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World War Z: Could a Zombie Virus Happen?

In the new movie World War Z, a zombie virus has overtaken the planet, killing off most of humankind and leaving (who else?) only Brad Pitt to save the rest of us.

Inspired by the 2006 novel of the same name, the film’s only the latest example of America’s zombification. In researching this article, I learned that at least one hospital—California’s Sutter Roseville Medical Center—has had a zombie apocalypse drill, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a preparation guide for the living dead, and that conservationists are thinking about how nature can help us if the world were to fall to zombies. Walking to the movie theater in downtown Washington, D.C., I was even randomly handed a flier for “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse” by a religious group.

world war z picture

Brad Pitt tries to escape a zombie in World War Z. Photograph courtesy Jaap Buitendijk, Paramount Pictures

And, after three seasons of Walking Dead, I considered myself fairly zombie proficient. But I was still awestruck by World War Z.

Unlike in Walking Dead, these zombies are gasp-inducingly fast, come to life seconds after being bitten, and make high-pitched, almost bird-like noises. The suspenseful moments—especially when the characters tiptoe through a zombie-filled laboratory—will keep even the most jaded moviegoer engaged, and the aerial scenes of tens of thousands of zombies swarming over iconic cities are purely fascinating to watch.

Also surprising: Unlike the novel, in which UN investigator Gerry Lane (Pitt) travels the tatters of civilization interviewing survivors, the movie is set at the beginning of the apocalypse, and Lane goes from place to place to try to stop the zombie virus.

The solution, he discovers, is to “camouflage” people by making them sick with another microbe, under the premise that zombies have no interest in attacking you unless you’re healthy. Skeptical, I asked Joan Slonczewski, a microbiologist at Kenyon College in Ohio, if that’s how viruses really work.

No, at least in a person or animal’s body: “I’ve never heard of a case where virus infection prevents transmission from another person or animal,” she said.

But, at the cellular level, “it is possible for one virus infecting a cell to prevent ‘superinfection’ of that cell by another virus. For example, herpes infection of a cell may prevent superinfection of that cell by another herpes strain.”

Zombie Virus Possible?

As a science fiction writer, Slonczewski is used to imagining doomsday scenarios. Her 2010 novel Brain Plague featured zombie-like characters that bite people to transmit intelligent microbes, which then communicate with the infected person’s brain cells. So I asked her: Could a zombie-like virus occur in real life?

Sort of. No one’s expecting the dead to rise again, of course, but there are so-called neurotropic viruses that attack our brains and cause aggressive or bizarre behavior.

“I suppose you could imagine a [new neurotropic] virus that would cut off the higher brain function and then induce a starvation-like state and could thereby induce the disabled person to go after brains”—the classic zombie meal, Slonczewski said.

Some existing neurotropic viruses are already the stuff of nightmares. For instance, “rabies is pretty scary on its own,” said Kartik Chandran, a microbiologist and immunologist at the Albert Einstein College in New York who studies the deadly Ebola virus. (In the movie and book, the zombie plague is first misidentified as rabies.)

Like the mythical zombie virus, rabies is transferred through biting. Once inside your body, the virus travels directly to your brain and “makes you go nuts and go and bite more people,” he said. More than 55,000 people, mostly in Africa and Asia, die from rabies every year, which is one person every ten minutes, according to the World Rabies Day website. Most infected people are bitten by rabid wildlife. (See “New, Fast-Evolving Rabies Virus Found—And Spreading.”)

Making of a Monster

How would a “zombie virus” arise? One possibility is that two viruses could join together and form a hybrid.

Viruses work by copying their genetic material within human cells. If there are two viruses in the same cell, one virus may accidentally jump on a genetic copy that belongs to the other virus. The progenitor to the human HIV virus may have arisen this way in Africa when a chimpanzee and monkey virus combined, Chandran explained.

