Movies - TV
The Fungal Infection In HBO's The Last Of Us Is Real (And Horrifying)
HBO’s “The Last of Us” centers on an infection that sees humans becoming mere vessels for fungal invaders entering their bodies and taking control of their functions. While this might seem like pure science fiction, the fungus of the show is based on one actual strand of the Cordyceps — a genus of ascomycete fungi — and has similar effects.
First discovered in the 1800s, the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus can take control of carpenter ants’ muscles, so the host no longer obeys the commands of its own brain but rather the will of the fungus. Although there are some differences between the fungus in “The Last of Us” and its real-life counterpart, there are more than a few shocking similarities.
Loss of body control is a significant factor in reality and in its depiction in “The Last of Us,” though the show has the Cordyceps attacking and controlling the host’s brain instead of its body. The infection’s spread is nearly identical to reality, as spores are released from the host’s deceased body, but the fictional afflicted exhume spores while living and dead.
Writer and co-director of “The Last of Us” game, Neil Druckmann, revealed his team at Naughty Dog did extensive research on all types of Cordyceps fungi to develop a memorable kind of zombie. Druckmann explained, “Some of the best horror stories always talk about ’a fate worse than death.’ Nature is way scarier than anything we could ever imagine.”