Freaked out yet? Well, it's kind of like that dude in Knocked Up says, "It's not herpes if it's everywhere."
With half the globe infected, the Brain Bug not only influences humans on the individual level, but on a civilizational one. Kevin Lafferty, a scientist at UC Santa Barbra, thinks the parasite affects the way people "relate to ego, money, work and rules." TG could even be used to help us understand cultural differences among nations. The fact that the entire EU is under Brain Bug control might explain why these former warrior nations have gone the way of the Eurofag. Could it have had something to do with the female cultural dominance that comes as a result of widespread TG infection?
This is only speculation at this point. The literature on TG and culture is extremely slim. But it's possible that TG will one day be considered a major factor - right up there with climate and resource scarcity - determining human evolution and the fate of nations, from cat-loving Egypt to modern France. One Czech parasitology study shows that TG infection makes people five times more likely to be involved in car crashes. The researchers predicted that at least one million people die because in TG-related traffic accidents every year. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Brain Bug is easy enough to spot with a simple antibody blood test. The problem is that no one gets tested. As TG infections are largely asymptomatic, the majority of people are oblivious to them. Only AIDS patients and other immunosuppressed hosts react to it. But even then, the symptoms are hardly dramatic, coming off as a mild case of the flu that goes away within a few weeks. But just because it doesn't let you know it's there, doesn't mean it's just idling around.
While the media obsesses over H5N1, TG is slowly working its way into more and more of us. It even infiltrates the human reproductive process, passing from mother to child during pregnancy. Not only do kids with congenital TG risk being born severely retarded and disfigured, they're also likely to develop schizophrenia. Indeed, with TG's help, scientists may finally unravel the schizophrenia mystery. Post-mortem analyses show that the Brain Bug destroys astrocytes, a specialized brain cell that provides maintenance work for neurons. Damage to these cells has long been associated with schizophrenia. What's more, there is evidence that TG injects itself into human DNA, permanently writing itself into the human genome.
Antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia and mood disorders have shown a decrease in the behavioral changes brought on by TG infection. But it's not a cure. TG jacks up people's dopamine levels, while the drugs merely inhibit them. It's just a quick fix that counteracts the parasitic control of your neurons and leaves the parasites intact.
On the cure front, the news isn't good. TG doesn't always respond to treatment. While the flu-like symptoms can be treated, most antibiotics don't reach all the parasite cysts. A protracted multi-drug treatment is necessary to wipe your body clean. Even with the treatment, re-infection is possible.
The Brain Bug is nothing new, it's probably been with us ever since the first homo sapien and has controlled us for just as long. But to what end? Simple: reproduction.
TG is a parasite of cats, both domestic and wild. It lives and reproduces in their guts. Though cat specific, it needs a secondary host in which to incubate its babies. To complete the Brain Bug's mating dance, these zygotes, once mature, have to make their way back into a cat. The zygotes are immobile and lodged inside various tissues of their host, so there's only one way to do this: the host must be eaten. This is where the mind control tricks come in. To make reproduction a sure bet, the Brain Bug has evolved to modify its host's behavior to make it more likely that a cat will pick them off for dinner. To achieve this, the Brain Bugs make them stupid and indecisive.