I also asked Chandran if the Ebola virus—which causes widespread hemorrhaging—and rabies could ever hybridize and infect people, making them look and act like zombies. He said that’s unlikely because the viruses aren’t closely related, and that even if it were to happen, the resulting “bastard progeny would be nonfunctional or poorly functional.”

But there’s another way that a mutant virus can arise: if there’s a glitch in the genetic copying machinery of an existing virus.  Sometimes, one of these mutations confers an advantage to the virus that allows the mutated strain to outcompete others and quickly take over the world. (Take an infectious diseases quiz.)

Called a “selective sweep,” this usually happens frequently with influenza. (See video: “How Flu Viruses Attack.”)

That’s why the concept of a World War Z-like viral plague is not so far-fetched.

Viruses also succeed when they encounter populations that have no immunity against them. A good example is measles in the New World in the 1600s, noted Chandran. Europeans, who were resistant to measles virus, brought it with them to the Americas, where the natives weren’t. It spread like wildfire.

Viruses Not All Bad

But before you panic about a zombie apocalypse, remember that not all viruses are bad. Slonczewski noted that there are more helpful viruses than harmful ones. Some viruses are even essential to our survival, performing functions like stimulating our immune system.

Chandran agreed that “viruses are indispensable to life as we know it.” For instance, viruses shuffle nature’s genetic deck by constantly moving new genetic material from species to species.

Another thing to consider: The majority of viruses on Earth infect single-celled microbes, and have no interest in us humans.

“We’re kind of a sideshow. This whole planet’s really about microbes,” Chandran said, “just waiting to take it back.”

That should put your mind at ease.

Follow Christine Dell’Amore on Twitter and Google+.

Comments

  1. Sarah
    April 20, 3:33 pm

    We just need to stop worrying about it it’s not going to happen if it did the army would take care of it and Obama said it might happen but don’t believe him it isn’t going to happen and zombies are made up characters not real people and it’s just makeup on the people to make them look like zombies

  2. Georgia
    Uk
    April 19, 4:41 am

    Seriously guys why in the world would you even want a zombie virus to happen. Think of your family. Think of all the people who will lose all they have. Even if you survived zombies you will probably end up dying of hunger. I honestly have no idea why someone would want this to happen. Long story short:
    Zombies belong in movies. Not real life.

  3. Prince
    Nigeria
    April 17, 4:08 am

    People should not be scared about does bunch of wackos called zombies am really prepared for it because i have this bad feeling its going to happen. The big question is ARE YOU GUYS PREPARED FOR THE DOOMS DAY?

  4. yo mamma
    wyo
    March 20, 8:36 pm

    Emi, same here. I have a backpack in my closet full of supplise. Get ready guys, doesn’t hurt to prepare

  5. Shane Davidson
    bishop Auckland
    March 15, 2:20 am

    A zombie apocalypse will never happen they are made up monsters if it would happen would of happened bye now that’s what I believe any way

  6. JOE MAMA
    SPARTAA!!!
    February 23, 8:19 pm

    Hello,I am here to tell you the Zombie Apocalypse is going to happen soon.And i mean soon.Be prepared.I do not mean the die and come back to life zombies,i mean virus zombie.Those of you who believe this and are prepared have a better chance of surviving,those who don’t…don’t.Have a emergency backpack and weapons ready,because it might happen as you read this.Be aware,this wont end the world.We will get back on our feet a few years later.Jesus will come and the Antichrist will rise,that is how the end of the world will happen.I have to keep watching for zombie signs and keep researching.Here is a virus that might become a zombie virus,LQP-79.
    be prepared.stay prepared.keep prepared.

