Scientists have discovered the latest “beauty secret” – a discovery that sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke at best, and proof that we’re rushing into a dystopian future and potentially the end of the world at worst. A new study published in bergindicates that people infected with a particular parasite can appear more “attractive” and “healthier-looking” than their uninfected counterparts.
Toxoplasma, the microscopic invader behind it, is already considered “the most successful parasite in the world”. Although its existence was discovered just over 100 years ago, it is known to infect up to 50% of humans – although many remain asymptomatic for having it in their bodies. But among immunocompromised children or adults, the parasite can cause flu-like symptoms and blurred vision.
Cats often transmit the “brain-dwelling” parasite, and it has also been linked to neurological disorders such as schizophrenia in the past – but a cause has not been identified. Scientists conducted the study to gain a better understanding and deeper insights into the undetected effects of the parasite.
In 2011, a similar experiment was performed on mice as well; The results were the same as those of the current study. Uninfected female mice found infected males to be more sexually attractive than their uninfected counterparts. Female mice were more likely to choose affected males for sexual participation as well.
As strange as this phenomenon may seem, evolutionary biology may be able to help us understand it.
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Some sexually transmitted parasites such as T. Gundymay result in changes in the appearance and behavior of the human host, either as a byproduct of infection or as a result of manipulating the parasite to increase its spread to new hosts,” the authors note. In other words, the parasite may enhance its host’s metabolic processes and alter its hormone levels so that it attracts more sexual partners— This allows the parasite to spread further and infect more people.
To some extent, this explanation makes sense. It was found that affected women had a lower body mass index; Traditionally considered attractive, lower BMI can Indicate better metabolism. Additionally, affected men are known to have higher levels of testosterone, which may indicate a hormonal change. It’s also possible, though, that “men with higher levels of testosterone could be more susceptible to infection with the parasite in the first place, through higher levels of hormone-related risk-taking behavior,” writes Peter Dockrell, a science and journalist Technical.
But at the end of the day, these are just hypotheses to explain what purpose the parasite might serve to make its hosts appear more attractive. Further research will be the next step not only to verify the hypotheses, but also to understand the basic biological processes involved in carrying out this ‘beauty transformation’.
Despite everything we know, the results of future studies about T. Gundy It may yield more intriguing results. As Dockrill notes, perhaps we will discover that the parasite is not our enemy at all – indicating the realization of a symbiotic relationship between the species between us.
Researchers seem to keep their minds open, too. “It is possible that the apparently unsatisfactory and potentially beneficial interactions between T. Gundy And some of its intermediate hosts, such as rats and humans, are the result of shared evolutionary strategies that benefit, or at least do not harm, the fitness of both the parasite and the host.