this baffling parasite isn’t necessarily our enemy after all.

“It is possible that the apparently unsatisfactory and potentially beneficial interactions between T. Gundy And some of its intermediate hosts, such as rats and humans, are the result of co-evolutionary strategies that benefit, or at least do not impair, the fitness of both the parasite and the host. Researchers write.

The results are reported in mountain

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