While parasites are known to manipulate the behaviour of ants, as well as various other creatures, to the human race, the idea of ‘zombies’ has been delegated entirely to the realm of science fiction.
That is until now. As parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr reveals that beneath the aberrant behaviour of a driver, or the vicious attack of a placid politician, lies an insidious microbe that appears bent on world domination.
Taxoplasma gondii is the culprit, a microorganism with a favourite haunt – the inside of a rat. In fact, the only time it doesn’t like dwelling inside a rat, is during reproduction, when it prefers to live in a cat. How about that!
While rats don’t like cats, the bacteria has overcome the problem of getting close to its feline host with a simple bit of rewiring. It brainwashes rats into taking risks near a cat. The rat invariably gets eaten, and T. gondii leaps to its love nest.
However, far from just hanging with the rats and the cats, T. gondii, is also known to inhabit roughly 40% of the human population, although ostensibly without the same behavioural effect.
Recently, Dr Flegr tested the blood of drivers known to cause accidents, and found it was two and a half times more likely that hoons were inhabited by T. gondii than otherwise. According to Dr Flegr, zombies are indeed on our roads, and microorganisms are making a ruckus on our highways.
Although it is currently not known to what extent the parasite can control human behaviour, T. gondii has been positively implicated in the development of schizophrenia.
The news has unsurprisingly caused pandemonium amongst the general populace, with millions avoiding the highways, and an unceremonious decline in cat affection occurring worldwide.
However, Dr Vladimir Kooloff, scientist at Russia’s Secret Service (RSS), is utterly tickled by the news. He says a microorganism of such malicious intelligence could infiltrate politicians and surly Russian mother-in-laws for the RSS, all for a fortnightly bag of cats and rats.