Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zombie Diseases

Yes, I know we have heard a lot about zombies this semester but I found this article on CNN particularly interesting on the topic.

Basically, this Harvard Medical School child psychiatrist gives us everything we need to know about the plausibility (and then execution) of a zombie influenza. He dives somewhat into the age old zombie question on existence- asking what exactly is it that defines us as alive? He touches then on exactly what would happen if a zombie disease could arise and then refers to his buddy, Robert Smith? (yes he differentiates himself from all the other Robert Smiths by putting a ? at the end of his name…hilarious, I know), a mathematician at the University of Ottawa, to explain exactly why we should be interested in zombie studies. Overall, the article was pretty informative and at times hysterical but it does bring up one main focus of this post. The overall horrendous and scariness of diseases like Scrapie and Mad Cow Disease, and Kuru.

These diseases are particularly scary because of the devastatingly grotesque and painful effects exhibited by the victims. All three of these diseases are caused by a generic restructuring of a protein into a ‘prion’. These prions then strategically break down the victim’s brain and ultimately all lead to death. The fact of a mis-folded protein turned into a prion is very scary because as seen in Kuru, humans are not immune to these horrendous diseases. Even though we medically know that Kuru is caused by cannibalism and particularly the ingestion of another persons’ brain, the fact that prions can develop in humans is very scary. As daunting as it may sound but with a complex evolution in one of these horrid diseases we potentially could have an epidemic similar to a Zombie-esque takeover.

Overall, the diseases that cause these horrific effects are farfetched for humans but the similarities between these diseases and a quasi-zombie outbreak are frightening ideas.


  1. There's a (not quite as scientific) article on this over at about this idea that's definitely worth a read:

  2. Since all zombies were once humans, when do humans become zombies? Is it when they contract the disease? Is it when they begin to show signs of infection? Or is it when they lose humanity and normal consciousness?


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