Zombie Apocalypse: Causes

The other day, an article published October 29, 2007 on Cracked.com titled 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen, caught my eye. I typically base most of my posts on multiple sources. However, because the site’s article instilled such a horrible chill in my bones, I decided to focus my entire Monday Mayhem post on two of its main points.

Neuron
Neuron

To start, Cracked’s scientific reasons made sense. Two in particular had an air of reality that no one could deny. I’ll concentrate on these two, but I’ll add my own spin to the equation. Furthermore, the definition of a zombie comes into question when the victims of these causes remain alive during the time of their undead-like episodes. Keep that in mind when evaluating the viability of these two points.

Neurotoxins—The literal definition of the word neurotoxin means nerve poison. Ever fill up on fuel? A common neurotoxin is ethanol. Imagine what’s happening in the brain when those gas fumes seep into the pores of the skin. Pretty gnarly, if I can still use the Eighties word gnarly to describe anything beyond radical. Neurotoxins can produce weird effects on the body. In some cases, depending on the agents used, they can even fool doctors into believing patients suffering neurotoxic poisoning are deceased. Kicker neurotoxins such as Alkaloids leave victims in a trancelike state with no memory, and with motor skills intact. Voodoo doctors in Haiti used Alkaloids to zombify people in the Sixties so they could get them to work on sugar plantations without resistance. Talk about forced labor, or rather, zombie labor. Will that be a double-double or do you take your coffee black?

Brain Parasites—In the simplest terms, a human ingests a parasite that makes them go all funky. This means loss of mental faculties, no cognitive awareness, and pure brain meltdown. The article mentions Toxoplasma gondii as a potential candidate to jumpstart the end of humanity. According to the numbers, a third of the world’s population already has it. The spread happens by ingesting undercooked meat containing the parasite, contaminated water, soil or vegetables, and transmission from mother to infant via pregnancy. Some of the effects after the infection include subtle behavioral or personality changes, and a number of neurological disorders, in particular schizophrenia. This type of stuff ought to keep anyone awake at night.

Taenia solium
Taenia solium

Ah, but I’m not done yet. Cysticercosis is my parasite of choice of which I think may usher in the zombie apocalypse. The infection occurs when a human ingests eggs of Taenia solium, pork tapeworm. This nasty biological marvel has an incubation period of months to ten years! This means if a human were to have eaten undercooked pork containing viable cysticerci, the host will not know it until its too late. Should any of the eggs make it into the muscles, it would cause muscle swelling, atrophy and fibrosis. Should any of the eggs make it into the brain, it would cause headaches, brain lesions, and seizures. Investigating this further, the CDC specifies Cysticercosis can also cause confusion, difficulty with balance, brain swelling, and even death. Sounds zombie-like to me, don’t you think?

Cracked featured three other reasons a zombie apocalypse could actually happen: The Real Rage Virus, Neurogenesis, and Nanobots. I may tackle these someday. For now, though, you can read more in the original article.

Have you read about neurotoxins or brain parasites? Does it scare you as much it scares me?

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41 thoughts on “Zombie Apocalypse: Causes

  1. i have read a bit of these types of parasites but only those that attack smaller species such as insects and fish. the parasite takes over the host’s brain and controls the host completely. it’s definitely freaky.

    mutation, transmission between species, super bad bug – BOOM! zombie apocalypse!

  2. it was pretty interesting… i have been wondering this for so long but i was scared to learn anything because i have always been terrified of zombies. they have always scared me but i just wanted to know. i have been researching this for a while now and i think i have my answer. thanks :}

  3. I love your writing! It kept me interested through the technical terms. This is a very interesting article for all most any body right now with the zombie crazed films that keep coming out.

  4. The pork tapeworm is going to keep me up at night. Thanks. All of my pork will henceforth be charred.
    So many nasty options for the zombification of society! I’m definitely interested to hear about the nanobots. And I think you should add the drug bath salts to the list. They were believed to be instrumental in this incident, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_cannibal_attack, but toxicology reports don’t typically detect bath salts.
    It’s a strange world we’re living. Strange people.

