Cordyceps; Could They Bring About The Apocalypse? (“The Last of Us” Speculation)

Cordyceps; Could They Bring About The Apocalypse? (The Last of Us Speculation)

On June 19, 2020, “The Last of Us,” a game that centered around the idea of a fungal-pathogen-based apocalypse, was released. The fungi in question were cordyceps, Ophiocordyceps to be specific. Ophiocordyceps thrive in a way that not many other fungi do as it all starts with an ant. First, the Cordyceps attaches to the ant via touch and places a fungal cell inside the body. Next, the fungi feed on the ant from inside and begin to multiply, creating new cells. Lastly, when the body of the ant is filled with spores of the fungi, the head of the host bursts and sprays said spores, and the cycle begins anew.

However, humans are far from ants, so fungi shouldn’t be able to spread to us, right? While it is true that Cordyceps can’t attach or transfer to humans right now, it is possible for them to be able to do so in the future. Right now, the main thing standing in the way of a fungi takeover is heat. Fungi are known to not be able to survive in warm-blooded hosts due to internal heat, and Cordyceps are no exception. In “The Last of Us,” however, a strand of Cordyceps was able to adapt to high temperatures due to the warming of the Earth. Although the video game takes place in a fictional world, with climate change becoming more and more of a threat, some wonder if this adaptation may become a reality. A scientist at Yale says does not think people need to worry about this though, stating “There are only a rare handful *of fungi* that concern me. This doesn’t include Cordyceps.” Later on in the article, he states that “while a mushroom apocalypse is likely not on the horizon, the risk of fungal diseases is on the rise.” So while a Cordyceps or fungi apocalypse may not be in our future, the spread of fungal diseases might just be.