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Mind Control Parasites in Half of All Humans

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the it's-in-me-mind! dept.

Sci-Fi 625

iiii writes "According to a Yahoo News story, half of the world's human population is infected with Toxoplasma, a parasite shown to alter the brain function of rats, inducing them into behavior that benefits the parasite but is suicidal for the rat. So what affect does it have on humans? Article comes complete with Heinlein 'Puppet Masters' reference. I call dibs on using Toxoplasma as a name for my rock band."

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625 comments

And the other half? (5, Insightful)

satcomdaddy1 (938185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698958)

Insert Political/religious/OS statement here.

Really should be more insightful than funny, but that's not for me to decide.

Re:And the other half? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698979)

I had a fight with my parasite the other day and I my testicles had to sleep on the couch yesterday.

Honestly, takign them out wasn't bad, but putting them back in...well...that was 'messy.'

Re:And the other half? (5, Funny)

musakko (739094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699091)

Insert Political/religious/OS statement here.

[Political/religious/OS statement]

I just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699173)

I just do what the microbes tell me.

Welcome... (5, Funny)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698962)

I for one have ALREADY welcomed our parasitic overlords.

Re:Welcome... (2, Insightful)

dolphinling (720774) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698984)

Actually, according to someone I'm talking to at the moment, this has been known for a long time and Yahoo is dumb for reporting it as "news". That, and 1/2 of humans is a very conservative estimate.

So it's more than likely you have already welcomed our parasitic overlords.

Re:Welcome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699081)

> There are 11 types of people in the world: those who can count in binary, and those who can't.

In your sig, shouldn't that read 10 types...? If not, what's the third catagory of people?

Re:Welcome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699167)

People that can't count.

Mind Control (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699111)

I for one have ALREADY welcomed our parasitic overlords.

It's them parasites that made you do it in the first place.

Re:Welcome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699192)

So does this mean that HALF of the population of all humans have mind control parasites, or does this mean HALF of a human is mind controlled. I'd hate to think that I have a doppelgänger running around without me knowing it.

Re:Welcome... (3, Funny)

Nuclear Elephant (700938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699200)

Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite found in the guts of cats

Sheesh, c'mon, as folllowers of gondii, they're peaceful toxoplasma.

mind controlling bugs (3, Interesting)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698963)

Shhhhh, be quiet! Don't give DARPA any idea!

I wonder how many people are going to blame their inability to work harder (if at all) on this parasite on Monday.

Re:mind controlling bugs (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698974)

I wonder how many people are going to blame their inability to work harder (if at all) on this parasite on Monday.


Not me. I'm going to blame the parasite who hired me.

everyone is thinking... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698965)

I for one OOH LOOK SHINY

You gotta have mind controollllllllll (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14698969)

HYPNOGERMS!!!

Yet another proof... (5, Funny)

TheCreeep (794716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698970)

...of God's Intelligent Design(TM) here on Earth!!

Re:Yet another proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699113)

Wouldn't this prove that God does not exit, since it clearly shows that God must exist but without faith God is nothing, therefore God cannot exist?

Re:Yet another proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699171)

That which you have written is grammarically incorrect. You cannot use the word therefore after a statement that makes absolutely no sense.

"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." -- Voltaire

"If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated." -- Voltaire

"A witty saying proves nothing." -- Voltaire

just a new name (4, Funny)

waterbear (190559) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698976)

'Mind control parasites':

'Toxoplasma'? I thought they were called politicians ...

(if only it was _only_ half of all humans ...)

-wb-

No surprise here! (5, Funny)

croddy (659025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698978)

I favor unreasonably huge subsidies to the brain slug planet.

Re:No surprise here! (1)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699033)

I favor unreasonably huge subsidies to the brain slug planet.
Senator: Ah Mr. Speaker I'd like to tack on a wager to that bill. 2 Million dollars worth of tax payers money to the perverted arts.
Speaker: All in favour of the modified bill.
(Votes are split along part lines)
Kent: I've said it once and I'll say it again. Democracy just doesn't work!

Re:No surprise here! (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699099)

I favor unreasonably huge subsidies to the brain slug planet.

The planet's name is Haliburton and they already get tens of billions in subsides each year.

Name taken (4, Informative)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698989)

There's already a German punk band called Toxoplasma [toxo.de].