  7. Jacob
    USA
    February 17, 9:26 am

    Kristen and everybody else who is misinformed about the “zombie” situation in Florida. They did tests on the guy and the only drug and offsetting thing in his system was da cannabis mon. Marijuana

  8. Chaz
    February 13, 3:36 pm

    I’m sure the federal government is already trying to see if this is possible. If a zombie outbreak ever does happen, which I believe is impossible, I’m sure the government had something to do with it…lol

  9. Josh Scott
    Jersey
    January 21, 2:46 pm

    This is a cracking article!! I have no input into how a zombie apocalypse would actually come but really like the idea of it happening, so would someone just hurry up and figure out how to make my zombie apocalypse dream a reality!!

  10. emi
    arizona
    January 11, 3:32 pm

    oh my gosh i honestly think there is a fair chance at this happenng. i have an emergency backpack that is in my closet with medicine, first aid, extra clothes my pocket knife, matches, paracord, and a sleeping bag and some millitary MRE’s (meal ready to eat). gosh never hurts to be prepared :p

  11. Dominic
    Edmonton
    January 2, 1:48 am

    Are u sure? I mean have any of u read the zombie survival guide it says fake stuff butt it got me thinking … a zombie virus is very possible, idiotic drs and scientists are fooling around with virus. O and by the way, the Miami face eater wasent on bath salts that’s a cover up. I know it sounds like a conspirisy theory but its cause the gov. Don’t want use to panic. They mean no harm.

  12. Carcotas
    Romania
    December 23, 2013, 4:47 am

    At the end of World War Z, just as the credits began rolling, a gentleman, scratch that, an idiot spoke up from the back of the theatre exclaiming, “What? That sucked! The book was nothing like that! Booo!” I’m sure he scurried away back home, logged online, and began tweeting, posting, and blogging, furthering his rant. Much like my response to him at the theatre, I hope he receives silence in return.

    It’s true, World War Z is nothing like the book. The book is told from the point of view AFTER the war. It’s a “historical,” account of what happened during the war. Rather than make a mockumentary with flashbacks, which would have been the wrong decision in my opinion, the filmmakers decided to put us right in the middle of the action.

    When adapting a piece of literature it is impossible to bring every page, every paragraph, every nuance onto the screen. Some have come close depending on the material, but for the most part, they all have to take their own creative licenses. After all, it’s called an “adaptation,” for a reason, otherwise they would call it a copy or mimic.

    Where World War Z works (that’s a mouthful) and where so many others fail is that just because the world slips into total and utter chaos, doesn’t mean that governments, military, and law enforcement agencies go away. Quite the opposite. If anything, these scenarios bring out the best of all of them. We see generals, UN delegates, and scientists trying to solve complex issues that they don’t know anything about. Rather than going into hiding, they act. Society doesn’t crumble. Bands of cannibals and leather strapped gangs don’t patrol the streets with necklaces made of teeth. People do what they can to survive, and the higher ups try their best to find a fast and effective solution.

    At first, I thought the movie started too fast. How could something this violent and concentrated go undetected, but after a while I got it. The opening montage of news reports said it all. How many of us listen to everything we hear on the news? Exactly. So much goes undetected while we focus on issues that effect us immediately. It’s too late when the virus touches US soil. Not even social media can keep up with it.

    As far as zombie movies go this one is pretty great. Though I think 28 Days Later takes the cake in terms of realism, in-camera effects, and sheer terror, this one holds its own. Brad Pitt plays a former UN investigator who is traveling with his family just as the zombie attack on Philadelphia unfolds. The film goes from 0-60 before you take a sip of your Coke. This is a fast paced, edge of your seat thrill ride led by one of the finest actors of this generation (Pitt’s acting ability is far too underrated and lost in the kerfuffle of tabloid news).

    For those of you who stare at the ticket window debating whether or not to see a film in 3D or standard, you might want to spend the extra few dollars to see this one in 3D (I know it’s asking a lot, but maybe you can sneak some candy or a bottle of water to offset the concession stand price – deal with it). I tend to air on the side of “screw it, I want to see it in 3D.” Now not every movie NEEDS to be seen in 3D, hell there are really only a couple that absolutely have to be seen in all three dimensions (Avatar and maybe Life of Pi), but this one really surprised me. 3D is not about things jumping out at you, but it’s about layers. Luckily this film has both. Big chase scenes in Philly, particles floating about in South Korea, and tracking shots in Jerusalem make this one of the 3D events of the year. No exaggeration.

