Mind Control By Parasites
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Basic Information

February 10, 2006: Article discusses the link between parasitism and self-destructive behavior. There are parasites that provoke specific suicidal behavior in animals, so as to spread the parasite to other organisms.

  • Half the world's population (of humans) is infected with toxoplasma gondii.
    • In rats, this parasite overrides their fear of cats and cat urine.
      • In some cases, it makes them seek out cats.
      • This is because the parasite has to go through part of it's life cycle in cat intestines. So it tricks rats into making themselves easy targets.
    • Children born to human females with toxoplasma gondii infections are more likely to develop schizophrenia.
    • In both rats and humans, t. gondii can be treated with either pyrimethamine, an antibiotic that kills the parasite (and also cures malaria), or with Haloperidol, an antipsychotic. Both appear to provide relief from schizophrenia, and both restore rats instinctive fears of cats.
  • Other parasites mentioned include:

See Also:

Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps

Sources

Bibliography

Game and Story Use

  • Any of the above would be a good scientific grounding for a zombie virus. Zombies seek to infect new hosts, because the virus or fluke in their undead brains wants to spread.
    • Pick (cat and rat), (ant and cow), (fish and bird), or (grasshopper). Zombie versions of the chosen animals exist, and can spread the infection as easily as a brain-eating ghoul. As if mundane zombies weren't bad enough, now you have to beware of zombie cattle herds, or rabid fish.
  • No one really likes cats. They're evil little furballs. It's the T. gondii in our systems that compells us to feed and shelter them, so that more parasites can spread. Eventually, everone will be infected, and then it'll be an entire world of crazy cat ladies. :)
    • Perhaps this is the true story behind Lovecraft's The Cats of Ulthar.
    • Would make a cool planet of hats - a world where everyone loves some vile pet, but it's because of a brain fluke. At first the PCs can't stand the things, but once you fail a saving throw, you find you love them, and want to take a few pets back to federation headquarters with you. No sinister plan involved, the only bit of free will being subverted here is forced love of an ugly pet. This gets into some tricky gray area, with no certain right or wrong action - you don't want to kill people's pets, but you don't want the infection to spread. And while most people think the critters are ugly before they get infected, even if the parasite is killed, the ugly pets will have no doubt grown on a few people.
  • This reveals the true nature of the "special bond" between wizard and familiar - magic is a parasite that lives part of it's life in the brains of spellcasters, and part of it's life in the gut of cats.
    • Perhaps when a wizard dies, his familiar consumes the corpse.
    • A Displacer Beast might just be a genetic mutant - a cat that's evolved to be a carrier and full-life host for the magic fluke. It no longer has a need for wizards. If it bites a normal cat, they'll become a displacer beast, as well. Or similar pseudoscientified nonsense. Heck, maybe those big tentacles on it's back are just late-stage parasite flukes.
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