The Last of Us: what if the pandemic caused by a mushroom really hit us?

Is there a similar danger to humans? With Cordyceps Fortunately no. On the contrary: the mushroom is even used in some supplements (of dubious effectiveness), including the smoothie produced by Gwyneth Paltrow (which costs $200).

However, the story does not end there…

Why does the Clavicepsa “cousin” genus of Cordycepswith a very similar behavior, which is capable, through the food chain, of come into contact with humans. And it has already happened, as it has explained to Esquire David Hughesentomologist and biologist specialized in parasitology e game science consultant: “The kind of fungus that causes these problems, Claviceps, is actually capable of ‘enter’ in plants and crops. There is a disease of the ovary of rye flowers, the so-called ergot, due precisely to an infection of this kind. When humans eat this rye, they can suffer psychotic episodes; it is even thought that the famous Salem witch trials are linked to psychotic episodes triggered by ergot”.

Documented cases are different – the disease is called fire of saint Anthony (not to be confused with the homonymous infection by Shingles), or also sacred fire, evil of the ardentor ergotismand is linked to even collective hallucinatory phenomena: in addition to the aforementioned case of the Salem witches, one study has also linked the disease to alleged supernatural events such as apparitions of Lourdes And Fatima, all of which occurred in disadvantaged contexts from a social and economic point of view, and where the consumption of rye bread was therefore widespread. The last alleged case of ergotism dates back to 1951 and occurred in a village in the Southern Francewhere several hundred people suffered from hallucinations and some even went so far as to exhibit violent or self-harming behavior. Among other things, says Hughes again, “me too’LSD and the ketamine have been synthesized starting from this group of fungi: the idea that therefore the parasite can cause convulsive and disordered behavior, as well as the idea that by feeding on a pathogen one can become infected, is not entirely farfetched. On the other hand, even every time you drink a beer, your behavior is altered: and it’s all due to ethanol, which is the by-product of a mushroom”. Fortunately, the behavior is not altered to the point that humans transform into zombie which have the sole purpose of transmitting the fungus to their fellows.

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A big problem

At the moment there is no vaccine for fungal infections, and the drugs we have available to treat them are few and do not always work: this is also due to the fact that fungi, at the cellular level, are much more similar to human beings than bacteria and viruses; and therefore most of the drugs that attack fungi also attack our cells. What’s more: fungi, like bacteria, are able to develop a strong resistance to drugs (so much so that today we speak of antimicrobial-resistancea broader term than antibiotic resistance); there Candida aurisa mushroom isolated for the first time in Japan in 2009quickly developed, in about 90% of the isolated samples, a strong resistance to at least one of the available classes of antifungals, and in hospital-acquired infections in Canada, according to estimates of World health organization, has come to kill up to 53% of infected subjects. Overall, according to the observations of experts from Global Action for Fungal Infections, fungal infections kill more people than malaria. It will not be The Last of Usbut it certainly is a worrying scenario.

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