    Like so many other summer blockbusters before it, civilization is on the brink of extinction and only a handful of experts can save us. What World War Z does that so many have failed is give us hope. Hope that humanity won’t dissolve into nothingness. In the face of sheer danger these fighters stand tall, take a deep breath, look the enemy in the eye, and say, “No.”

    More about the movie you can also find it here
    http://movieinfodb.com/en/movie/72190/World+War+Z-2013

  13. Kristen
    December 19, 2013, 12:48 am

    Alex, the guy who bit the other guy’s face off in Florida had nothing to do with a virus… He was on bath salts..

  14. alex
    michigan
    December 3, 2013, 8:57 am

    ok so this has been very informational i think it can happen because of the florida accident when the guy bit the other guys face off. and there has been other occurances like this before. and i think that if the government is seriously doing this kind of stuff they should seriously tell the people of the united states. so we know to get ready just in case it got out of control. i think we have a right to know…..

  15. Ali
    New York
    December 1, 2013, 6:08 am

    Everything is Possible

  16. Neil
    October 20, 2013, 5:03 pm

    To be honest you all crazy lol next sharknado will be real aha go live in a bomb shelter while you can lol

  17. Ashton Krawchuk
    October 12, 2013, 3:47 pm

    This is a wonderful A to Z on how to establish a strong online presence! Wonderful info, very newbie-friendly, comprehensive and thorough!

  18. yew.snow
    October 7, 2013, 1:47 am

    is it really to be happen in future…???
    why the movies shows this ..?? it means something is going on but TOP SECRET……
    anyhow WE SHOULD PRAY TO GOD./. SAVE ALL MANKIND FROM ANY OTHER DEADLY VIRUS..

  19. n b
    October 7, 2013, 12:07 am

    The author of the World War Z book wrote that the virus is called Solanum. It replicates by going through bloodstream, via bite or mix of blood, it goes to the brain. It deteriorates the frontal lobe and concentrates in the mouth. It kills after 5-6 hours, and then reanimates body. Cycle starts over. If you REALLY want to know more check out the book author, Max Brooks, his Zombie Survival Guide is good.

  20. yo mama
    on Jupiter
    October 6, 2013, 6:43 pm

    honestly I think this is totally possible, but its like one in a million that the dead will rise, or they eat people’s brains. I mean really. but it is definitely possible in our world today.

  21. Michael
    USA
    September 25, 2013, 6:30 pm

    If it happen’s it happen’s just deal with it.
    you ever get into a movie it could happen by ((hypnosis)).

  22. cody
    Davis
    September 22, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Below is a possible “zombie creator”:

    Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitoidal fungus that infects ants such as Camponotus leonardi and alters their behavior. The ant falls from the tree where it normally lives, climbs on the stem of a plant, clamps its mandibles on a leaf and dies there, while the fungus consumes its tissues and grows outside it, releasing its spores. The infected ants are popularly known as zombie ants. This is a prime example of a parasitoid that alters the behavior of its host in order to ensure its own reproduction. Possessed ants march to their death and the fungus lives inside the exoskeleton.

    Morphology

    The species can be identified at the end of its lifecycle by its reproductive structure, consisting of a wiry yet pliant darkly pigmented stroma stalk extending from the back of the deceased ant’s head. The stalk has perithecia just below its tip. The fungus infects ants, most known as the carpenter ants, in which the fungus creates a single stalk arising from the dorsal neck region on which the sexual structures are borne horizontally, which creates the spores. Once infected with the fungus the ant will climb down from its normal habitat and bite down on the underside of a leaf. This is known as “the death grip” occurring in very precise locations.

