Could a zombifying fungus could be a threat to humans?!

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Alexia C S, Student

Did you know about Cordyceps Unilateralis? It is a fungus that can zombify insects, but the game “The Last of Us” presented a scenario in which cordyceps unilateralis affects humans. 

 In “The Last of Us,” 60% of humanity was infected with a mysterious virus that originated from the fungus “Cordyceps Unilateralis.” Some of the Cordyceps species have a medicinal value, but others such as Cordyceps Unilateralis uses specific species of ants to complete their life cycle. To live they must zombify the ant and consume it until its death. In “The Last of Us,” Cordyceps adds humans to the host list. 

The apocalypse begins when the fungus leaps from its typical hosts to humans, presumably in the same way that some diseases like “swine flu” can jump from one species to another. The new unidentified species of Cordyceps turns humans first violently “infected” and then blind. How would this work if it happened to you? According to “The Last of Us,” when you first become infected, you’ll begin to feel some symptoms you’ve probably felt before. A fever, abdominal pain, weakness, and vomiting are all possible consequences. You might also notice yourself getting depressed, as the Cordyceps could affect your dopamine levels.

Some of these effects might be familiar, but what isn’t is how the fungus would spread through your body. As time goes on, the fungus would start to take over your nervous system, it would take months for the Cordyceps to take over you fully, As this is happening, the fungus would grow throughout your arms and legs.  When it spreads far enough in your body, it can gain control over you. Once it’s inside of you, there’s really nothing you can do.   

This fungus was discovered by a British naturalist “Alfred Russel Wallace”; this fungus is a specialized parasite that infects, manipulates and kills formicine ants, predominantly in tropical forest ecosystems. 

 What if this fungus infected you, by touching your skin, or just by breathing it in? Could the Cordyceps fungus turn you into a zombie?  Fortunately, “The Last of US” is a fictional game, and Cordyceps can’t actually infect humans, as our bodies are better than insects at attacking pathogens.