Two new studies came out yesterday about parasites. You know, those nasty little microbes that live inside our body, sucking resources from us and slowly deteriorating our health just for their survival? I know, gross topic, but follow me on this.
The first study showed how parasites that infest rodents can actually make the rats no longer be afraid of cats, thus becoming an easy target for lunch and spread itself to another organism. These parasites can actually alter the rats fear response and brain, so that it can be eaten by a cat, and grant a free ride from the rat to the cat. Amazing! (in the grossest sense of the word)
A second and unrelated study showed that shrimp infected with a certain parasite became more voracious eaters, taking less time to consume their food, and actually become cannibalistic and eat other shrimp!
While I can barely even stand to think about parasites, these studies did remind me of two things . . .
One, parasites living inside of humans are really common, you don’t need to have traveled to a foreign country to get one. They can impact our health and behavior just like these parasites did to their hosts. If you have unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, high eosinophils on a blood chemistry, or just a “gut feeling” that something is not right inside of you, a good stool test is definitely something you want to invest in.
Two, the gross little blood suckers we all think of when we hear the word "parasite" aren't the only ones out there. People and situations in our lives can also be parasites. Do you have a person or environment in your life that is sucking your energy and resources? Maybe a very one-way friendship or a boss that treats you poorly? And as these studies pointed out, parasites can also change our behavior – causing us to stress about things we otherwise wouldn’t care about, making us feel badly about ourselves, or ruining our health mentally and emotionally. There are no lab tests to identify these people. You just have to know that they are there and how to get rid of them