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Neuroparasites: The Zombie Makers


Admittedly, the keywords neuroparasite, zombie or insect do not sound too cuddly even for die-hard animal lovers. Nevertheless: Let yourself be carried away into a universe that looks like science fiction in many places, but is incredibly real.

Neuroparasites: Hello dear cat, it's me, the mouse!

Toxoplasma gondii is one such case. Do not you know? Behind the cryptic-sounding name is a neuroparasite that attacks rats and mice, and controls its hosts from the inside by switching off their natural instinct to flee from cats. The rodents are no longer shy about their natural enemies, they are even attracted to the smell of cat urine - and steer unerringly into their death. Toxoplasma gondii reproduces in the intestines of the cats, is excreted again and can affect the next farm animal. Similar incidents are known from the world of insects, for example ants.

Gruesome wonders of nature

The majority of neuroparasites affect the brain of their hosts with neurotransmitters such as dopamine, octamine and serotonin. In doing so, they urge their victims to take actions that would be completely out of the question for the animals under normal circumstances, such as ignoring the natural survival instincts.

Man as a zombie?

Scientists estimate that 30 percent of people in developed countries are already infected with Toxoplasma gondii. As a rule, we do not show any symptoms on the neuroparasites, but studies have shown that infected people have an impaired reaction time and can sometimes trigger violent forms of schizophrenia. Mental illnesses can also be aggravated. Nevertheless: A fate as a zombie does not threaten us, insects all the more.

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