Cat and Mouse: From Foes to Friends?


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As a kid, the cartoons that we would watch on Saturday mornings usually included Tom and Jerry. Now, everyone knows that cats don't like mice, and mice don't like cats, right? If there's one thing Tom and Jerry taught us, its that cats like to eat mice! What if that's not the case?
tom and jerry.jpg
The parasite toxoplasma gondii is known to inhibit a mouse's innate fear of felines, however, even after being cursed of the parasitic disease toxoplamsois, the mice that have had the disease, or who have had the disease and been cured, fear cats less than mice without the disease (Hogenboom, BBC). These mice, although they fear cats less, do however have many adverse side effects of toxoplamosis like brain cysts. The parasitic disease also affects humans, causing pregnancy issues, but can change moods in patients with schizophrenia and can lessen the effects of Alzheimer's. Now, the discovery of mice who have been infected with the toxoplasma gondii parasite has larger effects on the practice of medicine. The fact that the parasite, once cured, has lasting effects on a person opens the door to finding cures for other aliments. Infecting someone purposefully and then curing the infectious disease in order to get the neurological/other changes brings new possibilities for treatment of diseases.
Now, how exactly do we cure the parasite toxoplasma gondii in order to reap the benefits before it causes damage? Doctors usually prescribe sulfadiazine along with daraprim (used to treat malaria. If you are generally healthy, you do not need medication to treat toxoplasmosis, the parasite will go away in several weeks. If you are HIV/AIDS positive, you will need the treatment because of your lowered immune system (Mayo Clinic). So, could infecting a schizophrenic potentially change their moods and have other desired neurological effects? Potentially, after all, it did change a seemingly irrevocable relationship between felines and rodents.

1 Comment

Laura,

This post was actually mind-blowing. Never would I ever have thought that receiving a parasite and then curing yourself from it could actually reap benefits. Your connection to the cartoon show Tom & Jerry gave a good analogy and transition into your reasoning behind why some mice don't fear cats. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__K104jSGzs This 10 minute youtube video explains the parasite Taxoplasma Gondii and gives a good visual of what it looks like. If you haven't seen this video check it out. I think whenever I now watch Tom & Jerry, this parasite will now pop into my thoughts. My only question now is where can I get this parasite and cure? I want to reap these benefits from these little buggers.

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