Monday, 17 September 2012


I thought I'd start of with something a little bit not-too-serious. Most of the internet has, is, or will discuss the advent of a zombie apocalypse. Whether you want it to happen or not, it pays to know what the most likely scenario is. Therefore, I'm going to start with a three-part mini-series on the risk of zombification. You know, just for fun...

SCENARIO 1: Parasitic infection via Toxoplasma Gondii

The primary host of Taxoplasma Gondii is felid, and it is within cats that the first stage of life (sexual) must take place.[1] Beyond that, the virus can live within any warm blooded host, such as birds or mammals (including humans).
Once set up in a host, the virus invades cells, and creates it's own parasitic vacuole, wherein it slowly replicates itself, safe from a bodies autoimmune system.
Human infection typically occurs through consumption, either of unwashed vegetation contaminated with feacal matter, or cystic tissues from improperly prepared meat.
After the initial phase which presents with flu-like symptoms, normally healthy adults tyically display few visible effects. In subjects with compromised immune systems (such as HIV/AIDs patients and pregnant women), however, it can be fatal, and cause both physical and psycological disorders.[2]
Most relevantly, the disease may lead to behaviour modifying disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.[3] In studies, 11 out of 19 schizophrenic patients were identified to have higher than usual Taxoplasma anti-bodies.[4] Beyond this, it has been postulated that humans may exhibit similar bahaviours as infected rats and mice, displaying a fearlessness and apathy towards self preservation. In rodents who actively seek out areas frequented by cats, it has also been suggested that the parasite may exert some form of base control over it's host in order to increase it's chances of procreating.

RISK: At the moment, there is little chance of a typical zombie outbreak caused by Toxoplasma Gondii. However, with a third of the population infected, and the parasite showing remarkable immunity to both medicine and autoimmune defences, should it evolve (either naturally or through human interference) its possible it could cause degeneration of a significant portion of the population, and cause a wave of psychosis major enough to overwhelm law-enforcement and military forces to cause a national breakdown.
Will it Zombies? No. Almost definitely not.

Total risk: 2/5

[1] Boothroyd JC (July 2009). "Toxoplasma gondii: 25 years and 25 major advances for the field". International Journal for Parasitology
[2] "Common Parasite Potentially Increases Risk of Brain Cancers". Common Parasite Potentially Increases Risk of Brain Cancers.
[3] Henriquez SA, Brett R, Alexander J, Pratt J, Roberts CW.Neuropsychiatric disease and Toxoplasma gondii infection. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2009
[4] 1657166/researchers_link_parasites_to_schizophrenia/

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