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Parasite in cat feces could reduce people's fear of failure

28 July 2018

In this new effort, the researchers noted that rodents infected with the parasite tend to experience behavioral changes, such as engaging with cats, rather than running from them.

According to a new study, a parasite present in cat feces has the ability to alter human minds and reduce the fear of failure in humans. Around 200 people who attended entrepreneurial events and picked up the parasite were about twice as likely to have established their own business as the other people at the event while around 1300 students from the USA found who carried the parasite were 1.7 times more likely to major in business.

Finally, analysis of databases from 42 countries revealed that on a global scale, prevalence of T. gondii infection was a "consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity".

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that affects many warm-blooded animals, but cats are its only known definitive host, in which it can reproduce.

"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", said Stefanie K. Johnson, lead author of the study and an associate professor in CU Boulder's Leeds School of Business.

Published in scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study shows a causal link between a willingness to open up a new business and being infected with the parasite - but that doesn't mean you should open a deli if you test positive.

Economics research has historically emphasized the importance of rationality in explaining human decisions, with individuals considering benefits and risks before acting in their self-interest.

A single-celled parasite that worms its way into the brain may be the secret driving force behind entrepreneurs around the world, research suggests.

Their findings, they said, indicate that microbes might play a role in human behavior and culture. Only time, and more research, will tell.

They saliva tested almost 1,700 subjects for antibodies to toxoplasma. More benignly, the human gut microbiome contains bacteria that have been linked to mood, diet and immune system functions. Finally, Johnson said she wants to study if toxoplasma has any effect on whether a person becomes more conservative or liberal in their political leanings.

"Countries with higher T gondii prevalence generally had a lower fraction of respondents who cited "fear of failure" as a factor preventing them from initiating a business-related enterprise". "There's got to be many, many more", she said.

In addition they were 1.70 times more likely to be focusing on "management and entrepreneurship" than other business-related areas. They found that professionals who tested positive were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business or company compared to other professionals who attended the events. Like what happens to the businesses that are created by people with toxoplasma. And people who died "in a risky way" were more likely to have had the toxoplasma infection, she said.

Parasite in cat feces could reduce people's fear of failure