50% of humans found with cat parasite (3, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14698998)

Its no wonder so many are infected.

Us males can't stop licking pussy!

Re:50% of humans found with cat parasite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699020)

lol

Re:50% of humans found with cat parasite (1)

idlake (850372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699068)

Pussy, not pussy, you schmuck.

You just gave us another example why sex ed is so important!

Wowa, (4, Interesting)

XMilkProject (935232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699001)

All the posts so far seem to be joking about this, but it sorta freaks me out!

It seems to be strong evidence that parasites can control the behavior of a host in fairly complex ways, which opens up alot of sci-fi movies for a real life encore.

Anyone familiar with these parasites in more detail? Any information? Are there other parasites that humans have that do cause changes of behavior?

How do these things evolve? Are they complex lifeforms, or very very simple?

Re:Wowa, (5, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699066)

It seems to be strong evidence that parasites can control the behavior of a host in fairly complex ways

"Influence" rather than "control". TFA originates in a site that looks for SF in the news, sometimes they look rather too hard. But consider how you act when you have a cold -- sneezing, for instance, creating a nice aerosol spray to spread the virus. Many skin infections casue itchiness, making you scratch and distribute flakes, containing spores; etc. (If this is Intelligent Design, I'd like to ask who is the Chosen Race -- us or the parasites?)

Re:Wowa, (1)

Marsmensch (870400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699145)

Yeah, it freaks me out too...

From the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

"It has been found that the parasite has the ability to change the behavior of its host: infected rats and mice are less fearful of cats, infact some of the infected rats actually seek out the cat urine-marked areas again and again. The parasite alters the mind and thus the behavior of the rat for its own benefit leading to a propagation of the lifecycle.[1]

Half of the world's human population is infected with Toxoplasma. Given the close biological similarities between mice and humans, it has been suggested that human behaviour could also be affected in some way, and some epidemiological links may have been found between latent toxoplasmosis infections and car crashes, slower reactions, an increase in risk-taking behaviors, and schizophrenia.Toxoplasma infection is associated with damage to astrocytes, glial cells which surround and support neurons. Schizophrenia is also associated with damage to astrocytes. Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to Toxoplasma are more likely to give birth to children who will develop schizophrenia. Human cells raised in petri dishes, and infected with Toxoplasma, will respond to drugs like haloperidol; the growth of the parasite stops. Haloperidol is an antipsychotic, used to treat schizophrenia."

This could not be news (5, Interesting)

skillet-thief (622320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699002)

...or at least it doesn't matter. Toxoplasma has been around and known for a long time. The only real news is that infection rates are *down* (from something like 90% iirc not so long ago) because humans are spending less and less quality time with rodents. This mostly concerns pregnant women, who risk losing their fetus if the *catch* toxoplasma during the pregnancy. So it is far better to be part of the 50% who is already infected so that your antibodies are prepped. So yeah, move along.

Re:This could not be news (5, Interesting)

Skreems (598317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699025)

Does this explain why religion is on the decline? As less people are infected, less display symptoms of schizophrenia, such as "feeling the divine presence", and "talking to God". Maybe true devotion in the middle ages was a neurochemical imbalance caused by a parasite, and now that humans are living more cleanly, the "faith" we have left is just residual from the earlier teachings?

Re:This could not be news (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699128)

What evidence exactly do you have that religion is going down? People are just as irrational as ever. Islamic nations growing, Jewish state of Israel working to fulfil is 'manifest destiny' and Chistians electing Presidents and replacing federal judges are abound.

Re:This could not be news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699165)

Does this explain why religion is on the decline? As less people are infected, less display symptoms of schizophrenia, such as "feeling the divine presence", and "talking to God". Maybe true devotion in the middle ages was a neurochemical imbalance caused by a parasite, and now that humans are living more cleanly, the "faith" we have left is just residual from the earlier teachings?

I have news you might not like... While it may comfort you to think that religion is somehow associated with schizophrenia, your belief is not confirmed by science. In fact, most psychology studies on this topic show that religious individuals tend to have higher mental health and mental stability than non-religious individuals.

Re:This could not be news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699187)

Link?

The common infection route is cat poo (4, Interesting)

nietsch (112711) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699048)

There is some evidence that the parasite is manipulating his intemediate host's(rodents) behaviour to end up in the final host: cats. Cat droppings spread it again to rodents nearby. This mechanism has two species that benefit from it (the parasite and the cat), so it is likely this interaction reinforces itself.