    Life cycle

    Like other fungi pathogenic to insects in the Ophiocordyceps genus, O. unilateralis targets a specific host species, the Camponotus leonardi ant. However the fungus may parasitize other closely related species of ants with lesser degrees of host manipulation and reproductive success.

    The fungus’s spores enter the body of the insect likely through the cuticle by enzymatic activity, where they begin to consume the non-vital soft tissues. Yeast stages of the fungus spread in the ant’s body and presumably produce compounds that affect the ant’s brain and change its behaviour by currently unknown mechanisms. The insect climbs up the stem of a plant and uses its mandibles to secure itself to a leaf vein, with abnormal force, leaving dumbbell-shaped marks on it. A search through plant fossil databases revealed similar marks on a fossil leaf from the Messel pit which is 48 million years old.

    The fungus then kills the ant, and continues to grow as its hyphae invade more soft tissues and structurally fortify the ant’s exoskeleton. More mycelia then sprout out of the ant, and securely anchor it to the plant substrate while secreting antimicrobials to ward off competition. When the fungus is ready to reproduce, its fruiting bodies grow from the ant’s head and rupture, releasing the spores. This process takes 4 to 10 days.

    The changes in the behavior of the infected ants are very specific, giving rise to the popular term “zombie ants”, and tuned for the benefit of the fungus. The ants suffer from convulsions causing them to fall to the ground and preventing them from finding their way back to their canopy. The ants generally clamp to a leaf’s vein about 25 cm above the ground, on the northern side of the plant, in an environment with 94-95% humidity and temperatures between 20 and 30 °C. Infections may lead to 20 to 30 dead ants per square metre. “Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein [of a leaf] before dying”. When the dead ants are moved to other places and positions, further vegetative growth and sporulation either fails to occur or results in undersized and abnormal reproductive structures.

    Geographic distribution

    The fungus occurs in tropical forests throughout the world, including those in Africa, Brazil, Thailand and Palau.

    Host impact

    O. unilateralis has been known to destroy entire ant colonies. In response, ants have evolved the ability to sense that a member of the colony is infected; healthy ants will carry the dying one far away from the colony in order to avoid fungal spore exposure. Throughout the life cycle, there are unique challenges that must be met by equally unique metabolic activities. The fungal pathogen must attach securely to the arthropod exoskeleton and penetrate it—avoiding or suppressing host defenses—then, control the behavior of the host before killing it; and finally, it must protect the carcass from microbial and scavenger attack.

    Medicinal potential

    The Ophiocordyceps fungus contains various known and untapped bioactive metabolites, and is being investigated as a new source of natural drugs with immunomodulatory, antitumor, hypoglycemic and hypocholesterolemic functions.[

    Six bioactive naphthoquinone derivatives have been isolated from O. unilateralis, namely

    We have a science lab in the united states in Louisiana that is doing research on this Fungus. If it escapes somehow, I do not know what will come of it.

  23. calvin
    columbus,oh
    September 21, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I kinda agree with Lillith but at the same time we must also remember that if u truly look at the wider picture people are almost zombified now. How many deaths due to texting while not paying attention to ur surroundings……between t.v. and all our technalogical advances the human race is being dumbed down. Do I think a zombies could happe
    n yes. Here’s why…..everyday scientists are splicing and creating new strands of viruses. Who’s to say they don’t already have one made and just waiting for the right time to infect that one speacial

  24. Tn fan
    USA
    September 21, 2013, 2:42 am

    The way the world is now anything is possible. If you look back to everything that has ever been invented or happened, there’s always been someone there to say” that’s no possible” that won’t ever happen”. 20 years ago no ever thought that you could talk to someone from your car let alone look at them while you did it. This stuff is happening now. This stuff is nor as bad as movie make it appear but it’s happening.

  25. Freshhh
    Scotland
    September 20, 2013, 3:56 pm

    I think that people could be ‘Zombiefied’ , I guess its a sort of really bad rabies caused by animals and certain chemicals around us.

