25/07/2018 11:45 BST

What Is Toxoplasmosis? Parasite In Litter Trays Could Help You Become A Business Fat Cat

A good excuse to not empty the litter tray.

They say a tidy home makes for a tidy mind, but leaving it a little unclean could actually give you a better chance of being successful in business.

Not emptying your cat’s litter tray of faeces doesn’t look good when you have guests round, but it could increase your entrepreneurial tendencies, as you are more likely to be exposed to the toxoplasmosis parasite which lives in cat poo. 

But what is toxoplasmosis and is it actually safe for everyone to be exposed?

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What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite that is present in cat faeces and can be transferred to humans if they are exposed to it (ie. in the home).

Global infection rates range from 9% in Norway to 60% in Brazil. In the UK, it ranges between 23-33% and there is evidence of regional variation.

Symptoms include high temperature, aching muscles, tiredness, feeling sick, sore throat and swollen glands, according to the NHS.  

What does it mean if you have toxoplasmosis?

If you do have symptoms of toxoplasmosis they do normally get better on their own within about six weeks and once you have had the infection you are immune to it for the rest of your life. 

And there have been some studies that suggest it wouldn’t all be bad news as it increases your chance of business success.

The team from the University of Colorado, who looked at thousands of people with the disease (estimated to be 25% of the world’s population), found those affected were more likely to choose a business course when at university and more likely to start a business afterwards.

Although the link between your cat’s toilet habits and career path seems highly unlikely, it is not as bizarre as it seems when you look at the parasite itself.

That is because the toxoplasmosis parasite is designed to increase risk-taking — albeit in mice. The parasite’s life cycle requires it to spend part of its life in cats and part in rodents. This means that it needs cats to eat the rodents.

And incredibly, it does just that. By changing the behaviour of mice and rats to be less scared of cats and more likely to explore unfamiliar spaces.

When looking at a group of biology and business students in the USA, the scientists found those on the business course were almost 50% more likely to have the parasite than those doing science.

And when they tested people attending entrepreneurship events they found infected people were 80% more likely to have started their own business. 

But are there dangers of toxoplasmosis? 

If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system (have HIV or are undergoing chemotherapy) then you could be more at risk from a toxoplasmosis infection than other groups of people.

If you are pregnant your GP may do blood tests to see if you have been infected - as toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage. If it spreads to your baby it can cause serious complications, especially if you catch it early in pregnancy.

They can prescribe medicines to treat the infection if necessary. But this is very rare, according to the NHS.