Confession: we on the Editorial Board of LSS don’t do a lot of TV. But when our researchers drew our our attention to popular series called The Last of Us, we sat up sharp and paid attention. Apparently the show depicts a world which has been devastated by a killer fungus. Which cannibalises its human victims from within, turning them into plague-spreading zombies. Far fetched? Improbable? Actually, such organisms already exist, as this chilling article by Fiona Jackson of the Daily Mail makes all to fearsomely clear
We won’t spoil your enjoyment of Fiona’s excellent writing. But read as she riffs on one particularly macabre organism called Entomophthora moscae, which specialises in eating houseflies. Alive.
. Muscae first penetrates through the skin of the housefly before growing its way through the body, infecting its nervous system.After about a week of digesting its guts, the fungus forces the fly to ascend to a high point and spread out its wings before it dies .Next, the fungi grows an array of micro-sized stalks on the corpse, each one a pressurised cannon of liquid with a spore that can be ejected outwards. It also releases a chemical signature that acts as pheromones to lure unsuspecting males to come and mate with the infected female corpse.The males trigger the cannons, and end up coated in a spray of infectious spores which will, eventually, also turn it into a zombie housefly.
But could it happen to us? The frightening possibility is-yes, at least if we carry on the way we live now. Because human abuse of the golden treasury of antibiotics has led to the rise of series of resistant fungi. All are strongly adapted to infect Homo sapiens. And theoretically, each and any could mutate into the kind of pandemic superkiller depicted in the TV series. And what is being done? Research experts are starved of funds, their efforts denigrated by politicians like Michael Gove (LSS passim) Existing antibiotics are poured into farms, to produce food no one needs. Truly we squander our inheritance like degenerate heirs, while fate creeps up, its slimy fungal fingers already closing round our throats……..(ok, that’s enough doom-ed)
But you can do something about this , gentle readers. You could pressure your local politicos to put a bit more money into research and a bit less into pointless new roads. You could even donate to organisations like Antibiotics Research UK,  whose volunteers are gallantly attempting to stave off the apocalyptic scenario of a world without antibiotics. But you’d better be quick. Because time is running out
#the last of us #fungi #antibiotic resistance #pandemic