When viewers finally did get to see the debut of the video game adaptation, many couldn’t help but wonder if the parasitic fungus that takes over humans and transforms them into mutant zombie-like creatures has any basis in reality.
“It’s real,” showrunner Craig Mazin told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are some remarkable documentaries that you can watch that are quite terrifying.”
He’s referring to footage showing how the cordyceps fungus can essentially take over insects, such as ants.
A 2019 report in National Geographic details how the fungus “infects a foraging ant through spores that attach and penetrate the exoskeleton and slowly takes over its behavior.”
It continues: “As the infection advances, the enthralled ant is compelled to leave its nest for a more humid microclimate that’s favorable to the fungus’s growth. The ant is compelled to descend to a vantage point about 10 inches off the ground, sink its jaws into a leaf vein on the north side of a plant, and wait for death.”
But don’t head out to your survival bunker yet.
“From a purely scientific point of view, would they do exactly to us what they do to ants? I don’t think so,” Mazin told The Hollywood Reporter. “I doubt it.”
In the show, climate change causes the fungus to mutate to infect humans. In reality, The Washington Post points out that humans are not only already exposed to many variations of the fungus, but that some people actively seek it out.
In fact, it’s found in health supplements.
“The fungus appears to hold some benefits for humans,” the newspaper reported, adding that the Memorial Sloan Kettering website lists “improved strength and stamina, better kidney function and immune system boosts” as potential benefits.
The site cautions readers to speak to a doctor before trying it.