Mycologist reveals fungus is only three steps away from making The Last of Us a reality
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HBO's smash hit series The Last of Us is being heralded as the best thing on TV right now, but what if science fiction became reality?
Well, the nightmare-inducing fungus the cordyceps, that turns humans into crazed zombies in the post-apocalyptic game adaptation, is actually a real thing.
So that should help you to sleep easy tonight.
And, according to one expert, the real-life zombie fungus is only three steps away from becoming the real, human infecting deal.
In order to infect man, the cordyceps would only need adjustments in temperature, changes to the structure of our body, and a tweak to how our immune system works.
Fungal Infection Group research associate Norman van Rhijn from Manchester University explained 'our immunity as a whole' would have to change in order for the entire population to be infected by the zombie fungus.
"It either needs to be a complete breakdown of our immunity to that fungus or the fungus needs to evolve a radical strategy not to be recognised by a complete range of cell types," he told the Daily Mail.
"We don’t fully understand it yet. But in order for a fungal pandemic to occur, our immune system must become insufficient to clear the fungus before it invades our tissue."
He added that the cordyceps currently invades cold-blooded species like ants, so body temperature would be something the fungus would need to overcome to attack humans.
"So ant's body temperature is a lot colder ... our elevated temperature is a thermal barrier for many things (including fungi) that can’t grow at that temperature.
"Basically, you can see our temperature as part of our immune system - another reason we get fever is to raise our temperature to fend off infections.
"So in order for a fungus to infect us, it needs to learn how to cope with a nearly 20-degree difference."
While these all sound like massive hurdles a virus would need to overcome, the mycologist reckons they're not impossible.
He added that the plot of the TV show itself is not so far-fetched.
"I remember the first scene where you see the scientists talking about this range of fungi and that it's all going to change, I would say that is almost 100 percent right," van Rhijn told the Daily Mail.
"[The Last of Us] has taken inspiration from scientific proof and just sensationalised that a little bit."
But, before you start to panic that the cordyceps will be responsible for the next pandemic, van Rhijn added such a drastic change won't happen in our lifetime,
Then he added: "Never say never."
Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, no doubt, no doubt.