Parasite spread by cats drives entrepreneurial brilliance in humans

Pearl Mccarthy
July 28, 2018

Part of the study found that professionals attending business events were nearly twice as likely to have started their own enterprise if they were T. gondii positive.

They haven't actually shown that. But toxoplasma does get into the brain, and it's been linked to a variety of mental effects in mice and people alike. And fear of failure could be a good thing, Johnson said. Although it rarely produces physical symptoms other than a mild flu-like illness, T. gondii has been linked to an increase risk of vehicle accidents, neuroticism and suicide, and can cause serious health problems for unborn babies if caught by pregnant women.

University of Colorado researchers tested their hypothesis on university students and found that infection with the parasite had an influence on the participants' entrepreneurial behaviour and risk taking tendencies.

Despite the seemingly positive effect of the parasite on people's entrepreneurial behavior, Toxoplasma infection can be risky. The parasite also is believed to alter the behavior of the rodents, thus leading them to be less fearful of cats.

A parasite spread by cats could be the key to being a successful entrepreneur, scientists have concluded.

The researchers also compiled national statistics from 42 countries over the past 25 years and found that T. gondii infection prevalences (ranging from 9 percent in Norway to 60 percent in Brazil) proved to be a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity, even when controlling for relative national wealth and opportunity factors. The feces of cats have a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, that can invade a human brain and affect the decision making skills.

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File of cat in a litter box.

If it gets into your system it could be weeks or months before the flu-like symptoms appear, if they ever do, after which the parasite will remain latent in the body for life.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the new study looked at the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii in1,495 undergraduate students.

Johnson's husband, Pieter Johnson, teaches biology at the university. In an additional survey of 197 adult professionals attending entrepreneurship events, infected individuals were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees. Among the business majors, students who tested positive were 1.7 times more likely to be focusing on management and entrepreneurship. Of business major students, those who tested positive were also found to be 1.7 times more likely to focus on management and entrepreneurship.

"As humans, we like to think that we are in control of our actions", study co-author Pieter Johnson said in a press release.

The researchers note that starting a business is considered to be very risky behavior-most fail at it and suffer economically as a result.

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