Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that makes you sexy!

Being infected by a parasite would make us more beautiful! This fascinating observation was made by an international team of researchers. But, how does the parasite in question, Toxoplasma gondiidoes it change the perception of our appearance?

Toxoplasma gondii is a small parasite capable of manipulating the behavior of its host. Through partially elucidated mechanisms, it pushes the rats it infects straight into the claws of cats – yet their natural predator. The operation is a winner for the parasite which has only one objective, to contaminate a feline to reproduce.

Toxoplasma gondii does not infect only cats and rodents, but other animals and human beings. It is estimated that 50% of humanity is infected with this parasite. In most cases, its presence goes unnoticed and it stays in our body until death. But a small percentage of infected people can develop mental disorders: schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts or obsessive compulsive disorder. The parasite can also cross the placenta and pose a risk to the baby in pregnant women.

Is it possible that as observed in rats, the parasite can manipulate our behavior, or even our appearance? physical ? A recent study published in PeerJ concludes that people infected with Toxoplasma gondii are perceived as more attractive than non-infected, thanks to a subtle change in facial features.

When a parasite makes us beautiful

To reach this conclusion, the scientists compiled about twenty photos of the face of each participant, infected or not by the parasite. Their potential for seduction as well as their subjective state of health are assessed on a scale of 1 to 10; 1 for repulsive or unhealthy and 10 for very attractive or healthy. In addition, composite images of a standard profile of an infected and non-infected person were created and submitted to the appreciation of the participants.

The result is fascinating. People infected with T. gondii, both men and women, are perceived to be significantly more attractive and in better health than those who are not contaminated by the parasite. On closer inspection, scientists have noticed that infected individuals have less facial asymmetry than others. How can a parasite change the perception of our appearance in this way?

Scientists aren’t sure yet, but Toxoplasma could act on testosterone levels and thus modify the physical traits linked to this hormone. For the parasite, it’s all won! The beauty and apparent good health of its host would increase its chances of spreading. ” It is therefore possible that the same effects reported in infected rats are present in humans by Toxoplasma “, write the scientists in their publication.

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