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Expert Reveals if The Last of Us’ Cordyceps Could Cause a Human Infection

MovieWeb 1/28/2023 Maca Reynolds
© Provided by MovieWeb

The Last of Us has already been renewed for a second season when only two episodes of its first part have been broadcast. However, the overwhelming success of the adaptation of the popular post-apocalyptic video game and the great work done to explain the reasons for the devastation that we see in the series does not mean that everything is entirely realistic.

Paul Edward Stamets, one of the most important names in the world of mycology, declared through his social media to be a big fan of the HBO Max production. Still, he clarified some important points regarding the development of the main plot:

“I have just finished watching the second episode of #TheLastOfUs and I have two opinions. First, I'm a science-fiction fan and I love weaving the creative elements of fungi into the narrative. But let's get real. Cordyceps can not infect humans. But all organisms must eat. There are animals that are predatory. There are plants that are predatory. There are fungi that are predatory. We are all part of a giant food web where we are sustained by each other. This is fiction weaved info a theme speckled with mycology and exploiting Mycophobia: the fear of fungi. It is natural for humans to fear that which is powerful but mysterious and misunderstood. So I applaud the writers for seeing this opportunity to take us on a literary adventure into the realm of sci-fi while exploiting the public's fascination, fear, and joy of fungi.”

In the series, the Cordyceps fungus is transmitted from human to human through a "bite" and causes its host to turn into a fast and aggressive zombie. In real life, the fungus only affects insects.

Related: The Last of Us: Scenes From the Game We Want to See

What Are Cordyceps Outside the World of The Last of Us?

Cordyceps fungi constitute a family of dozens of species consumed by some Asian cultures as food. They have been extensively studied due to the type of infection they cause in carpenter ants.

Ants are infected through fungal spores found in the environment, which grow within their body within 24 to 48 hours and spread within two to three weeks. This infection causes, among other things, a change in behavior.

This change causes the "zombie ant" to search for a branch near a colony, reaching the point with the most favorable temperature and humidity for the fungus development. Then, it sticks its jaws into the leaf's vein and anchors itself to release the fungus to infect the entire colony.

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