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What is Cordyceps and what actually causes the fungus mentioned in "The Last of Us"?


In fiction, cordyceps enters the human body and takes over the brain, but in real life this fungus does not infect people, although it does attack insects and also manipulates them mentally.

What should you know about HBO's "The Last of Us" series?


(CNN Spanish) --

In the first chapter of "The Last of Us", the new HBO series based on the video game of the same name, a pandemic devastates the entire world after a parasitic virus of fungal origin infects people and turns them into zombies.

This genus of mushrooms that inspired the creators of the series exists in the real world and has a name:



In fiction, cordyceps enters the human body and takes over the brain, but in real life, so far, this fungus does not infect people, but it does attack insects and also manipulates them mentally.

What is


and what does it actually cause?

Cordyceps and mental manipulation: what is it and what does it really cause?

Cordyceps is


genus of fungus containing hundreds of species that primarily affect insects, manipulating their mind and forcing them to infect other insects.

The best known case in the world is that of "zombie ants", that is, an ant that was infected by a parasitic fungus: it enters its body up to its brain to mentally control it and make it leave its nest, climb a tree nearby and infect others.

I eat?

The infected ant clamps its jaws around a tree leaf and dies within days when digested by the fungus.

It then sends out a shower of spores to infect the next generation of ant prey.


Scientifically classified in the genus


, the more than two dozen species of fungi that affect ants are found around the world primarily in Florida, Brazil, and Japan.

A white downy fungus grows on top of the parasitic fungus which it attacks and turns the ants into "zombies".

(Credit: João Araujo)

The Ophiocordyceps


is not the only one out there.

Dr. João Araújo, assistant curator of mycology at the New York Botanical Garden, and his team discovered two genera of parasitic fungi that were hitherto unknown to science:

Niveomyces coronatus


Torrubiellomyces zombiee


However, due to their novelty, it is still unclear how they affect the zombie ant population.

In West Virginia, for example, researchers in 2020 discovered so-called "zombie cicadas," a new population of cicadas that were being brutally infected by


, a psychedelic mushroom that contains chemicals like those found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to a new study published by

 PLOS Pathogens.

In this case, the university researchers realized that the infected cicadas kept moving around unaware of their illness.

This allows the parasitic fungus to manipulate them as well as drive them into hypersexual behavior that leads them to mate only to end up sexually transmitting the fungus to healthy cicadas.

A cicada infected with Massospora.

After infecting its host, the fungus results in "a disturbing display of B-horror movie proportions," West Virginia University says in a press release.

The fictional series raises something terrifying which is that due to global warming of the planet,


evolves to the point of infecting people by taking over their own body, leading them to attack and spread the virus to those who have not yet been infected.

"The Last of Us" airs on HBO Max, part of Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN's parent company.

With information from Alaa Elassar, Kate Golembiewski and Sergio Gómez Martín 

MushroomsThe Last of Us

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2023-01-18

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