A Common Parasite Linked To Entrepreneurism 


Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite estimated to infect ~10% of the U.S. population and perhaps as many as half in other countries. Few infected people exhibit symptoms, as a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, toxoplasma infection has been linked to a wide variety of outgoing and risk-seeking behaviors, including entrepreneurism.

Since at least the early 1990’s, research has shown people with toxoplasma gondii (TG) infection were more extroverted, were involved in more traffic accidents, and were more likely to swim while intoxicated. Contrary to intuition, these behaviors – which suggest an increased tolerance for risk – all increased with age. The overall link between TG and psychological and behavioral changes has been demonstrated in dozens of studies involving tens of thousands of people.

The link between the common TG parasite and entrepreneurism seems widespread. One study of 1,500 university students found those who tested positive for TG were 1.4X more likely to major in business and 1.7X more likely to have a concentration in management and entrepreneurship. In another related study of 200 professionals, people infected with TG were 1.8X more likely to be entrepreneurs.

One of the largest scale studies to examine the link between TG parasites and entrepreneurism looked at the medical and professional histories of nearly 75,000 Danish women over more than a decade. The ~10% who were TG-positive were 29% more likely to have founded a start-up and more than twice as likely to have founded the business by themselves. In addition, the businesses run by those who were TG positive were more profitable.

The common parasite, toxoplasma gondii, seems to be linked to entrepreneurism.

As compelling as those studies seem, I am a bit cautious. While the businesses run by those infected with TG were slightly more profitable on average, the individual results were highly variable. In addition, TG infected entrepreneurs demonstrated less persistence – usually a critical attribute for a successful entrepreneur. And before you think that being infected by TG might be a good thing, research has also linked it to depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.

People’s behavior is influenced by many things; the composition of your gut microbiome impacts your personality. It’s not surprising that a common parasite would be linked to risky behaviors and entrepreneurism. Just don’t intentionally infect yourself trying to make your business more successful.

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