Here’s how the scarily real Cordyceps fungal virus from The Last of Us actually works

Anything with the word ‘fungus’ in is pure horror

The Last of Us finally premiered on HBO this week, after honestly what feels like a generation of waiting for fans of the game. For those uninitiated, both the game that acts as the source material and this new TV adaptation of The Last of Us take place in a post-apocalyptic world after a virus takes hold of the population that turns people into violent creatures. Before you dismiss it as just another zombie story, this infection isn’t like the usual kind you see in horror. The apocalypse in The Last of Us is caused by a mutation of Cordyceps – a very real fungus that we have in the world. Right now. Here’s how The Last of Us Cordyceps virus actually works in the show.

It keeps you alive…

Cordyceps currently exists, and rampages its way through insects – as seen in the title sequence of The Last of Us. In ants, if the colony find an ant acting erratically they remove it far away from the rest of them because Cordyceps kills the ant and makes it climb high up before bursting its fungal head through the head of the ant and exploding airborne spores. For a lot of the process, the ant is alive but unable to control its actions.

And what’s scary is, the virus could technically happen. The intro to the HBO show sees two scientists debating it, and IRL scientists have confirmed the science is all sound even if it’s unlikely to happen. Cordyceps mutates in The Last of Us and starts infecting humans through food – and this could happen in real life if temperatures were to change say, according to climate change.

In the game, the virus works airborne too and can infect people via spores, but this has been taken out for the show. There are different stages of infected – Runners, Stalkers, Clickers and Bloaters – each more mutated than the last but all dangerous in their own way.

What’s scary about the virus in The Last of Us is that the infected aren’t dead, but alive and controlled by the mutating fungus driving them to attack and bite people to spread the spores, meaning they’re conscious and unable to stop the horrors they’re committing. Science is SCARY!

For all the latest horror film news and to keep up with The Last of Us cast drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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