The Potential Evolution of the Zombie Virus, Part 1: Similar Mechanisms of the Virus in Science Fiction

The zombie virus has been discussed in all sorts of media from movies such as Resident Evil and Dawn of the Dead to the current television series The Walking Dead.  For the most part in science fiction, the virus has been manufactured from some evil corporation such Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil, and often, the government agencies, such as Centers for Disease Control, fail to contain the virus once it starts.  This is an analysis of the concurrent mechanisms from all the science fiction media.

Zombie Virus is a Virus

The zombie virus has been discussed originally as a virus.  This would be true in many circumstances.  Bacteria lack the ability to adapt within the human system, and they would fundamentally be attacked by white blood cells and lymphocytes upon detection.  Although the person will run a temperature, through antibiotics, eventually it will counteract the bacteria, and the immune system would kickstart to remove the bacteria.  Viruses, by their nature, are parasitic. They are encapsulated RNA or DNA that inject the genetic material into cells to replicate within it, eventually overtaking and lysing the cell completely as more viruses spread.  However, the shape of viruses isn’t generally agreed upon in science fiction literature.  

Zombie Virus Attacks Red Blood Cells

From most of the movies that I’ve seen so far, it has been agreed that the zombie virus attacks red blood cells in living human beings.  Generally, the white blood cells and lymphocytes lack the capability of suppressing the virus once bitten by a zombie.  Supposedly, the zombie virus would attack the central nervous system (CNS) initially, thereby disabling the body’s defenses.

Zombie Virus Reanimates the Brain Stem or the Brain

The zombie virus affects both the non-living and the living in this manner in generally all science fiction.  This generally means it would affect the neural pathways to the central nervous system of the human host, much like rabies. The host would be capable of surviving, but they would more resemble the zombies in The Walking Dead, more than the recent Dawn of the Dead. Neurologically, the human would be physically crippled and mentally disabled (literally), acting more instinctively.

The Host Requires Consumption of Flesh to Survive

This is the most intriguing aspect of the zombie virus.  It requires consumption of flesh, generally human, for the host to survive — and the virus ultimately as well.  This is also ultimately the point of transmission for the virus into other hosts.  The proteins in the consumed flesh would keep the human host alive, but the virus would still ultimately disable the host.  The rabies virus has a life span of two days to five years.  The human equivalent would and should have a similar life span.