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Pedro Pascal

There’s A ‘Last Of Us’ Type Parasite Out There That Can Affect The Human Mind

I think it’s probably safe to say that most of us have watched The Last of Us and might now have a fairly reasonable fear of mushrooms.

Spoiler for those who haven’t seen it: a type of parasitic mushroom infects food supply, which then begins to alter the human mind, creating zombies who bite other people and spread the parasite across the world.

This is a very real parasite that is spread through the fungus cordyceps, which infects insects such as ants and spiders. 

“ The infection starts when a fungal spore gets inside an organism like an ant and begins growing inside its body,” said Cosmos Magazine journalist Imma Perfetto. 

“This is when the ant’s behaviour gets hijacked, prioritizing its parasites reproduction over everything else.” 

The ants will start to behave strangely, wandering away from their colony and eventually biting onto a piece of vegetation, locking its mandibles in place while the parasites eat away at everything inside the host.

While this sounds absolutely horrific and terrifying, could the same parasite affect humans? 

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The short answer is no, not at this stage, but there are other parasites out there that could put humans at risk of a zombie situation. 

Take for instance the Toxoplasma parasite which mostly infects the minds of cats and mice but can also impact the minds of humans. 

Studies show that mice infected by the parasite showed concerning behavioural changes including forgetting to be afraid of cats.

Cosmos Magazine journalist Imma Perfetto reveals how likely we are to be hit by a zombie apocalypse, which scary parasites and viruses there are out there and what effects the Toxoplasma parasite has on the human mind.

Tune into the full episode of Huh? Science Explained below… 

Put your thinking caps on, folks. Huh? Science Explained is here, the twice weekly podcast brought to you by LiSTNR and Cosmos. Hosted by Cosmos’ very own science journos, this is the podcast that will answer all of life’s questions – in just 10 minutes. Hear it on the LiSTNR app now.