PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With a built-in following of video game enthusiasts, HBO this past week debuted The Last of Us.
Its Sunday premiere drew 4.7 million views and by Monday, 10 million people had seen the pilot episode.
At this rate, The Last of Us will rival Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
However, the game and the show come with a very disturbing premise.
At its center is a fungus-born disease called “cordyceps” which is very real.
Shot in grand cinematic style, The Last of Us, from a former CMU grad student, began life as a video game ten years ago, and now HBO has jumped on its incredible popularity and intrigue to bring it to live-action.
As the BBC and Sir David Attenborough documented about the fungus cordyceps in real-life ants, “spores from a parasitic fungus called cordyceps have infiltrated their bodies and their minds, it’s infected brain direct cysts and upwards.”
In The Last of Us, the writers project it infects humans.
“That is very not only conceivable, but it happens and it’s a terrible disease when it does,” explained world-renowned UPMC neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon. “This fungus can invade the brain and then take over control of the various networks of the brain.”
Left untreated, Dr. Maroon said it can be fatal, but in The Last of Us, the infected humans become zombie-like as the fungus takes control of their brains and directs them to go after the non-infected in an apocalyptic struggle for survival of the human race.
The HBO production gets pretty gross, casting a pretty convincing shadow that cordyceps could pull it off.
“There’s no way at least with the knowledge we have now that it can actually take over those networks to control our executive function,” Dr. Maroon said. “Our salience network and how we feel or our creativity.”
So, to quell your nightmares, Dr. Maroon said it’s “science fiction, and it’s not anything you and I are going to see in our lifetime.”
Enjoy the show if you’d like but Dr. Maroon adds that “at this point, it’s simply beyond any believability.”
Finally, while the plot of the show and game is characters trying to get across the country to a cure, they do pass through Pittsburgh in the video game, but it’s unclear if they will in the TV show.
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