Re:The common infection route is cat poo (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699164)

Ahh.. So that explains why cat people tend to be a little bit nuts ;)

ALIEN PARASITES ENSLAVE HUMANS! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699005)

Or not. From the Wikipedia:

Toxoplasma gondii is a species of parasitic protozoa that lives in cats and other warm-blooded animals and can cause the disease toxoplasmosis in humans. It belongs to the Apicomplexa and is the only known member of the genus Toxoplasma.

and under "Toxoplasmosis"
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. It infects most animals and causes human parasitic diseases, but the primary host is the felid (cat) family. People usually get infected by eating raw or undercooked meat, or more rarely, by contact with cat faeces.

At least one third of the world population may have contracted a toxoplasmosis infection in their lifetime but, after the acute infection has passed, the parasite rarely causes any symptoms in otherwise healthy adults. However, people with a weakened immune system are particularly susceptible, such as people infected with HIV. The parasite can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and neurologic diseases and can affect the heart, liver, and eyes (chorioretinitis).


Much less interesting than TFA's speculation based on Toxoplasma's pathology in rats, but more credible.

What's more, TFA does not give any indication about how they came up with the "half the human population" figure.

Posted AC to avoid charges of Wikipedia-karma-whoring.

Re:ALIEN PARASITES ENSLAVE HUMANS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699118)

I believe the much-touted 50% comes from a study of a segment of the French population. That's how many were found to be infected, or possibly just have antibodies to (can't remember) the Toxoplasma.

Doing a PubMed search on French studies of the parasite might turn up the original study, but other studies do have largely differing exposure rates, due to differences in location and level of hygiene and local Toxoplasma concentrations in other carrier species... I guess :)

Re:ALIEN PARASITES ENSLAVE HUMANS! (4, Informative)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699198)

"T. gondii may cause schizophrenia and may do so by producing or triggering the production of an hallucinogenic chemical" ('Genes, Germs, and Schizophrenia: An Evolutionary Perspective', Ledgerwood et al, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 46(3):317-48, 2003).

But, hey, why keep up with current research (at least via credible objective surveys in reputable journals) when you can just read Wikipedia?

From the same Wikipedia article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699199)

Infection prevalence is higher in countries that traditionally eat undercooked meat, such as France.

Maybe the parasite causes humans to surrender?

It all makes sense! (2, Funny)

fizzyabbo (927451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699008)

Is the article implying that it's NOT normal for someone to seek out cat urine-marked areas in one's house???

Finally makes sense (3, Insightful)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699015)

a parasite shown to alter the brain function of rats, inducing them into behavior that benefits the parasite but is suicidal for the rat.

Look on the brightside. At least we know now what's driving the current administration.

Re:Finally makes sense (0, Flamebait)

Metrol (147060) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699094)

Look on the brightside. At least we know now what's driving the current administration.

Wow! Bush jokes really are too clever and funny. That one was an especially good knee slapper there. You done got him but good. Keep up the great work!

Hmmm, perhaps the sarcasm is a bit too subtle? Yeah, probably. Back to your regularly scheduled "Parasites are controlling your brain" article. Nothing to see here.

the cats are behind it (5, Funny)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699021)

Since toxoplasma makes rats unafraid of or even like cat urine, I think it's all a diabolical scheme by the cats. I used to think cats only tolerated us until they could figure out how to operate a can-opener, but now I've realised its a much more cunning scheme - to make humans the slaves of cats!

Old ladies are obviously the most affected after a lifetime of exposure, but its only a matter of time before we all become food suppliers and grooming slaves to our cat overlords. Just look what happens to people when you show them pictures of fluffy kittens [google.co.uk], they go all gooey and unable to think straight - my girlfriend is a typical example, she defends her cats against any criticism, because they're so 'cute'.

We must act now, while some of us can still see what the cats are up to. We must destroy the cat menace!

