Adapted from the popular video game of the same name, the HBO show ‘The Last of Us’ revolves around fighting for survival in an apocalyptic world where a zombie virus takes control of the host’s mind.
For a long time, the only depictions of ‘zombie’ adjacent activities have been fictitious. However, the creator of the original video game was actually inspired by an actual ‘zombie’ fungus. Cordyceps, otherwise known as Dongchong Xiaocao, the fungus in question are sac fungi commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine with over 1,500 years of use!
So, is this a threat to humans? As aforementioned, fungi were used as medicine and is only lethal to insects. The fungi have parasitic elements that allow them to ‘take control’ over insects and other fungi. When Cordyceps attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruit body may be cylindrical, branched, etc.
In ants, cordyceps slowly mind-control its host to migrate to a location that would allow them to thrive. Scary, isn’t it? Thankfully, a human’s immune system is much stronger than that of an ant. This means we can denature the enzymes secreted by the fungi.