What could it be?
The Indie Stone, makers of Project Zomboid, an awesome cooperative survival game on Steam- loved Immune Defense so much that they asked us to do a Zombie pathogen. We are researching whether a virus or a bacteria will be our Zombie vector…. There are several examples in nature of mind altering pathogens.
Scientists and gamers are invited to provide their input about how the apocalypse will be characterized at the molecular level. What do you think our zombie pathogen should be? What cell type should it infect, what effect should it have on the body?
Zombie Pathogen suggestions from some scientists
Catalino on January 22
Perhaps a new strain of Toxoplasma Gondii, maybe some sort of bacteriophage-type of change, which can sexually reproduce in human intestines instead of restricted to felids? It could then alter human behavior in order to reproduce – as it does with rodents supposedly. Perhaps hijacking bacteria in the human intestines (e. coli 0157?) which eventualy gains it access to the blood stream directly while also sickening/emaciating the human host?
Obviously, this isn’t anywhere near my expertise, but it would allow for longer incubation periods and stages where there could be opportunities to stop or delay the spread…etc. Thanks!
Howard Young on January 22
You could chose the JC virus as a model for a virus that remains largely dormant in the brain. it is activated in a very small percentage of patients who are treated with antibodies to remove their B cells and one could imagine an initial attack by a lytic version of EBV that will destroy the B cells, thus permitting activation of JC virus.
Tom Forest on January 22
Rabies. It has different behavioral manifestations depending on the species infected and the individual, but commonly causes rage, which enables it’s main route of spread: bites of the infected. Also has an interesting latency during the time it travels along the inside of a nerve from the location of the infecting bite to the victem’s brain, which it destroys. Inside the nerve it is protected from immune attack, but it takes different amounts of time to move inside the nerve by retrograde transport depending how long the axon may be (weeks in some cases) and during this time it is possible vaccinated the infected individual so their adaptive immune system is ready and waiting when the virus arrives. Infection in shorter nerves (for example cranial nerves) can be fought by passive immunization with anti-rabies gamma globulin injections. Has the side zombie benefit of creating larengeal paralysis and fear of water in order to provoke excessive drooling and mouth foaming which is rich in viral particles due to replication in salivary glands.
And one comment from a game developer:
Philip ‘MrPhil’ Ludington on January 22
Have you considered a fungus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis
“The spores of the fungus attach to the ant, eventually breaking through the exoskeleton using mechanical pressure and enzymes. Yeast stages of the fungus spread in the ant’s body and presumably produce compounds that affect the ant’s hemocoel, utilizing the evolutionary trait of an extended phenotype to manipulate the behavioral patterns exhibited by the ant. An infected ant exhibits irregularly timed full body convulsions that dislodge it to the forest floor. The ant climbs up the stem of a plant and uses its mandibles with abnormal force to secure itself to a leaf vein, leaving dumbbell-shaped marks on it.”
Why not add your own suggestions… or comment on these four ideas!