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‘The Last of Us’ zombie fungus is real, and it’s found in health supplements

(HBO; iStock/Washington Post illustration; HBO; iStock)
3 min

The zombie apocalypse depicted in the popular video game series and newly adapted HBO series “The Last of Us” derives from a mutation to a type of fungus called cordyceps. Surprise! Cordyceps is real, and some 600 variations of it can be found around the world, primarily in Southeast Asia.

Surprise again! Cordyceps does induce zombielike symptoms in insects, a phenomenon that inspired “The Last of Us” creator Neil Druckmann to include it as the source of his story’s zombie outbreak.

Surprise a third time! Cordyceps has long been studied by the scientific community and these days can be found in a number of health supplements.

This should probably come as no surprise, though: Unlike in the games and show, cordyceps, as we currently know it, will not turn you into a zombie. But here’s what you should know about “The Last of Us” and its depiction of the zombie fungus.