Re:the cats are behind it (2, Funny)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699051)

Since toxoplasma makes rats unafraid of or even like cat urine, I think it's all a diabolical scheme by the cats. I used to think cats only tolerated us until they could figure out how to operate a can-opener, but now I've realised its a much more cunning scheme - to make humans the slaves of cats! Old ladies are obviously the most affected after a lifetime of exposure, but its only a matter of time before we all become food suppliers and grooming slaves to our cat overlords. Just look what happens to people when you show them pictures of fluffy kittens, they go all gooey and unable to think straight - my girlfriend is a typical example, she defends her cats against any criticism, because they're so 'cute'. We must act now, while some of us can still see what the cats are up to. We must destroy the cat menace!

Where have you been? We've been trying to tell you for years that cats are evil.

Signed "Commander of Canine Resistence, Los Angeles Chapter",

"Long live the revolution!"

Re:the cats are behind it (4, Funny)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699052)

Well, it does make sense. For a dog, you're God and the universe revolves arround you. Cats wouldn't give two shits about you if you weren't the one feeding them - in fact, they always have this "leave me alone, dumbass" look on them after they're done with their meal. The ungrateful bastards :)

Re:the cats are behind it (1)

aamcf (651492) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699090)

but now I've realised its a much more cunning scheme - to make humans the slaves of cats!

Nah, it must be something else. We've been their slaves for centuries.

+1 Fluffy Kittens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699093)

"Just look what happens to people when you show them pictures of fluffy kittens, they go all gooey and unable to think straight"!!

I just hope I made sure to post this anonymously!

Re:the cats are behind it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699132)

Please don't destroy the cat menace [thewallpapers.org].

Sounds oddly familiar (1, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699027)

So if this parasite had an effect on the minds of humans, you could almost say that we were puppets and they puppet-masters. With this, and the fact that Slashdotters seem to be increasingly turning to libertarianism, the future looks oddly Heinlein [amazon.com]-esque.

Don't give Sony-BMG ideas! (5, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699036)

The term "bio-rootkit" is not one I wish to see in common usage!

And... (4, Interesting)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699045)

And don't forget those worms in Africa the tunnel through living human flesh, causing burning pain to make the host seek water for relief; only to continue it's life cycle. I heard recently that a type of virus may be linked to obesity; like the bactiria linked with ulcers.

However, cause and effect may be reversed; perhaps the virus likes fatty foods (fat humans); and perhaps that bactiria prefers the chemical balance in a bleeding stomach. But this is good research; seeing that elimiating the parasite from the rats changes behavior.

But, for the ultimate in behavior changing infections, you only have to look at your own mouth. Language. and the other aspects of human "culture"... "culture" is an interesting word, in that it can refer to fashionable art; or parasitical organisms.

Really, humans are not much more than hosts for self replicating information. everything from the English language to Hula Hoops. I bet if you imagine living forever inside a machine; you probably think of your 'mind' being preserved; instead of a machine that pumps fluids through a mindless body (insert Republican joke here)

All that being a Funny, Japanese-Speaking, Mozart-loving, Cat-loving, Slashdot-reading fellow is, is a combinatation of contaigous memes.

Re:And... (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699138)

Really, humans are not much more than hosts for self replicating information...All that being a Funny, Japanese-Speaking, Mozart-loving, Cat-loving, Slashdot-reading fellow is, is a combinatation of contaigous memes.

Bringing up "Memes" as a useful model of how the world works is so 1990s. Get with the times.

Re:And... (2, Informative)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699139)

perhaps that bactiria [sic] prefers the chemical balance in a bleeding stomach

I believe that h. pylori excretes urease which breaks urea (found naturally in tissues as a byproduct of metabolism) down into ammonia. Ammonia is much more basic than urea, and as a result it reacts with stomach acid to create a more neutral pH, which is better for the organism. Ammonia is also very toxic, which is why the body converts it to urea in the first place (the direct product of metabolism is ammonia, and it is quickly converted to urea to detoxify it before being sent to the kidneys - later it gets partially converted to uric acid which is even less toxic and also requires less water to store/flush (this is what makes bird droppings white - birds do this to the extreme to avoid carrying lots of water in their urine as dead weight when flying)). So, the ammonia is the direct cause of the tissue damage that leads to an ulcer.

The bacteria doesn't really care about blood/pain/holes in stomach - it just wants a break from all that HCl floating around. As long as it nestles in the folds of the tissue it can create a locally moderate environment to grow in.

So, in this case the disease is more a side-effect than a direct goal of the bacteria.

