Everyone knows zombie bites are deadly, with the infectious agent reanimating the corpse to shamble around to make new zombies. Evidence from a new paper at PLOS One reveals “zombified” caterpillars are considered delicious by healthy specimens, turning the trope on its ear.
Nucleopolyhedrovirus is a nasty pathogen giving the host a nasty brown and yellow pallor, inducing vomiting and lethargy, while liquifying the body from the inside-out. While not a true zombie virus in the movie tradition, it’s terrifyingly close. Despite all the grossness, uninfected caterpillars find them to be delicious. Dulce Rebolledo and pals at Mexico’s Instituto de Ecología observed healthy caterpillars staying close to their sickly friends, preferring to eat those bodies over ‘healthy’ cadavers. Those morsels are highly infectious with a 100% mortality rate, ensuring the continuation of the zombie cycle. Even if a bug isn’t able to directly eat a ‘zombie’, the infected like to crawl to the top of plants to die only to fall down, smearing infectious goodness on the leaves below.
Breathe a sign of relief, as humans have nothing to worry about. The virus prefers the alkaline-based cells of insects over our acid-based cells. Wikipedia does say the virus crystals can enter human cells, but won’t replicate to the point of illness.
Just remember, mutations happen, so stay frosty and keep your ammo dry just in case.