Scientists Really Do Study Fungus To Mitigate A ‘Last Of Us’ Style Apocalypse


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Chicago’s health commissioner said Thursday that public health services pay attention to fungal infections and outbreaks, but are more concerned about other medical issues.

Chicago’s city public health department commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told NBC Chicago that “public health pays attention to fungal infections and fungal outbreaks” but noted that “it is quite unlikely that a fungus would cause a global outbreak.” Arwady’s comments come as HBO’s latest drama series, “The Last Of Us,” smashed viewership and ratings records.

The series follows lead characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they traverse a post-apocalyptic America where the human species has been destroyed by a mutated cordyceps fungus. In real life, the fungus acts as a parasite, eating into the bodies and minds of insects like ants and spiders, according to Yale researchers.

“It is based on an actual fungus. Cordyceps is the family,” Arwady continued. “And yes, this is an actual fungus. It can infect and kill insects. There’s about 400 different species of this cordyceps fungi, and each of those species has evolved to better target a different species of insect. So species of various ants and beetles and flies and spiders, but insects.”

Cordyceps colonizes and kills its host from the inside out, and spreads through to its next victim via spores that emerge from a lengthy fruiting body, according to Harvard.

Academic research on the existence of cordyceps in human hosts still debates the safety concerns revolving around the consumption of the fungus. However, so long as scientists are keeping tabs on the evolution of this family of fungi, we should be okay … theoretically.

Then again, some research focuses on the medical applications of these fungi, which have been applied as an antioxidant and pro-sexual agent. (RELATED: HBO To Release ‘The Last Of Us’ Early To Avoid The Super Bowl)

Many of these studies rely on scientists breaking down the various types of cordyceps, the end-result of which we won’t know until it’s too late. And if the last three years has taught us anything, it’s that we probably shouldn’t mess about with things designed to spread, and kill our species unless we’re looking to mitigate that impact.