One third of Britons carry the toxoplasma parasite in their brain.
Its natural home is the cat and it's spread in cats' faeces. It can be picked up by any mammal, from rats to cattle. The main way we get it is by eating undercooked meat (which is why 80% of the French are estimated to have it, with their love of rare meat).
Once we have it we have it for life, there's no way we can get rid of it.
Research shows it somehow manipulates rats' behaviour - it makes rats attracted to cats - their natural predator, so they're more likely to be eaten by a cat and the parasite can complete its life cycle.
For years scientists thought it had no effect on our behaviour, but now the parasite's changing their minds. Recent research suggests that people with toxyplasma have slower reaction times than those without and are also more than twice as likely to be involved in a traffic accident than those who aren't carrying the parasite.
The BBC news story is a tie in to a BBC broadcast. The broadcast sounds gruesome and fascinating. I've been following the UC/hookworm studies for years and I'm looking forward to the study publications. This Toxoplasma data is new to me though, and it's rather unsettling. It's not good news for people who have pet cats or who like their meat rare. Personally, I'm switching to well done, though it may be too late for me! Good news for dog loving cat hating vegetarians though ... (I think dogs don't get toxoplasma ...)