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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gather the Infected: We have a Cure!

Todd Jepperson

It’s no secret that Zombies exist. From Haiti to the Pacific Islands, creatures have been and are being rendered vapid, shambling machines; void of any trace of their former selves. These creatures often become slaves to the master who created them. It’s real. It happens. My curiosity begins after that. What if these cadaverous wretches went berserk? What if it was decided that they were only to consume and destroy? In the words of the great Alice Cooper: Welcome to my nightmare.

A little while ago, Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev—in the desert of Israel—dug up one small key in the development of modern Zombie science. Their study focused on the Emerald Cockroach Wasp and its ability to turn desert roaches, many times their size, into mobile buffets. The process begins by the wasp stinging the roach one time for submission, then one precise headshot, directly into the brain. The final sting results in the roach being fully alive and able to function; but, without voluntary control of its own body. The wasp then leads the roach along by the antennae, as if on a leash, back to the hive where it lays a single egg in its belly. That egg hatches and completes one of nature’s most horrific parasite-host rituals by devouring the living roach one bite at a time.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the insects are no longer insects. Instead, the wasp is a microscopic, virus cell and the roach… well the roach is sweet old Mrs. Nickerbacher down the street. Instead of dragging her back to the hive, the virus compels her to seek, at all costs, another host and breech the tissue thereof so that the virus could then spread. Has anyone seen 28 Weeks Later?

Breathe Easy. Researchers discovered that the second sting, the money shot, deactivates the neurotransmitter Octopamine, which is responsible for some part in performing complex activities like getting the hell out of out of dodge, or fighting for your life. They also discovered, and this is the good news, that by injecting the necrotic roaches with another chemical which reactivates Octopamine, they were able to reverse the process. Hell yeah! I’ve never wanted to be a scientist, but sometimes I’d love to have front row seats to Science Theatre.

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