You might have watched a plethora of zombie movies, such as ’28 Days’, ‘World War Z’, and ‘Resident Evil’. While on screen they seem terrifying, a lot of us console ourselves with the belief that these creatures are nothing but a figment of human imagination. An article titled ‘5 Reasons The Zombie Apocalypse Will Never Come To Pass’ once featured in the Primer Magazine. Though slightly comforting, there are certain phenomena that often raise an iota of doubt if we might be adopting too laidback an attitude. True, it might take decades for such a situation to actually present itself to mankind, but there are living organisms and man-made creations that bear a resemblance to these feared, dead beings. If parasites can take over the brains of smaller insects and animals, could the day be far behind, when we might end up becoming victims too? Scientists believe that as of now there isn’t a possibility that human corpses can come back from the dead, walk with their arms held out, and crave for living flesh. However, somewhere in the far future, a zombie apocalypse is definitely a probability, and the following 10 scientific reasons suggest why it could actually happen.
1. Mad Cow Disease
Probably one of the most well-known neurodegenerative conditions that usually cause death in members of the bovine family, the Mad Cow disease has high possibilities of spreading to humans. When humans consume infected body parts of the cow, they are at risk of acquiring it. In us though, it is known by a different name–the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Now you must be wondering how that can create zombies. Well, the symptoms observed in a person with this medical condition are very similar to those seen in the zombies of the film, ’28 Days Later’. There could be hallucinations, convulsions, twitching of muscles or a change in the way people walk. Scared? You see, the only relief is that violence is not a manifestation of the same. However, it doesn’t take long for any disease to evolve, does it?
Close your eyes and imagine mushrooms sprouting out of your head. Mushrooms that dictate every move you make, controlling each action you perform. The thought itself is terrifying, isn’t it? There is a certain species of fungi that has the ability to occupy the brains of ants in Africa. This fungus, known as the Ophiocordyceps commands the ant to crawl up a plant, and cling on to a leaf’s underside. Soon the ant dies, and the fungus can be observed growing stalks right out of the insect’s head. On maturing completely, the spores are dispersed and the process continues. How does that affect humans? You never know but some day the ophiocordyceps may mutate to infect us, just as is shown in the video game, ‘The Last of Us’.
Neurotoxins are usually used to create chemical weapons but if manipulated in the correct proportions, they have the capacity to generate a condition where humans show signs of being dead. This neurotoxin naturally occurs in the highly poisonous puffer fish. If accidentally you end up consuming the poison, you will be dead and you don’t need to worry about transforming into a weird zombie. However, if the surface of your skin comes in contact with the venom, you will only slip into a death-like state. Mind you, when you do wake up after the effects wear off you might just believe you’re one of those walking dead people. With violence on the rise, these neurotoxins could be potentially dangerous if produced on a large scale for warfare.
An unfortunate incident that took place in 2012 in Miami went viral over the media, since it involved what was termed a zombie attack. A young man named Rudy Eugene was shot dead by the cops after he had stripped naked and eaten up at least half the face of an old homeless man, Ronald Poppo. Poppo lost his eyes and nose, but it was Eugene who made more news. He was suspected to have consumed bath salts, though investigations revealed that he had only traces of marijuana. Whether it’s the weed or a psychiatric disorder that induced cannibalistic symptoms, we are unsure of. However, if you want to avoid a zombie apocalypse, it is safe to say no to drugs.
5. Toxoplasma Gondii
Here’s another parasite that has the ability to control what other animals do. The toxoplasma gondii usually infects rats, after which the rodent gets attracted to the smell of cats. Instead of hiding from their predator, the rats seek out cats so they can be eaten up, which causes the parasite to get transmitted to cats. The felines of course create the possibility of their human owners of becoming host themselves. Reported cases of human contamination are few and far between, but sometimes, you just don’t know what resides inside you.
6. Hymenoepimecis Argyraphaga
If you are petrified of wasps, then you have a condition that is known as Spheksophobia. Nothing too serious about the phobia, but certain wasps are known to have scared many people. No, it’s not their sting; it is a species called the Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, which literally has the ability to turn a spider into a zombie. This parasitic wasp uses a spider as a host, paralyses the arachnid, lays her eggs inside its abdomen, and even commands the eight-legged creature to spin a cocoon for the larvae. For the possibility that the Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga might do the same to humans in future, this is definitely considered one of the scientific reasons that a zombie apocalypse could actually happen.
Stem cell research has created an opportunity for humans to regenerate diseased organs that would have otherwise stopped functioning. However, scientists claim that while this would have an effect on most organs, a decaying brain would not be able to work. It is interesting as well as terrifying to note that though our bodies will be active, we would not have any human emotions left. Does that remind you of zombies? There you have food for thought.
8. Jewel Wasp
It seems the list of parasitic organisms is going to be endless. A jewel wasp, similar to the Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, attacks a cockroach to make a home for their young ones. On stinging, the roach gets paralyzed and the wasp lays eggs inside the immobilized insect. The roach is then dragged inside its burrow, but before the wasp leaves, she ensures she seals all ways for her victim to escape. Within a short span of three days the larva hatches and feeds itself on the insides of the cockroach. Well, if these wasps learn to do the same to human beings, we might soon become puppets in their hands.
9. Horsehair worms
Oh no, not another parasite that can regulate minds! Horsehair worms lay their eggs in fresh water, which then cling on to an unsuspecting insect that drinks it. Soon the infected insect begins acting crazy, at one point of time putting itself into a situation where it drowns in water. Once the host dies, the worms begin to come out of the insect’s body. Though insects are the usual victims, there have been rare cases where even humans have fallen prey to the horsehair worms. If these worms learn to mutate and evolve further, we might soon be forced to behave like zombies.
Nanobot is a scientific creation that is also known by names such as nanomachines, nanoids and nanomites. These devices are still under development with a few samples having been tested out. These self-replicating machines have been portrayed in famous films such as ‘Terminator’, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and ‘I, Robot’. A nanobot that has been well-made, may have the ability to either build or destroy something. This is quite a scary fact since scientists are of the opinion that these microscopic devices are potent enough to wipe out entire mankind. However, being curious by nature, humans continue to work on these nanoids. In fact, they have even found a way to build what is called a nano-cyborg, where a minute chip can be attached to a virus. The chips can function for a month after their hosts have died. Now does that a ring a bell to you? That’s right, it is uncannily similar to how we see zombies behaving in movies. Most people strongly believe that it isn’t too long before nanomachines can be wired to regulate our thoughts. A zombie apocalypse might just be on its way.