  26. Chris Griffin
    Florida
    September 18, 2013, 8:49 am

    I see alot of people, badmouthing this article. Saying that a “zombie virus” could never happen is just plain stupid. With the advances in science, chemical warfare, and what not, why is this such a far fetched idea for people to grasp. Im not religious but zombies are even mentioned in holy books from around the world. Viruses and bacteria are constantly evolving and taking on stronger forms. We have so many infectious diseases that can affect the brain. Things like mad cow, malaria, rabies, ect are all to common place throughout our world today. Anyone that doesnt even consider the possibility of a “zombie” virus might wanna open their ears and eyes to the world around us. Thank you and a great article.

  27. Steve
    ENGLAND
    September 18, 2013, 5:58 am

    What if the population of the world all farted at once could this cause an acopalypse

  28. Lilith
    September 17, 2013, 9:44 pm

    I think we need to stop worrying about zombies, and start worrying about what our government is willing to do to their own people. The U.S. government can’t be trusted, and 90% of the population follows them like moths to a flame.

    Grow a brain. Things aren’t as good as you think.

  29. Martin
    Sydney
    September 4, 2013, 12:27 pm

    The zombies are already here. Just read the comments. Not one of you, except Christine, could either spell or punctuate properly. The ability of the every day people to communicate properly through written media is fast reaching zombie proportions. And whilst I know some think that pointing out such things on the Internet is infantile – and it certainly makes no real difference – it’s still a valid point. Adults who can’t spell, punctuate, or communicate effectively is a plague here and now that needs to be taken more seriously. But I suppose I’m dreaming. Taking education seriously would get in the way of playing video games, watching hours and hours of brain-numbing television, or enjoying ‘online entertainment’. As MadMaximus said, “God save us,” (which fortunately He did, 2000 years ago).

  30. Eisa
    Australia
    September 3, 2013, 8:52 am

    what if we dig the whole and live underground?though in religions its been written that people will come who eat everything humans to stone ..

  31. J. Grant
    Dallas
    August 16, 2013, 3:16 pm

    While we’re exploring the Zombie Virus possibility, I’d like to also see articles about the Vampire Virus, the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle Virus, the Werewolf Virus, and the My Little Pony Virus possibilities.

  32. Austin
    USA
    August 12, 2013, 9:30 am

    Okay honestly if this were to ever happen I would see it happening in the future and as viruses have been evolving so have we just look at our technology I don’t know if you guys know it or not but we have been researching nanotechnology which can do so much for how little it is just look it up so honestly there isn’t anything to worry about the only thing that’s close to killing us all is what’s been around for as long as records have been around and even before that and that is humans.

  33. Aaron ferrell
    Jacksonville
    August 9, 2013, 2:44 am

    If you look at the past you see that all species on earth are wiped out (almost) completely multiple times. From dinosaurs, to ice age, to Noah’s ark and the great plagues.. It’s a way for nature to rejuvenate itself, lets face it, there are getting to be to many humans on this planet and a lot of bad stuff is happening such as global warming, ect. And so sooner or later another “apocalypse” will happen and wipe out -most- life on earth. So why not think that our incoming apocalypse can be a zombie-like virus?

  34. Rigel
    México
    August 7, 2013, 1:30 pm

    I found this article quite interesting, not only because I’m such a huge zombie fan but also because it indicates that it’s something that may actually happen according to some of the comments from the scientist. In my honest opinion, I think tha’s something like that could occur (maybe not exactly “the zombies eating brains” and stuff but the agressive behavior, the need of attacking other people, etc) because we don’t know in what kind of things some people are working, what kind of experiments are being done right now; so as crazy as it sounds we could be witness of a rabies/zombie apocalypse.

