We’ve all seen the unlucky saps in zombie movies who get bitten, fall ill, die soon after, and then come back as undead beasts themselves. But how exactly does the zombie sickness cause such a speedy death in its victims? And how is it able to keep key areas of the body intact and ready to function properly upon reanimation? An interesting article in Science Magazine offers one possible answer.
A study of the causes of deadly inflammation at Harvard Medical School recently found that when the cells in our body are damaged by injury they release large quantities of mitochondrial DNA.
Though harmless, the DNA debris is interpreted by our immune system to be foreign bacterial invaders, and legions of white blood cells are called into action. This process can lead to major medical complications, and even death, as the white blood cells fight an enemy that isn’t there.
Therefore, a microscopic zombie sickness could kill a newly infected person quickly without relying on any sophisticated mechanisms. It has only to launch small attacks on cells it doesn’t need for future functions, thereby overwhelming the immune system and sending white blood cells into a deadly panic. Extreme inflimation of the lungs would prove fatal in a matter of hours, and the otherwise healthy body would be ready to be taken over by full-blown zombiism.