By Zombiesm Expert Dr. Doctor Austin
Foreword by Jim Donahue
Doctor Austin is a Theoretical Zombiologist and Head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies, based at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. The Institute carries out research into Zombieism and delivers public awareness lectures on the subject. There most recent lecture series, Zombie Science 1Z, toured the UK in 2011/12, and was delivered to over 12,000 teenagers and adults, at venues ranging from schools to cinemas. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, the lecture was designed to both educate and entertain its audiences. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.
Part 3: Preventing & Curing Zombieism
Across this series of articles, we’ve established what a real Zombie might be like and what biological agent may be responsible for causing them. In our final article, let’s combine this knowledge to theorize on how we might prevent and cure a true Zombieism outbreak.
The most promising candidate for producing a Zombie outbreak is a new type of prion disease. The good news is that prion diseases are presently extremely rare. The bad news is that prion diseases are incredibly difficult to diagnose and treat.
A good comparison for our potential Zombieism prion disease is Human Mad Cow disease (vCJD). Since 1995, vCJD has racked up 176 deaths, the majority of them in the UK. If that were Zombieism, it would be mean an average of 10 zombies per year. Not enough for even the lowest budget Zombie film.
The majority of these cases were likely caused by consumption of infected food of bovine origin, specifically brain or other central nervous tissue. So a sensible preventative step would be to not eat infected meat. Of course, you must know which animal is causing the infection.
Detection of a prion disease, in animal or human, is difficult. Presently, it can only be fully diagnosed once the patient is dead. The Zombie Institute runs an initiative called The Noah Project. It aims to observe all animal species for Zombie-like symptoms. Over 5,000 animals have been logged, and to date, there have been no Zombie animals detected.
Alongside identification and prevention, treatment and a cure are priorities. One viable treatment might be gene therapy. Gene therapy is when genetic material, such as DNA, is placed into someone’s cells to try and prevent or treat a disease. First, the scientist needs to discover the gene they think will do the task they require. They then need to deliver it to the body.
Some humans and animals do seem to have a natural resistance to prion disease, and forms of a mouse prion gene can reduce how fast rogue prions convert normal ones. Researchers have used this advantage to treat prion disease infected mice with gene therapy. They injected this resistant gene into the brains of infected mice. They found, after two injections, treated mice survived 20 percent longer, making substantial improvements. They think this occurred because the gene they added makes a prion that can’t be converted by the rouge prion, slowing down the progress of the disease.
These results were promising, but the disease was only slowed, not cured. It still caused unrepairable damage to the brain. Right now there are no successful treatments or cures for any type of prion disease. Yet in this research we can see potential for gene therapy to eventually cure a condition like Zombieism.
We’ve reached the end of our series on the real science behind Zombies. At the Institute we theorize as best we can, using available data. What you have read is only what we think is the most probable explanation and definition of a real Zombie. There might not be Zombies in the world right now, but they could be here sooner than you think, and only science can save us.
Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep, is a Theoretical Zombiologist and Head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland UK. Find out more about his research at and have your Zombie questions answered in his ZomBlog http://zomblogofficial.blogspot.co.uk/.