The Cordyceps fungus from HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ is based on a real-life organism

The Last of Us is on track to become one of the most popular TV shows in recent times. With just two episodes in, the series has scored favorably with fans and critics alike for its faithful adaptation of the video game from where it’s based.

But did you know that the Cordyceps fungus from the game and TV series The Last of Us, which has infected humanity, turning people into aggressive, zombie-like creatures known as “the infected,” is based on a real-life organism?

The Cordyceps genus of fungi includes over 400 species, many of which are known to infect and control the behavior of insects and other small arthropods. One of the most well-known species in this genus is the Cordyceps unilateralis, which infects and takes over the brains of carpenter ants.

Cordyceps unilateralis spores attach themselves to an ant and then grow into the ant’s body. The fungus then takes control of the ant’s brain and alters its behavior, causing it to climb to the top of a plant stem and bite down on a leaf. Once the ant is secured in this position, the fungus kills it and continues to grow, eventually sprouting from the ant’s head in the form of a long stalk.

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In the game, the fungus infects human brains in a similar way and alters the behavior of the infected. The fungus causes them to become aggressive and attack uninfected individuals. The fungus also spreads through the air, which makes it particularly dangerous.

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While the Cordyceps genus of fungi does not currently infect humans, the idea of a fungus that can take over the brains of animals and change their behavior is not entirely far-fetched. Other species of Cordyceps have been known to infect and control the behavior of other animals, including spiders, caterpillars, and millipedes.

The Last of Us is a television series adaptation of the popular video game of the same name, developed by HBO and written and executive produced by Craig Mazin of the critically acclaimed HBO series Chernobyl.

The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungus (cordyceps brain infection) has wiped out most of humanity. The story follows Joel and Ellie, two survivors who journey across the US in an attempt to survive and find a cure for the fungus.

In the Philippines, you can watch The Last of Us on HBO GO. You can check out its subscription options here.

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