  35. kev
    east yorkshire, england
    July 30, 2013, 6:59 pm

    why is everyone getting angry about this? it is currently hot topic in the entertainment industry (ever since resident evil in 1998).
    the fact that the author of this artical has written this artical doesnt mean everyone thinks it will happen, but it doesnt meen it wont either. there are still many people who think aids doesnt exist, doesnt make them right.this artical does however make for interesting reading and opens the mind to possibilities, fact or fictional either way it is entertaining and also informative. thank you author

  36. Hellohello
    USA
    July 24, 2013, 1:41 pm

    Yeah! it’s called rabies!

  37. James
    UK
    July 21, 2013, 7:33 pm

    I think if a new neurotropic virus with similar properties as rabies was to arise there would be no major threat to human existence. The reason I believe this is that rabies only kills 55,000 people per year and compared to the 8 billion humans who inhabit this earth that number is very minuscule. Also I think over the millions of years of human existence we have learned from diseases like small pox and the bubonic plague, we have learned to combat them and eventually iradicate them through injections. My main point being if a virus which turned humans into mindless ‘zombies’ occurred I think humans would be able to quarantine it and eventually iradicate the virus.

  38. Bryan Harper
    New York
    June 30, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Great article! I think a lot of the biology behind infections and viruses is very interesting and simplifying the science into terms that anyone can understand is a great thing and if pop culture inhibits this: Even better! For those who say a zombie virus couldn’t exist: Yea haters of the man on the moon theory said something similar. I’m no expert, but it’s proven that if humans mess with things, they go wrong before we perfect them. It’s simply because we don’t have the same insights as mother nature. To assume that we’re not capable of creating something that could exhibit zombie like attributes in a population at least by accident would be naive. If someone could tell me, what’s the truth behind this article? I think it would be a good topic for another National Geographic article if it turns out to be semi legitimate. http://lqp-79.org/

  39. serena trizteta
    aus
    June 30, 2013, 8:31 am

    I like this .. Awesome as. Sucked in to people who dont believe in zombies. Ull be eaten first . If you can believe in a man who magicaly made this world and is everywhere. Im sure you could change your horrible opinions. We are all human and should stick together. Maybe you are the zombies .

  40. kyle
    Georgia
    June 29, 2013, 2:33 pm

    I believe if a “zombie virus” would happen look at the animals killing us fast smar humans slow decaying stupid zombies would be wept out in 1-2 days even if a city was filled to the brim with them.

    What went wrong with the world there was no zombie talk until the movies came out if there wasn’t a chance of it happening in a million years 50 years ago it wont make a difference now because just because there was a movie doesn’t make it any more real.

  41. John
    PA USA
    June 27, 2013, 10:33 pm

    I saw the movie today (June 26) and was ‘awestruck’ like the article’s author.

    Awestruck at even the ‘small’ possibility that something like this could happen.

    An entertaining movie — Yet does have the ability to leave one thinking — As I guess the movie was intended to do…

  42. Dom The Mover
    Hollywood, CA
    June 27, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Thanks, new insights on virus effects and possible hybrid virus combinations for ideas on my new book.

  43. Sara Otten
    Wales
    June 27, 2013, 11:22 am

    Some people need to take a chill pill. Some of the comments about this article are a little harsh especially the ones about National Geographic sinking low in writing it and the editors are obviously juveniles to allow it to be printed.
    I personally think some interesting points were made. For instance, I didn’t know there were such things as neurotropic viruses or how viruses evolve. As a psychology lecturer, anything to do with a change in behaviour, including due to viral infections is fascinating to me.
    I’m assuming that the link made to the zombies wanting to eat brains is due to their own shortage, similar to when a pregnant woman gets cravings its usually because they are lacking in the thing they are craving?

