Bug in cats' poo creates top entre-purr-neurs
A parasite spread by cats reduces fear of failure in humans, according to new research
A parasite spread by cats could be the key to being a successful entrepreneur, scientists have concluded.
The discovery suggests there may be a bizarre advantage to being infected by the organism, Toxoplasma gondii.
According to the findings, the single-celled parasite worms its way into the brain and causes personality changes associated with risk-taking.
While rarely producing symptoms other than a mild flu-like illness, T. gondii infection – which studies suggest has affected up to 50% of the world’s population – has been linked to car accidents, neuroticism and suicide.Now the latest research provides new evidence that it actually drives risk-taking in business, helping to promote entrepreneural activity.
Part of the study found that professionals attending business events were almost twice as likely to have started their own enterprise if they were T. gondii-positive.
An assessment of almost 1,300 US students also showed that those who had been exposed to the parasite were 1.7 times more likely to be majoring in business.
In addition, they were 1.7 times more likely to be focusing on “management and entrepreneurship” than other business-related areas.
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”. The results appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.Dr Stefanie Johnson, from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business in the US, and her fellow authors wrote: “Populations with higher T. gondii infection had greater intentions to start a business and higher levels of active entrepreneurship behaviours.
“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.”
Entrepreneurship was characterised as a “high-risk, high-reward” activity often accompanied by a loss of economic stability, said the researchers.The findings suggested that reduced fear of failure may be the key factor explaining the association between T. gondii infection and entrepreneurship.
The parasite has also been shown to alter the behaviour of rodents in ways that increase their chances of being killed and eaten by cats.
While T. gondii commonly spends part of its life cycle in rodents, birds and other animals, it can only reproduce in domestic cats and their relatives.
Its egg-like oocysts are shed in cat faeces, to be picked up by other hosts.