Back when I started this blog of waffle I said I would occasionally write about matters medical, something that I have so far failed to do. There is a good blog by a chap called Scott who writes medical reviews of American comics but I don't expect he will get to 2000AD, so here is a medical review of the latest Judge Dredd story from Prog 1760.
This is part two of The Assassination List written by Dredd legend John Wagner, with art by Leigh Gallagher and Chris Blythe, and letters by Annie Parkhouse. This is part of a much larger story arc called Day of Chaos which will be the next mega event for Dredd and the 400 million inhabitants of Mega-City One. I have wondered before whether this might be the event that finally kills off Joe Dredd and replaces him with his younger clone, Judge Rico. However, the timing may be wrong as there is a new Judge Dredd movie coming out in 2012 and comic companies generally want their title characters alive and well to tie in with a film release.
The background to this story is that East Meg Judges who survived The Apocalypse War are plotting their revenge on Mega-City One. They are forcing a kidnapped scientist to produce a deadly bio-weapon which they intend to unleash on their enemies. This presumably will cause the Day of Chaos in much the same way that Orlok the Assassin used a chemical agent in the water supply to provoke Block Mania and soften the Mega-City up before the Sov-Judges launched the Apocalypse attack.
The organism they have chosen as the basis for the bio-weapon is a real one. Toxoplasma Gondii is a protozoa that normally infects cats. It can, indeed, infect rats and change their behaviour. Usually this change makes rats less fearful of cats and may even attract them to cat urine. The evolutionary advantage for the infecting Toxoplasma organism is that this increases the likelihood of it infecting more cats, which are its natural habitat, so to speak.
If humans manage to contract Toxoplasmosis from infected cat faeces or poorly cooked infected meat then usually the symptoms are quite mild, unless you are immunocompromised or pregnant when it can cause special problems. However, what is really interesting here is that there are theories that Toxoplasmosis can affect human behaviour, it has been linked with Schizophrenia and with anti-social behaviour in men. So the suggestion that an altered form of Toxoplasma Gondii could induce an insane, murderous rage is not too far fetched at all.
For using real medicine and getting the name of the organism right this Judge Dredd story gets 4.5 out of 5 medic-droids. On top of that it is building up nicely towards some terrible event, and Judge Dredd continues to be the best story in 2000AD. Incidentally the cover image shown above is not from this story but from another ongoing strip called Indigo Prime.