Could Zombies become a reality? and why are we so afraid of them?

Pic: Zombie Los Angeles Times

Everyone loves a good Zombie movie right? Wrong, so what is it that strikes fear into viewers and could it ever become a reality?



Some argue that Zombies press the fear button because by their nature they are mindless selfless creatures, and mirror our inherent fear of unrelenting mortality, by wandering around, not alive but not dead either, the potential loss of self and human identity is what really frightens us, but is it even possible to become a Zombie or is that just Sci-Fi creative licence taking it too far?

Common Causes of Zombies in movies.


  • Viral

A virus is an ever popular cause for the creation of Zombies in media, we are already afraid of viruses such as HIV, Marbug, Dengue, Ebola and now Coronavirus to name but a few, so using a virus as the cause of a Zombie apocalypse instantly puts the viewer on edge. But could a virus actually cause a Zombie apocalypse? Well, the short answer is probably no.

Most dangerous Viruses are usually carried in the air, Sars for example is spread through respiratory droplets. In order for a Zombie apocalypse to happen, the virus would need to spread very quickly, so Zombies biting people would create a much slower transmission.

Photo: of a Virus National Georgaphic






  • Bacteria

We are discovering things about bacteria every year, and the longer that we study them, the more we realise that the way they work is far more complex than we previously thought.

Bacteria secrete proteins into a host cell and in turn affect the host gene expression, so bacteria can change what a cell is doing, sort of reprogramming them. Creating changes in the cell environment would help the bacteria to survive, for example changing oxygen levels to make it more suitable for the bacteria could make things really interesting. So when these bacteria multiply we get a microbiome, in theory this microbiome could sit dormant, waiting for a particular moment in time then as a collective, trigger a change within the cells, a transformation to zombification when the host is for example close to death? Science says all bets are off….it might be more possible then we think!

Photo: The Scientist Magazine- Bacteria





  • Parasites

Parasites are another big favourite of the movie industry, from worms to fungus, yeast and molds, so could these little critters cause a wave of the walking dead?

It has long been documented that parasites can dramatically affect a host behaviour, Toxoplasma Gondii for example in rats can make them less afraid of cats…wierd right? not really, the parasite wants to get eaten by the cat so that it can reproduce and spread. The same is true of the flatworm Euhaplorchis Californiensis which affects fish making them easier to get eaten by birds, so this super creepy possibility is high on the list.

Pic: Toxoplasma Gondii Discover Magazine


So In short… Zombies could absolutely be a thing, but probably not in the way you see in the movies, the whole biting people issue is not likely as a mode of transmission, most likely a sneezing Zombie carrying a bacteria or one carrying easily transmitted parasites! YUK!

If anyone wants me I will be sharpening my axe!



Article: Emma Murfin for Movie-Reliquary