News of the WeekEvolution

Parasites Make Scaredy-Rats Foolhardy

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Science  28 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5479, pp. 525-527
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5479.525b

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In the 7 August issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, researchers offer a striking demonstration of the ability of some parasites to alter the behavior of their hosts for their own benefit. Rats, the intermediate hosts of the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, appear to lose their fear of cats, Toxoplasma's final host, when the parasite infects them. By precisely altering rat brains, the parasite potentially increases its chances of completing its life cycle.