This week I want to show you a comic strip that me and my dear friends Remedios Cortese, Tonia Principe and Giulia Brancato made for the Lifeology SciComm Challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you TOXO RULEZ!:

How was this comic born?

First we started from the topic of the challenge: “Smaller than the eye can see!”. We unanimously decided to talk about a microbe. Also, we had to tell an engaging story about it.

So which microbe could we pic? I proposed one of those parasites which manipulate the behaviour of their hosts. Personally, I have always found this aspect both fascinating and creepy. However some of these “manipulators” are quite obscure and have very elaborate life cycles, and in the challenge we were allowed only four squares to tell our story.

In the end we chose Toxoplasma gondii as our protagonist, because it is relatively well known by the public and its life cycle is not too complicated. It was an easy step then to center the scene on the fact that Toxoplasma makes the rodents it infects less scared of one of their natural predators, the cat (which it also happens to be the definitive host where the parasite has to go).

Does Toxoplasma do the same to us?

The mechanisms through which Toxoplasma affects the brain of mice and rats have been the focus of quite a few studies. But the big question is: does it change the behaviour of people too?

The answer (as it often happens in science) is…..maybe. I am gonna publish a blog post on this controversial topic soon, but in the meantime you can all enjoy this funny video.

Me, Remedios, Tonia and Giulia are part of a newly established group of italian science communicators, la Lampada delle Scienze. You can follow us on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook đŸ˜‰

Click here for the italian version.