A parasite found in cat poop encourages entrepreneurship

July 31, 2018

It takes courage, creativity, and funding to become an entrepreneur. Or maybe the secret is a parasite frequently found in cat litter, a July 30 report on The Ladders suggests.

Weirdly enough, a study posted by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B has established a link between infection with Toxoplasma gondii—a microorganism found in cat poop and undercooked meat—with a proclivity for business and economic studies and entrepreneurship.

Stefanie Johnson, an associate professor of Management at the University of Colorado, and her six co-authors have discovered that students who have been infected with the Toxoplasma gondii, are 1.4 times more likely to have majored in business than non-infected people.

Among people attending entrepreneurship events, those who got infected with this brain-changing parasite were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business.

According to the researchers, “the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii infects an estimated 2 billion people worldwide and has been linked to behavioral alterations in humans and other vertebrates.

Specifically, the infection has been linked to risk-taking behavior. “More than 30 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the … parasite, but very few have symptoms; because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website notes.

The parasite also has a correlational link to a lowered fear of failure, which may explain why more infected people become entrepreneurs. Countries that had a high rate of infection also had a lower fraction of respondents who cited ‘fear of failure’ as a factor preventing them from initiating a business-related enterprise.”

“Many of us do not change jobs, take tough assignments, or start our own ventures because we are afraid of failing,” Johnson told Ladders. “The fear of loss most often outweighs the benefits of gains that you could get because we are risk-averse. Maybe [T. gondii] removes that a little.”

On the down side, the study reported that Toxoplasma has been linked to a “greater risk of car accidents, mental illness, neuroticism, drug abuse and suicide.”

Research contact:  Stefanie.Johnson@colorado.edu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *