American researchers have discovered a parasite that would make us more… Beautiful! Toxoplasma gondii would indeed modify the perception of our appearance, but how?
the Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite manipulating the behavior of the being it infects. For example, after infecting a rat, it can push it straight into the claws of a cat, their natural predator. A great victory for the parasitewhich needs to infect a feline to reproduce…
Be careful, Toxoplasma gondii does not only infect cats or rodents but also other animals and… humans ! In a study, published on March 25, in the scientific journal of biology and medicine PeerJ, 50% of humanity is contaminated by this parasite.
Mental disorders and changes in facial features
Generally, the presence of the parasite in our body goes unnoticed while it remains in our organism until our death. Nevertheless, some people, after contamination, can develop some mental disorders such as schizophrenia, suicidal ideation, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Namely, that in pregnant women, the parasite can also cross the placenta, and pose a risk to the fetus.
American scientists then wondered if, like in rats, the parasite could affect our behavior or even our physical appearance. They then first assessed self-perceived attractiveness by people carrying the parasite or not, or the image they have of themselves. According to the conclusions of the study: 35 were carriers of the parasites and 178 were not. People infected with Toxoplasma gondii would consider themselves as more attractive than the uninfected, thanks to a delicate modification of facial features. And unfortunately it’s not a joke…
Does the parasite really make “more beautiful”?
To draw these conclusions, the researchers analyzed more than twenty photos of the face of each participant, contaminated or not by the parasite. They built a “beauty scale”, analyzing several criteria such as body mass index (BMI), facial asymmetry, number of sexual partners, number of minor infections or the width/height ratio of the face, in other words the facial asymmetry. Subjective criteria whose real scientific relevance is unknown, and which seem straight out of a magician’s hat… Strange…
They then calculated their seduction potential and their state of health on this subjective “beauty scale” from 1 to 10: 1 for unattractive or in poor health and 10 for very attractive or in good health. The scientists also worked on images ofa typical profile of people infected with the parasite and those not infected.
The results are disturbing and somewhat perplexing… Indeed, women infected with this parasite, for example, had a lower BMI and had had sex with more men than others. American researchers have also found that infected individuals would present a lower facial asymmetry than the others. This would be one of the signs of an individual’s good health. This is the reason why people infected with Toxoplasma gondii are perceived by others as being “prettier” and healthier than those not infected with the parasite.
Is there a scientific explanation?
But then, how can a simple parasite have this power to modify the perception of our appearance? Scientists still don’t know a lot of things, but they think that Toxoplasma gondii would have an impact on testosterone levels and would then modify the physical traits linked to this hormone.
Another hypothesis would be that the parasite could increase the metabolic rate in order to influence the perception that people infected with said parasite have of their health and attractiveness. The metabolic rate is the amount of energy burned by the body at rest each day.
Currently, researchers are certain of only one thing. Toxoplasma gondii can be sexually transmitted as they note in their report:
” In any case, the phenotypic changes observed in Toxoplasma-infected subjects may represent transmission-related advantages for the parasite, as T. gondii can be transmitted sexually. »
Beauty and good health are the winning equation for Toxoplasma gondii as this would increase its chances of spreading. Still, the mystery still persists on this parasite, and that its mechanism remains partially elucidated.as confirmed by the authors of the scientific publication:
“It is therefore possible that the same effects reported in infected rats are present in humans with Toxoplasma. »
Parasite or not, beauty shouldn’t be defined by standards, because each face, however asymmetrical, bears its share of uniqueness and particularities. And like Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Beingadvocate “Beauty by mistake, the last stage in the history of beauty. » Finally, the only one that is really legitimate.
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Featured Image: © National Cancer Institute – Unsplash