The Last of Us series, which was recently released by HBO and scored record ratings, is sparking some controversy among science and concrete enthusiasts.
The original game of the same name was inspired by Sir David Attenborough and his 2006 series Planet Earth, bringing the creepy reality of Ophiocordyceps to the attention of filmmakers Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann.
So The Last of Us is based, to some extent, on reality.
Ophiocordyceps is also known as the zombie fungus because of the way it infects and controls its host.
Once inside, the fungus begins to invade the nervous system and influence the host’s behavior.
The goal of the zombie fungus is essentially to infect as many hosts as possible, which is why it sheds its spores into the forest, where they can attach themselves to other organisms that will carry its legacy forward.
The Last of Us offers a plausible explanation
Arguably, the first installment in the series does a decent job explaining why, so far, people have had nothing to fear from Ophiocordyceps. This fungal group does not tolerate human body temperature, which is why they choose insects.
It’s a harrowing concept as a potential host living on an ever-warming planet, but is it feasible? The first example of a new fungal disease arising from climate change was suggested in a report on the growth of Candida auris on three continents.
C. auris is one of several hundred fungi capable of infecting humans, which means it has overcome one of the fungi’s two key weaknesses: immune response and temperature.
Infection with C. auris can range from being asymptomatic to a potentially fatal disease characterized by fever, chills, and chronic pain.
Theoretically, if you combined the climatic resistance of C. auris, with the capabilities of Ophiocordyceps and the mind-altering powers of Claviceps purpurea, then a fungal pandemic creating people with at least strange behavior would be plausible.
For now, let’s just be glad that the reality we’re living in isn’t the one in The Last of Us.