On the other hand, if you look at something like cholera toxin that is something really nasty. Cholera spreads from feces, and its toxin basically makes you run like a faucet (even today it can be quite fatal if not caught early enough - IVs can't fill you up faster than you spill out).

However, you are dead-on that many times disease organisms have the goal of modifying host behavior to encourage spread.

Re:And... (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699214)

Humour isn't a meme, though you might consider a certain style of comedy a meme, just like the ability to speak a language isn't a meme, though a language itself is.

Crazy cat lady (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699049)

Oh my god, this is a scientific explaination for the crazy cat lady phenomenon... I'm serious RTFA!!!

Re:Crazy cat lady (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699080)

I always thought it had something to do with being compassionate and tender-hearted. Some people just can't stand the thought of animals suffering in any way, whether by being out in the cold or going hungry, because they consider them to be more innocent than humans (a typical anti-social trait, in fact).

More discussion of toxoplasma (4, Informative)

rdwald (831442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699062)

Cecil Adams wrote a article [straightdope.com] discussing toxoplama's effect on birth defects and schizophrenia, including the possibility that toxoplasma floods the human brain with LSD.

Re:More discussion of toxoplasma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699079)

I think it's probably unlikely that the organism makes LSD proper...i would like to see the study before I believe that. LSA or ergotamine, perhaps, but still unlikely...as far as I know, only plants and fungus currently possess the genes which allow for the creation of the various ergolines...again, would be interesting if true though

Uh oh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699063)

Should I be concerned if the smell of cat urine doesn't bother me as much as it does most people?

This is not a dupe (4, Funny)

Ambush (120586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699069)

C'mon guys, this isn't a duplicate story. This one is referring to the other half of the population. The truth is that we're all infected. ;-)

All above posts are FUD (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699071)

Toxoplasma is actually the eggs for body thetans. If you do not want to believe this, read this link [cdc.gov]

The earth is a battlefield, my friend. I'm going to get audited errrr tested.

Score one for the cat haters (2, Funny)

eamonman (567383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699135)

Most women are cat lovers.
Most men will say most women are schizo.
The prosecution rests your honor. ;)

No.....Worries (1)

FraggedSquid (737869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699191)

I....dont....think....this....is....a....problem.. ..I....feel....fine and....everying....is....right....with....the....w orld.

Voluntary mind control? (5, Interesting)

Dexter77 (442723) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699202)

What makes mind control interesting, that is not usually thought of, is awareness of it. Since our brain is controlling everything we do, altering its functioning would propably go unnoticed. In movies characters usually try to fight againts mind control and even in everyday thoughts we imagine mind control to be something that is againts our will. When you think of it a bit further, you might notice that what mind control actually does, is make our emotions balanced in the way that we actually want to do what it wants us to do. As stated in the article, rats repeatedly did things againts logical behaviour. Now, if you think how many of your actions is based on logic and how many on emotions, you might be able to guess my point.

But then again, this is just my theory. I hope your can prove it wrong. Only variable that would definately prove it wrong, would be existence of a soul. It would provide us something that can't be affected by change of chemical balance in brain. But more likely is that each and every one of us is under some kind of mind control. Everything affects our emotions, from food to movies, regardless of if it resides physically in our brain or affects through our senses.

50% infection rate worldwide, much less in the US (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699208)

There's varying evidence, but the infection rate in the US is somewhere around 23% according to a report by the cdc [cdc.gov]. The infection rate also appears to be dropping.

Thank you, Slashdot editors (4, Funny)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14699219)

Every day, I wake up. I get a drink and read the paper, I check my blog feed, and then I look at Slashdot. Across the board I see headlines like "Microsoft hires person X" and "GM cuts this and that" and "Drought in Borneo" and "Economic growth at risk". Or even the supreme dullness indicator, the dreaded "trade summit".

Suffice it to say I've been waiting to see a headline like "brain-controlling parasites control 50% of the human population" for a long time. Thank you, Slashdot editors.

sponGe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14699229)

4.1BSD product, For a living got Fucking market very sick and its another folder. 20 the mundane chores tired arguments superior to 5low, Irc network. The INVITED BACK AGAIN. Fact: *BSD IS A rules are This come Here but now they are Come than a fraction Formed his own a previously munches the most pro-homosexual give BSD credit come Here but now development. BSD Has brought upon and help us! volume of NetBSD AWESOME whole has lost The project is in
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