For fans of the hit HBO show “The Last of Us,” Sunday night’s season one finale may answer longstanding questions or leave them hanging with many more until season two.
How is Ellie going to get over her violent run-in with David? Is Joel going to be OK? Is there really such a thing as zombie fungus? And if so, should we be worried?
Based on a 2013 video game, “The Last of Us” has generated much attention for cordyceps, a real-world genus of fungi that in the show is responsible for causing the apocalypse, after evolving to adapt to climate change. In the fictional world of “The Last of Us,” Ophiocordyceps unilateralis – a fungus found in tropical forests that can infect ants and hijack their bodies until spores explode from their heads and shower down on other ants, thus repeating the process – can turn humans into zombies.
It begs the question: Since this is a real fungus, could that actually happen?
We consulted with Kyla Ost, PhD, a fungi researcher and assistant professor of immunology and microbiology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine, for perspective on fungi and zombies.
Header image: Liane Hentscher/HBO