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Brain worms: one in five are infested

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After finding itself in the digestive tract of a mammalian host, the oocytes hatch into "worms" capable of penetrating the intestinal wall and migrating throughout the host body.


When cat feces bearing the oocysts are deposited into the sewage through toilet bowl disposal, the oocysts of the "brain worm" are thrown into a desperately hostile environment for which they were never prepared.

Instead of warm dirt in which to shelter and wait for ingestion by unwary mammals, and instead of cool breezes that carry oocysts up in the air and into the lungs and digestive tracts of potential hosts, they are plunged into the innards of the sewage treatment process, and then dumped into the Ocean.

Protozoa can, like virus, slip right through even full secondary treatment, perhaps even tertiary treatment, and remain viable. The only Health Dept. test for determining whether you're swimming in "safe" sewage, or "unsafe" sewage, is the test for LIVE E.Coli foecal bacteria; dead bacteria are not considered harmful, and there is currently no testing for virus or protozoa.

In addition to swimming in diffuse human feces, dead bacteria and virus, there's no legal bar to swimming in the midst of oocysts of T.gondii. It's not part of the dangers prevented by the current application of the Clean Water Act.

But imagine the poor oocysts: surrounded by salt water, 3 dimensions of hungry creatures gobbling any organic matter, and you can picture with what alacrity these hapless protozoans might latch onto the nasal passages of a warm-blooded surfer who happened by.

It's known that the Sea Otters of Monterey Bay are infested with these brain worms by eating shellfish bathed in sewage-borne T.gondii. So certainly, the oocysts find ways to remain viable in this Ocean environment for which they had not evolved.

Who knows what other sea creatures might provide temporary hosts for T.gondii? But no matter how long they survive in the cold Ocean, these small seeds of brain worms would certainly prefer any warm-blooded mammal that happened to become available.

One can, thus, speculate that everyone who swims in dead fecal matter, which includes almost all folks swimming within ten miles downstream of a sewage outfall, for example on the Mississippi River, are potentially swimming not only in the midst of virus, but also in the midst of a certain number of infectious T.gondii brain worms.

It remains as a challenge to test swimmers in places such as San Diego, which, due to an antiquated 301 (h) sewage waiver, are able to dispose of sewage solids into the Ocean after little more than a settling process. It's certain that T.gondii can evade being precipitated with fecal solids, and can be discharged into the open Ocean; but no study appears to have been done.

Hence, it is not yet known if T.gondii forms an infection-cluster with respect to those who swim in or near sewage that bears the oocysts.


In a lighter vein:

"[T.gondii,] a common parasite, can turn women into 'sex kittens' and make men more stupid says Nicky Boulter, a researcher at Sydney University...Humans are infected when they eat raw or undercooked meat that has cysts containing the parasite or accidentally ingest some of the parasite's eggs excreted by an infected cat. It was thought that the infection was not serious... In the latest issue of Australasian Science Dr Boulter writes about her findings and in particular the way the infection affects men and women differently. 'It can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens' stated Dr Boulter..."

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