    • Christine Dell'Amore
      June 27, 2013, 11:39 am

      Thank you Sara! I’m very glad you learned something. That’s the goal of this blog—using pop culture to educate people about science. @Nick, regarding your brain comment, the scientist was referencing the fact that most classic zombie movies show the undead craving brains. I cut it from the article, but she also mentioned that starving people will go for brains. That was proven in the recent discovery in Jamestown, Virginia, that starving colonists ate the brain of a woman who had died. It may be because the brain is dense, nutritious tissue even in an emaciated body. See: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130501-jamestown-cannibalism-archeology-science/

  44. cali
    OK
    June 26, 2013, 10:06 pm

    A zombie virus will never happen. AT LEAST I DONT THINK A ZOMBIE VIRUS WILL HAPPEN if it does were all deadmen. o_O

  45. nick
    June 26, 2013, 7:06 pm

    what is the advantage of the virus making you go after “brains”? it’s the most difficult organ to find in a human beings, and if you’re going to feast on republicans, you’re going to starve for sure. besides, the brains are extremely well protected and require a lot of work to reach – especially for a knuckle-dragging, brain-impaired zombie. it would make more sense for the zombies to eat you whole. since the zombies would, as stated in the article, cut off from higher parts of the brain, how exactly would the zombies recognize other zombies? and doesn’t it make sense that those zombies who feast only on brains wouldn’t do as well as those zombies that eat other zombies and every part of the human being. i really don’t see how you went from “virus makes you behave aggressive and violently” to “brain-eating zombie”. i don’t see the connection. then again, it must’ve been just a leap of faith to stay relevant.

    if we’re going to be “hypothetical” about what a virus “could do”, it could do lots of things.

    - it could make you shit violently, at any moment, especially on the bus or on the road
    - it could make you feel drunk 24/7
    - it could make you blind
    - it could make your body deteriorate until your limbs fall apart
    - it could kill you instantly
    - it could make you grow a tree branch out of your anus

    there are billions of things a virus could “potentially do”. it doesn’t mean it ever will, and that’s the same with the zombie virus.

  46. Lara
    Sierra Leone, West Africa
    June 26, 2013, 7:00 pm

    @terry wofford, as a current resident in Africa who is currently watching rabies spread through the domestic animals in her community, I don’t think this is “low” at all for Nat Geo. Sure, it’s a bit fanciful, but the fact is viral epidemics exist and there’s no harm in making a connection to a popular film in order to mention an important issue of the day.

  47. Chris
    Hollywood, CA
    June 26, 2013, 5:41 pm

    I suggest you read the book. You’d learn more and find it more entertaining.

  48. Todd
    earth
    June 26, 2013, 5:39 pm

    This is the worst artice I ever read and bad thing about is someone a proved this in the National Geographic new room with so many people that follow your Magazine you think with much happen,ing in the World you a proved this Story

  49. david
    USA
    June 26, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Airborne halucinigenic cloud from a weapons attack causes people to go ‘zombie’ then once cloud passes they might return to normal or die. Those that live remember vaguely what they did and who they killed/ate. Yuck.

  50. MadMaximus
    USA
    June 26, 2013, 12:23 pm

    I think a rabies-like virus is most realistic…however with the amount of people on Rx drugs these days…I think a chemical drug could also have an affect. With so many people abusing painkillers, meth, and taking anti-depressants…and so many new variants of drug coming out people will take without question…..one mistake or one intentional dosing of the populous by a clandestine organization could lead to population contamination via voluntary or involuntary consumption. I also believe the long term effects of anti-depressants is negative, and there is research to show so. And with the random suicide shootings…….the media NEVER really goes into depth about exactly what medications the murderer was on specifically….I feel like the public has a right to know…in each and every one of these horrible shooting cases. But…..the drug companies dont want to “hurt” their image…..they only want to hurt YOU for billions in profit. God save us.

  51. terry wofford
    Georgia
    June 26, 2013, 10:35 am

    Really National Geographic, you have sunk this low? Natgeo tv sinks further with every so called “reality” show and now you put an article about a zombie virus on your front page of the web site? How old are your editors? 12, 13? Geez