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Study: People with cat-borne parasite more likely to be business-oriented

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Researchers report that a mind-controlling parasite found in cat feces can increase a person's likelihood of going into business-related activities. Photo by bogitw/Pixabay

By Allen Cone, UPI

A mind-controlling parasite found in cat feces increases a person's likelihood of studying business and going into entrepreneurial-related careers, according to a study.

University of Colorado Boulder researchers studied the effects of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which reproduces in wild and domestic cats, and also can be found in undercooked meat. In the findings, published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that those infected with the parasite were 1.4 times more likely to major in business and 1.7 times more likely to pursue a management and entrepreneurship emphasis.

These results were based on studying 1,495 undergraduate students at the University of Colorado.

[post_ads]In addition, researchers also compiled statistics from 42 countries over the past 25 years, finding that the infection was a consistent predictor of entrepreneurial activity when controlling for wealth and opportunity factors. It ranged from from 9 percent more likely in Norway to 60 percent in Brazil.

About 30 percent of the world's 7.4 billion people are infected with the latent parasite, according to the Toxoplasmosis Research Institute and Center.

In the past, the T. gondii has been correlated with impulsive behaviors and health outcomes such as increased risk of car accidents, road rage, mental illness, neuroticism, drug abuse and suicide

"As humans, we like to think that we are in control of our actions," co-study leader Pieter Johnson, a professor in CU Boulder's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, said in a press release. "But emerging research shows that the microorganisms we encounter in our daily lives have the potential to influence their hosts in significant ways."

While T. gondii requires a cat in order to reproduce, the idea of microbes influencing human action isn't all that unheard of. The human gut microbiome contains bacteria that have been linked to mood, diet and immune system functions in previous studies.

Although rationality has historically explained human decisions, the researchers believe T. gondii exposure might push people toward higher risk, higher reward activities.

Nations with a higher infection prevalence had a lower fraction of respondents that cite a "fear of failure" as a deterrent to a new business venture.

"We can see the association in terms of the number of businesses and the intent of participants, but we don't know if the businesses started by T.gondii-positive individuals are more likely to succeed or fail in the long run," lead author Stefanie K. Johnson, an associate professor in CU Boulder's Leeds School of Business said. "New ventures have high failure rates, so a fear of failure is quite rational. T.gondii might just reduce that rational fear."
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The researchers noted the study is correlational and not causal.

"Infectious diseases have strongly shaped human history and culture over millions of years," Pieter Johnson said. "Today, we like to believe our decisions and destiny are ours alone, but the contributing roles of our microscopic companions are increasingly apparent."

A study published in 2016 suggested that people diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder are twice as likely to carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

"If you've got someone with aggression problems, you might check them for toxoplasmosis," Dr. Emil Coccaro, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago who led the 2016 study, said at the time. "People who blow up have a real problem. It's not just a character problem or bad behavior. There's something underneath that's driving it."

And like the Colorado study, the Chicago research was not a clinical trial and the results don't establish a direct cause-and-effect link.

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Health - U.S. Daily News: Study: People with cat-borne parasite more likely to be business-oriented
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