Toxoplasma gondii – or How I Became A Zombie

More food for thought, or thought about food (types). I, along with many other zombie novel writers, have been accused of never divulging from where the zombie infection derives. I regard this lack of knowledge to be essential to zombie-ism; if we knew we could kill it, surely we would – and where would the genre be then?

The question as to the origin of zombie-ism is directly related to an earlier blog on how long a zombie will last before finally falling apart. It all seemed to hang on the fact that a person must die before becoming a zombie, but if we look at most films, etc., we see the transformation happening shortly after said ‘death’.

What if this ‘death’ was actually a state of basal metabolism where the heart beat wasn’t detectable unless you listened for minutes at a time? By which time, of course, you’d have become a meal for the zombie you were listening to. Enter Toxoplasma gondii. A recent study has shown that in mice this parasite can remove the poor little red-eyed monster’s innate fear of cat urine. At this point I have to confess I, too, have the same fear of cat urine, especially in my house, but that doesn’t make me a zombie, I think.cat and mouse

The article alleges this parasitic infestation and ensuing lack of fear of cat urine makes the mouse effectively a zombie. Not sure if I get the connection but at least it is an article attempting to get headline attention by using the Z-word. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Maybe.

If we do take this a step in the right direction, imagine a similar parasite that removes all inhibition in our brains, while at the same time make us drool and forget our names (no, not like Friday nights in the pub). If we inherited a desire to watch Big Brother and eat flesh, and in particular brains, would that make us zombies or just cannibals with bad taste?

I’m afraid it still doesn’t answer the eternal question, ‘where does the zombie infection come from?’ but it does give us authors more to work with. Have a lovely weekend.

For the article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2425034/The-bug-turns-mice-ZOMBIES-Parasite-makes-rodents-lose-fear-cats–infection-disappears.html

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6 Comments

  1. Toxoplasma gondii is one of those viruses that even now freaks me out. Much of its payload sounds exactly as what a zombie would do. Pretty scary stuff, huh? Have a look at Cysticercosis, too. You’d be surprise what uncooked meat contains, especially pork! Yikes!

  2. There’s a LOT to be scared of in food. It’s WAY scarier than good old-fashioned dirt. 16 months in the lab at the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) were enough for me! I’ve been spraying the kitchen with Pine Sol regularly ever since.

    In Toxoplasma gondii (it’s a protozoa, a parasite, by the way – double “ick”points for that) the cat is the carrier as it can undergo sexual reproduction in the cat intestine. But gondii loves HUMANS too (in whom it can live asexually). Generally symptom-free in healthy folks, estimates are approximately HALF the adult human population has at sometime been infected. Very dangerous for pregnant ladies, of course, as a new infection (?) can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or retardation of the infant. That’s why pregnant women should NOT change the cat litter. Sadly, I don’t have any info on zombie mice…

    But -since half of people are generally infected and it would ^normally^ appear to be symptom-free, it would make a nice premise. “What if…” Like a rubella infection in childhood can result in shingles later in life, what might a genetically-altered (for arguments’sake) sub-strain LATER do to its human host?

    Ooh – that is kinda fun…

    1. At the risk of sounding like an insufferable know-it-all, can I add another thought?? If you want to check out an infection that REALLY makes a HUMAN like a zombie, check out Ebola or Marburg virus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marburg_virus) From what I’ve read other places, those folks go VERY zombie-like (before they “bleed out” and horribly die). Those are the infectious thoughts that REALLY keep me up at night.

      1. I know what you mean, there are a number of things I wouldn’t want to get very close to out there, and those two stand out in my mind! I think if people in the west actually gave any thought to what’s in the rest of the world, they wouldn’t get on that cheap flight to x, y, or z, they’d stay at home.
        Regards
        David
        PS – always happy to learn from others, never feel you’re too know it all, I know I am :-), that’s why I blog!!

    2. It’s amazing how many things out there halve potential to create apocalyptic scenarios! I’m surprised we’ve lasted as long as we have, you might have noticed a trend in my blogs 🙂
      Thx for the comment, you think like me.

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