Is Cordyceps from The Last of Us HBO real?

Here's what Cordyceps are and if they exist in the real world.


Just like the video game it’s based on, the zombie outbreak in The Last of Us on HBO was caused by the spread of a fungus knowns as Cordyceps. This parasite takes over the brains of its host, turning them into mindless husks with the sole goal of spreading the fungus. With how the show grounds itself in reality, some have wondered if Cordyceps are real and if something like this could happen in real life. Well, let’s dive into that question and figure out the truth.

Is Cordyceps from The Last of Us HBO real?

Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller in The Last of Us.

Source: HBO

Yes, Cordyceps is real. We’re all going to die! Well, not actually. We are all going to die eventually, but it likely won’t be because of a Cordyceps outbreak. While Cordyceps is indeed a real Fungi Genus, it primarily infects insects, caterpillars, and similar creatures.

In an NPR interview with Bryn Dentinger, a biology professor at the University of Utah and curator of mycology at the Natural History Museum of Utah, it’s explained that Cordyceps pose virtually no threat to humanity. "Our body temperatures are high enough that most organisms, their proteins would denature at that temperature and so they can't survive in our bodies."

Those that have watched The Last of Us on HBO may remember that same fact being mentioned in the flashback that opens the first episode. In the show, the scientist states that if the Earth were to get warmer, perhaps Cordyceps could acclimate to higher temperatures, and human bodies would become suitable hosts. Concerningly, Dentinger doesn’t outright dismiss this notion. “However, maybe that will happen in the future, but, at the moment, that is not a possibility."

Lastly, Dentinger states that heat tolerance isn’t the only thing preventing Cordyceps from making our world like the one we see in The Last of Us. He explains that the qualities that allow Cordyceps to take over the minds of ants and similar creatures are quite different from ours, so Cordyceps would have to do a lot more than learn to withstand warmer hosts.

So, yes, Cordyceps is real, but you don’t have to worry about them ending human civilization as we know it… for now.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 31, 2023 12:10 PM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Is Cordyceps from The Last of Us HBO real?

    • reply
      January 31, 2023 1:49 PM

      I don't know

    • reply
      January 31, 2023 1:57 PM

      i dont know either

    • reply
      January 31, 2023 5:48 PM

      Cordyceps are cute

      • reply
        January 31, 2023 6:11 PM

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      January 31, 2023 6:05 PM

      Is dognose real?

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      January 31, 2023 6:09 PM


    • reply
      January 31, 2023 6:35 PM

      Is cyan cordyceps real?

    • reply
      February 1, 2023 6:48 AM

      No, they are not least that's what the Cordyceps in my brain tell me.

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