There’s no shortage of deadly diseases in TV and films. Some of the best disaster movies are about humanity’s desperate battle against deadly plagues and virulent viruses. Yet, in recent weeks, one fictional plague has caught the world’s attention: cordyceps from The Last of Us.
This isn’t your normal bacterial infection, though. It’s a mutated fungus that takes control of its host and turns them into zombies with a taste for human flesh. Still, as novel as this concept is, we’ve seen plenty of similar infections in TV series and horror movies. That got us thinking about how cordyceps stacks up against another fictional zombie virus.
Well, we thought long and hard about other zombie plagues to compare it to. We could have chosen the unnamed plague from Romero’s zombie movies or perhaps the Wildfire virus from The Walking Dead. But if we’re honest, one fictional disease stood out from the rest, the T-Virus from Resident Evil.
Why? Well, like cordyceps, its origin lies in videogames, that were later adapted to live-action, and they both cause people to come down with an unfortunate case of being a zombie. So here’s our take on which is deadlier. Oh, and for the record, we’re only going to use the TV and movie versions of both infections for the sake of consistency.
The T-Virus is a pretty scary little bug, even if the version in the video game movie is a little watered down compared to the source material. In the movie canon, the virus was originally created by the Umbrella Corporation to cure degenerative conditions. It was successfully tested on several subjects, where it was shown to have remarkable regenerative effects.
There’s just one problem: those regenerative effects don’t stop when the infectee dies. Instead, they’re resurrected as a nearly indestructible zombie. Sensing its potential as a bioweapon Umbrella switched focus on the T-Virus, engineering it as a weapon of war instead of as a medicine.
The T-Virus is exceptionally deadly, and almost all infected with it die within days, if not hours, as the virus attacks the brain. Once the infected has passed away, the virus will generate electrical impulses which reanimate the body, although all higher brain function is now gone, replaced with the uncontrollable urge to eat human flesh.
It’s pretty grim. And what’s worse is how easy it is to catch the T-Virus. The virus can be transferred through bites, drinking infected water, and it’s even airborne. Basically, T-Virus is extremely hard to contain, and that’s not the end of the problem.
You see, the T-Virus doesn’t just create zombies. It also mutates some of its hosts into vicious and powerful monsters that hunt down the living ruthlessly. That said, for a lucky few, the movie version can give people superpowers, which is something, I guess.
Thankfully it’s not all bad news. There is a cure for the T-Virus or at least a treatment. If you have access to the anti-virus and administer it before the symptoms take hold, you can cure yourself. Similarly, Umbrella developed an airborne version of the anti-virus capable of killing anything infected with T-Virus, which was what eventually saved the world in the horror series.
The origins of cordyceps are unclear, but the first known infectee was recorded in Jakarta (in the TV series, at least). It’s thought that a mutated form of the mould entered the food chain via infected grain, which was then distributed worldwide.
As a parasitic fungus, cordyceps takes control of its host body by growing within the brain. As the fungus grows, it eventually completely takes over its host, turning them into an aggressive zombie (known as the infected in the show) who exist simply to spread cordyceps to non-infected people.
Cordyceps is lethal to those infected. There’s only been one documented case of anyone surviving an infection (it’s Ellie), and the exact reason for that is unknown. The time from infection to turning into a zombie isn’t exact, but it normally happens in less than a day.
Once an infected turns feral, it will go through a multistage evolution over the course of a few years as the fungus grows within the body, eventually transforming into Clickers and finally Bloaters.
In the canon of the show, cordyceps is not airborne, and the only way to get infected by the time of the show appears to be through direct exposure to an infected (like being bitten), which makes it harder to catch the T-Virus. Unlike T-Virus, though, there is no known cure or antidote for cordyceps, and becoming infected is a death sentence.
Which is deadlier?
Were we simply talking about the videogame, T-Virus may have the edge, but within the canon of the TV series and movies, we’re going to give it to The Last of Us and cordyceps.
While it’s not as transmissible as the T-Virus, it’s definitely far more lethal, and with no known cure or antidote, cordyceps represents the extinction of humanity. So sorry, Umbrella Corporation, maybe you should have tried making an evil mould… wait isn’t that Resident Evil 7’s plot?
If you love the undead, check out our list of the best monster movies, or if you’re after more from the Last of Us, we have a guide to The Last of Us cast so you can learn who played your favourite The Last of Us characters.