The Last of Us is a popular video game and a TV series that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungal infection has spread and transformed most of humanity into zombies. The game’s plot revolves around the main character, Joel, and his journey to escort a young girl, Ellie, across the country to a group of resistance fighters known as the Fireflies who believe she holds the key to a cure. While the game’s premise is fictional, it raises the question of whether such an infection could occur in real life.
The fungal infection depicted in The Last of Us is based on a real-life fungus known as Cordyceps, which primarily infects insects and other arthropods. The fungus spores attach themselves to the host’s body, invade their cells, and eventually take control of their central nervous system, manipulating their behavior and forcing them to act in ways that benefit the fungus. For example, infected ants are known to climb to the top of a plant and bite into a leaf, allowing the fungus to grow and spread its spores.
While Cordyceps infections are well documented in the animal kingdom, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it could infect humans in the same way. The human immune system is much more complex and evolved than that of insects and would likely be able to mount a defense against the fungus. Additionally, while fungal infections in humans do occur, they typically affect people with weakened immune systems or specific preexisting conditions, such as HIV or diabetes.
Despite these factors, there are some experts who believe that it is not impossible for a fungal infection like Cordyceps to mutate and jump species to humans. In fact, there have been several cases of fungal infections in humans that have resulted in behavior changes, although these cases are rare and not caused by Cordyceps specifically.
So, while the fungal infection depicted in The Last of Us is based on a real-life organism, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it could infect humans in the same way. While it is possible that a fungus could mutate and jump species to humans, it is highly unlikely. However, the game serves as a reminder of the importance of taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and to be prepared for the unexpected.