Masterpiece of epigenetic engineering – how Toxoplasma gondii reprogrammes host brains to change fear to sexual attraction
Flegr, J., Markos, A.
Molecular Ecology 2014; 23:5934-5936
Rhesus factor modulation of effects of smoking and age on psychomotor performance, intelligence, personality profile, and health in Czech soldiers
Flegr, J., Geryk, J., Volny, J., Klose, J., Cernochova, D.
Plos One 2012; 7: ARTN e49478 10.1371/journal.pone.0049478
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Background: Rhesus-positive and rhesus-negative persons differ in the presence-absence of highly immunogenic RhD protein on the erythrocyte membrane. This protein is a component of NH3 or CO2 pump whose physiological role is unknown. Several recent studies have shown that RhD positivity protects against effects of latent toxoplasmosis on motor performance and personality. It is not known, however, whether the RhD phenotype modifies exclusively the response of the body to toxoplasmosis or whether it also influences effects of other factors. Methodology/Principal Findings: In the present cohort study, we searched for the effects of age and smoking on performance, intelligence, personality and self-estimated health and wellness in about 3800 draftees. We found that the positive effect of age on performance and intelligence was stronger in RhD-positive soldiers, while the negative effect of smoking on performance and intelligence was of similar size regardless of the RhD phenotype. The effect of age on four Cattell's personality factors, i.e., dominance (E), radicalism (Q(1)), self-sentiment integration (Q(3)), and ergic tension (Q(4)), and on Cloninger's factor reward dependency (RD) was stronger for RhD-negative than RhD-positive subjects, while the effect of smoking on the number of viral and bacterial diseases was about three times stronger for RhD-negative than RhD-positive subjects. Conclusions: RhD phenotype modulates the influence not only of latent toxoplasmosis, but also of at least two other potentially detrimental factors, age and smoking, on human behavior and physiology. The negative effect of smoking on health (estimated on the basis of the self-rated number of common viral and bacterial diseases in the past year) was much stronger in RhD-negative than RhD-positive subjects. It is critically needed to confirm the differences in health response to smoking between RhD-positive and RhD-negative subjects by objective medical examination in future studies.
Brief communication: Latent toxoplasmosis and salivary testosterone concentration-important confounding factors in second to fourth digit ratio studies
Flegr, J., Lindova, J., Pivonkova, V., Havlicek, J.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2008; 137: 479-484
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A sexually dimorphic characteristic, the second to fourth digit ratio (2D:4D ratio), has been shown to reflect the prenatal concentration of sex steroid hormones and to correlate with many personality, physiological, and life history traits. The correlations are usually stronger for the right than the left hand. Most studies have shown that the 2D:4D ratio does not vary with age or postnatal concentration of sex steroid hormones. Recently, a strong association between left hand 2D:4D ratio and infection with a common human parasite Toxoplasma has been reported. We hypothesized that the confounding effect of Toxoplasma infection on left hand 2D:4D ratio could be responsible for the stronger association between different traits and right hand rather than left hand 2D:4D ratio. This confounding effect of toxoplasmosis could also be responsible for the difficulty in finding an association between 2D:4D ratio and age or postnatal steroid hormone concentration. To test this hypothesis, we analyzed the association between sex and age and 2D:4D ratio in a population of 194 female and 106 male students with and without controlling for the confounding variables of Toxoplasma infection and testosterone concentration. Our results showed that the relationship between age and sex and 2D:4D ratio increased sharply when Toxoplasma infection and testosterone concentration were controlled. These results suggest that left hand 2D:4D ratio is more susceptible to postnatal influences and that the confounding factors of Toxoplasma infection, testosterone concentration and possibly also age, should be controlled in future 2D:4D ratio studies. Because of a stronger 2D:4D dimorphism in Toxoplasma-infected than Toxoplasma-free subjects, we predict that 2D:4D ratio dimorphism as well as right hand/left hand 2D:4D ratio dimorphism will be higher in countries with a high prevalence of Toxoplasma infection than in those with a low prevalence. Am J Phys Anthropol 137:479-484, 2008. (C) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.