yes, you read that right: sexually transmitted diseases.
my other favorite topic, after inbreeding/altruism and all that, is viruses or microbes or parasites that control your miiiind — like (you’ve prolly read a lot about) toxoplasma gondii. or even greg cochran’s gay germ theory.
peter frost had an interesting post up a couple of weeks ago that i’ve been meaning to draw attention to (so, here i am now, drawing attention to his interesting post!) about bacterial vaginosis and how that might potentially alter people’s behaviors. long, but interesting, story — go read it, if you haven’t already!
which reminded me of what i’ve thought about once or twice: if i were a sexually transmitted virus/microbe/parasite (or even one that wasn’t sexually transmitted), how would i gain control of my host so as to ensure he (or she) spread me about? if it were me, i’d go for the nervous system to mess up the person’s behavior.
“A bright woman of 90, Natasha K., recently came to our clinic. Soon after her 88th birthday, she said, she noticed ‘a change.’ What sort of change? we queried.
“‘Delightful!’ she exclaimed. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt more energetic, more alive — I felt young once again. I took an interest in the young men. I started to feel, you might say, “frisky” — yes frisky.‘
“‘This was a problem?’
“‘No, not at first. I felt well, extremely well — why should I think anything was the matter?’
“‘My friends started to worry. First they said, “You look radiant — a new lease on life!,” but then they started to think it was not quite — appropriate. “You were always so shy,” they said, “and now you’re a flirt. You giggle, you tell jokes — at your age, is that right?”‘
“‘And how did you feel?’
“‘I was taken aback. I’d been carried along, and it didn’t occur to me to question what was happening. But then I did. I said to myself, “You’re 89, Natasha, this has been going on for a year. You were always so temperate in feeling — and now this extravagance! You’re an old woman, nearing the end. What could justify such a sudden euphoria?” And as soon as I thought of euphoria, things took on a new complexion…. “You’re sick, my dear,” I said to myself. “You’re feeling too well, you have to be ill!”‘
“‘Ill? Emotionally? Mentally ill?’
“‘No, not emotionally — physically ill. It was something in my body, my brain, that was making me high. And then I thought — goddam it, it’s Cupid’s Disease!’
“‘Cupid’s Disease?’ I echoed, blankly. I have never heard of the term before.
“‘Yes, Cupid’s Disease — syphilis, you know. I was in a brothel in Salonika, nearly 70 years ago. I caught syphilis — lots of the girls had it — we called it “Cupid’s Disease.” My husband saved me, took me out, had it treated. That was years before penicillin, of course. Could it have caught up with me after all these years?’
“There may be an immense latent period between the primary infection and the advent of neurosyphilis, especially if the primary infection has been suppressed, not eradicated. I had one patient, treated with Salvarsan by Ehrlich himself, who developed tabes dorsalis — one form of neurosyphilis — more than 50 years later.
“But I had never heard of an interval of seventy years — nor of a self-diagnosis of syphilis mooted so calmly and clearly.
“‘That’s an amazing suggestion,’ I replied after some thought. ‘It would have never occurred to me — but perhaps you are right.’
“She was right; the spinal fluid was positive, she did have neurosyphilis, it was indeed the spirochetes stimulating her ancient cerebral cortex.”
so, the treponema pallidum bacterium had gotten into this lady’s brain (neurosyphilis) and made her frisky. does it do that to other people as well? making its hosts frisky might help t. pallidum to spread. hmmmm. the herpes simplex virus, too, travels along nerves. hmmmm.
i only ask because, in this day and age of hook-ups and what not, a lot of people have stds (1 in 6 americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes). are these infections altering people’s behaviors? making them even more promiscuous?
(note: comments do not require an email. she may look clean – but.)