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Creepy disease post: Cordyceps fungus

Disease name: Doesn’t have one.

Caused by: Certain species of fungus in the genus Cordyceps, e.g., Cordyceps unilateralis, which attacks ants.

Symptoms: An insect infected with Cordyceps spores becomes disoriented and is compelled to climb upwards. Once it has achieved a high position, it dies clutching whatever it climbed. The fungus sprouts from its body and disperses new spores into the air.


History: Fossil evidence suggests that the fungus has been developing its mind control abilities for many millions of years. As far as humans are concerned, Cordyceps has been used for supposed medicinal purposes for centuries, mainly as an aphrodisiac.

Current status: Cordyceps continues to reproduce throughout the world, and is particularly prevalent in east Asian countries and tropical environments.

Creepy factor: The fungus essentially turns its insect host into a puppet, dancing to its will. Or rather, climbing to its will. Maybe humans aren’t affected by it, but how creepy is it to imagine if we were? To lose total control over your body, forced to behave for the benefit of the thing infecting you? (Hmmm, seeing where some of the The Way We Fall virus inspiration came from?) And then the way it breaks out the insects’ bodies… Now I’m shuddering again.

If you want to learn more: I found out about Cordyceps from the BBC documentary series Planet Earth, and conveniently, the segment about the fungus is available online! Watch to see Cordyceps in action:

This is my last creepy disease post for the moment, but if there’s a freaky or unusual disease you think I should look into, feel free to let me know in the comments!

Originally published at Megan Crewe - another world, not quite ours. You can comment here or there.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 29th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
I just read the graphic novel MY BOYFRIEND IS A MONSTER and the zombie disease is caused by this fungus that was rooting in human brains!
Mar. 1st, 2012 03:30 am (UTC)
I remember that episode! Didn't it affect other insects, too?

I wish I could think of a good disease to suggest. The one you mentioned brings to mind those bugs that lay their eggs inside other insects, and then the larvae eat the insect from the inside out. *shudders*

Totally creepy. <;;>
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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