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What could create a zombie-like virus?

by thehumanity
Tags: disease, fiction, mutation, rabies, zombie
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Oct17-10, 07:29 AM
P: 1
I've always had a thing for zombie movies. I'm a hobby screenwriter, and I'm looking into writing a movie about something similar to a zombie apocalypse, but something that's more "realistic" than the regular "bite and die"-like spread you find in zombie movies. I'm looking to create a fictional virus that is very similar to rabies, and preferably a mutation of rabies. I need a scientifical explanation on how such a virus could work. My knowledge of physics is very limited, which is why I'm looking for help.

I was doing some research on viruses myself, I found that there had been a previous discussion earlier on this subject regarding a "rage virus", inspired by the movie 28 Days Later. Original thread can be found here. I love Google.

What I'm looking for is a possible mutation (or evolution) of a virus that could create a zombie-like disease. Most of the newer zombie movies have this kind of virus, where the host becomes extremely aggressive. The infected are often running after the survivors, something George Romero's zombies wouldn't do. Romero's zombies would be more lethargic and slow-moving. I'm looking to honor that opinion, and create a different disease inspired by the whole zombie thing. To reference a couple of movies that display characteristics I'm looking for: 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead (2004), Dead Snow, 28 Weeks Later, Day of the Dead (2008), I Am Legend (if you cut the vampire element).

To summarize, I'm looking for a way to create a disease that could cause a zombie-like behaviour in humans. I'd like to base the disease off of rabies, or if you have another disease which is similar, shoot it at me and I'll do some research.

How could such a disease develop? In layman's terms, please! :D
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Oct17-10, 11:12 AM
P: 501
Not particularly pleasant. But this may give you some ideas:
Cordyceps unilateralis
(It's not a virus by the way, but a fungus.)
Oct17-10, 03:18 PM
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
P: 647
Half of the world's human population is infected with Toxoplasma, parasites in the body—and the brain. Remember that.

Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite found in the guts of cats; it sheds eggs that are picked up by rats and other animals that are eaten by cats. Toxoplasma forms cysts in the bodies of the intermediate rat hosts, including in the brain.

Since cats don't want to eat dead, decaying prey, Toxoplasma takes the evolutionarily sound course of being a "good" parasite, leaving the rats perfectly healthy. Or are they?

Oxford scientists discovered that the minds of the infected rats have been subtly altered. In a series of experiments, they demonstrated that healthy rats will prudently avoid areas that have been doused with cat urine. In fact, when scientists test anti-anxiety drugs on rats, they use a whiff of cat urine to induce neurochemical panic.

However, it turns out that Toxoplasma-ridden rats show no such reaction. In fact, some of the infected rats actually seek out the cat urine-marked areas again and again. The parasite alters the mind (and thus the behavior) of the rat for its own benefit.

If the parasite can alter rat behavior, does it have any effect on humans?
LiveScience Link

Once in the rat, Toxo's goal is to then be eaten by a cat so it can be fruitful and multiply, but as I mentioned, this can only take place in the cat's gut. Toxo's goal is to get the rat eaten by a cat. Toxo could get the desired effect through a whole sort of seemingly obvious ways; e.g., Make the rat hard to run so it is easier for a cat to catch it. Instead it takes a far more interesting approach: Toxo generates cysts in the brain of the rat. These cysts take over the fear center of the brain, but specifically the fear of predators. Common fear sources for rodents (e.g., bright lights, open spaces, etc.) still operate perfectly well in an infected rat, but now they are no longer afraid of cat piss. That alone would be cool enough, but Toxo takes it one step further. When Toxo is going about futzing with the fear center of the brain it also goes into the sexual excitement part of the brain. It hijacks the incoming Fear of Cat Piss™ and instead diverts the signal to the Barry White™ center of the brain.

"Somehow, this damn parasite knows how to make cat urine smell sexually arousing to rodents, and they go and check it out. Totally amazing.
-Dr. Sapolsky

Maybe some kind of play on Toxoplasmosis!

Oct19-10, 11:41 AM
P: 1
What could create a zombie-like virus?

What you're asking is not a Physics question, it's more of a Biology or Pathology question.

Here's an article on a candidate for your question:

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