    • Our chemistry is so much like that of pigs that wouldn’t it be interesting if true zombification actually occurred because of a virus or infection that hit a pig first then bounced to humans? Have a look at the scare that took place a few years ago with the H1N1 virus. Everyone was running to their clinics to grab a flu shot in order to remain immune to the virus. Imagine that on a grander scale with a dormant parasite waiting for a trigger to get the whole thing started. Ack! Cysticercosis can sit in the gut for as long as 10 years undetected! Talk about crazy stuff.

      As for the bath salts. I wanted to add a few sentences to this post about the face-eating guy, but later toxicological reports insisted the man did not ingest bath salts at all and the incident still remains unsolved as to how the man lost his mind that way.

      It’s definitely a strange world, and equally a strange folk roaming the earth!

      • *sigh* I know they ruled out bath salts. It would have been SO much more exciting if they hadn’t though!!
        I think I’m going to quit eating pork.

      • Oh, what a strange web the gov’t weaves, seeking whom they may deceive. Smells so much like a cover-up! Can you imagine if the real truth comes out! lol 😉

        I quit eating pork years ago after finding out about the parasites. I’m serious! Scared me silly. I think there’s something in Leviticus about eating swine, but I don’t quite remember the exact verse. 🙂

  5. Nice article, Jack. Toxoplasma gondii is a facinating little creature if you consider what it actually does to us: it makes us more fearless and aggressive, and more likely to get ourselves killed. This seems odd because you’d think it would want to keep us alive as long as possible as it will die when we die, until you realise that the aim of T. gondii is to end up in the digestive tract of a big cat where it can reproduce.

    Back in the days when we were still roaming around the savannah, if we started acting fearlessly, we were more likely to get eaten by a big cat, so completing the circle of life (at least for T. gondii if not for us!).

    Nowadays, there’s no lions to eat us, instead it makes us do other reckless things and there’s been a suggestion that people with toxoplasmosis cysts to die in car wrecks, get into fights, take up extreme sports and so on.

    It’s an odd thought that there might be a little creature or two in your brain controlling how you behave, and indeed some parts of our personality. So much for human free will!

    • Interesting point, Colin. So you’re saying Toxoplasmosis cysts may affect extreme athletes such that they have parasites munching away at their brains to make them do all the wild sports they do ’cause their fear factors are busted and their aggression is running at full tilt. That actually makes sense to me. In other words, they’re a few synapses short of becoming menacing zombies. Interesting point indeed, Colin.

      • Something like that. I don’t think they actually munch on the brain tissue. It’s more that they form cysts that they live in, and these cysts seem to preferentially target the areas of the brain that gives us restraint. If it started causing cysts in more of these areas, it could certainly cause people to act very differently, and possibly very zombie like.

        If you want to see the effects toxoplasmosis can have on behaviour, look at the videos at the end of this post from my blog (http://cmdrysdale.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/real-zombie-diseases/). In particular, check out the one of the rat attacking the cat. This is the parasite messing with the rat’s brain and trying to make sure it gets eaten. It’s wild that it can make the rat do something that is so against its usual nature just with a few well-placed cysts.

  6. Hello Jack
    Another well-written blog, thanks 🙂
    Parasites are an interesting one to consider. Their long term presence before striking is interesting, offering enormous opportunity for zombie-ism. Take what’s going on at the moment, getting rid of illegal horse meat from our food chain. What if it had been pork, contaminated with a parasite? All those under-cooked burgers and spag bols out there, all those people succumbing to something that might get triggered many years later, perhaps by extreme solar flares – oops, that’s happening right now!
    Have a lovely sunny weekend 🙂 – remember to cook the burgers well on the BBQ!
    David

  7. Interesting. I thought about the parasite once, but only in a fictional way. Never thought of the neurotoxin. Are we also going under the definition that these zombies won’t eat human flesh? Sounds like it’d be more of a docile zombie.

    • Could be docile, however, given mutation happens at one point or another during a virus’ life cycle, I wouldn’t doubt this parasite would mutate to make the host crave human flesh. Or not.

      • Jack, it’s my suspicion that H pylori gives off a chemical that causes an intense desire to eat sugar, creating an environment that promotes increased numbers of the bacteria.

        Oops, I may be right: “Non-diabetic adults infected with Helicobacter pylori (whether or not they had ulcer symptoms), tended to have higher blood sugar than adults without H. pylori…”

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