A banner for “The Last of Us” in the city center in Warsaw, Poland.
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images
“The Last of Us” on HBO Max depicts a zombie apocalypse caused by a fungus pandemic.
Experts say mind-controlling mushrooms aren’t an imminent threat, but anti-fungal drug resistance is.
Here’s the science fact and fiction behind the show, and the possibility of a fungal pandemic.
The first season of HBO’s “The Last of Us” ends on Sunday, but there’s still much to learn from the science that inspired it.
In most ways, the show depicts a classic zombie apocalypse.
One morning, everybody is going about their normal life. There’s a mention on the radio of chaos in Jakarta. And by nightfall, twitchy, possessed once-humans are sprinting after the main character.
This time, though, it’s a fungus turning people into zombies.
The new scenario, first realized in the video game that the show is based on, is making viewers wonder whether a fungus pandemic can happen in real life.
“A fungal pandemic is definitely possible,” Norman Van Rhijn, a mycologist researching fungal infections at the University of Manchester, told Insider in an email.
A sample of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, in Nashville, Tennessee.
No species of fungus currently known to science poses an immediate pandemic threat for humans — especially not the way the show portrays it. Still, fungal infections are on the rise worldwide, and researchers are concerned that more and more people are at risk.
Some even worry that new super-pathogens could arise from the fungus kingdom.
“The potential is huge for what can emerge and become a pathogen,” Tom Chiller, chief of the fungal disease branch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Insider. “I am not going to be surprised that more fungi emerge as human pathogens, that become more challenging to treat and more infectious.”
Here’s the science fact and science fiction behind “The Last of Us,” and the threats that fungi pose.
FACT: There is a zombie fungus — in ants
Zombies in “The Last of Us” bloom with tendrils of a fungus called Cordyceps, which sprout from their heads and mouths, reaching out for fresh victims.
Cordyceps is real, but it only overtakes the brains and bodies of insects — most famously, ants.
An ant infected by fungus cordyceps
Denis Phelipe Gaspar/Shutterstock
The fungus grows inside an ant’s body, causes the ant to climb upwards, and …read more
Source:: Business Insider