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Fungal Infections Rising, Giving Fear That The Last of Us Is Becoming Reality

HBO’s The Last of Us opens with a dire warning from a scientist—if the temperatures of the planet continue to rise, fungi will have the ability to possess animals, including humans. As it turns out, despite being part of a fictional television show, the warning was very well rooted in fact. So much so, new studies are suggesting fungal infections—albeit not the brain-washing kind seen on the series—are quickly on the rise.

According to a new piece in the Wall Street Journal, the average human temperature (98.6 degrees) has long been enough to kill off fungal infections. As the temperature around the planet rises, however, scientists believe fungi are starting to adapt to the rising temperatures and soon enough, that body temperature won’t be enough to kill off fungal infections.

“As fungi are exposed to more consistent elevated temperatures, there’s a real possibility that certain fungi that were previously harmless suddenly become potential pathogens,” University of Alabama at Birmingham infection-disease specialist Peter Pappas told the Journal.

In 2021, over 7,000 people within the United States as a result of a fungal infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, just “hundreds” of people died of similar infections as recently as 1970, a sizable increase over the past five decades. Globally, upwards of 110,000 people die each year from serious brain infections caused by the Cryptococcus fungi.

“Fungi isn’t transmitted from person to person, but through fungal spores in the air. They’re in our homes, they’re everywhere,” Dr. Asiya Gusa, a researcher at Duke’s Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department added. “We keep saying these fungi are rare, but this must be the most common rare disease because they’re now everywhere.”

For more Last of Us content, check out ComicBook and Entertainment Tonight’s new podcast: The Last of Pods. The podcast will include breakdowns of each episode, interviews with special guests from the show, and more. The Last of Us airs on HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. Eastern every Sunday with The Last of Pods debuting immediately following each show.

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