Venomous zombies on The Walking Dead


I’m sure I read this a year or so ago. The article then reference Comodo Dragons with their toxic oral environment.

Interestingly, that turns out to be a myth. Dragons are venomous, but their mouths are no more bacteria-laden than most predators’. The massive systemic infections seen in dragon-bit water buffalo are caused by a combination of several factors: dragon venom isn’t strong enough to kill a buffalo, but the buffalo’s natural panic/injury response is to retreat into the water. This works all right in their native marshes, but in Komodo, the available water is generally a stagnant, filthy pool full of buffalo shit. Dip an open wound in that, and bam, massive systemic bacterial infection.

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Weird. I guess Dragon were a match for other prey before buffalo were introduced and just got lucky that the environment acted as a magnifier to their hunting.

I think the Ex-Heroes novels (zombies and superheroes, very well done) made this explicit. The zombie virus itself doesn’t kill, and in theory it’s possible to be a passive carrier, but every bite victim inherits all the bacteria and diseases from every zombie before them right back to Patient Zero, so in practice bites are always rapidly fatal, barring immediate amputation.


This article is flawed because both comic and show make it clear that simply dying turns you into a zombie, cause unknown. The bite is only bad because it is so full of pathogens that you get infected and die.

This has long been a problem in zombie fiction. As far as I know Mira Grant was the first zombie author to handle this, by segregating the virus into two categories: dormant and active. We all carry dormant virus, but actual shambling or running zombies carry live/activated virus. A critical mass of such causes the zombie change.

Therefore, when you get bit by something with a sufficient active virus load it turns you into a zombie without dying. It’s a very clean way of handling the problem. Her series is worth a look. The first book in her series is Feed:

It’s surprising that it took so long to address this obvious plot hole.

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But wasn’t that not the case early on in the outbreak? I seem to recall that initially, not all deaths were so fleeting.

Thank you. I’ve been flogging the Two Virus* theory from the beginning, and I’m not going to let the fact that thousands of people independently reached the same conclusion stop me from treating this as a personal vindication of my work in zombie epidemiology.

*a reanimating virus everyone has, and the zombie-borne super-Ebola. Wow, two new super-viruses appearing at exactly the same time? ZOMG government conspiracy!

It was always the case. They just didn’t identify it until later because they never saw anyone die who hadn’t been bitten.

The conceit of the whole series (including the comic book) is that “we’re all infected” (assuming it is an infection and not the Will of God or something). All dead people rise, even if they’ve never been bitten and die of a cold. That became a kind of important plot point this season of the show.

Sort of off topic, but the group is scattered because they did not designate a rendezvous point in case of retreat. This is a very basic tactic, and in any guerrilla attack, the group is supposed to scatter and escape by several different routes to prevent leading the opposition straight back the guerrilla HQ.

Website: “Discover - Science for the curious”

Opening paragraph: “per say”

WTF? No editor?

I think the bigger question is how a virus is supposed to be doing something as impossible as animating dead tissue, and keeping it somehow viable even through tremendous levels of damage. Explaining the bites is the easy part.

Fun fact about blogging, you very seldom get a copy editor. Little mistakes like this happen. It’s life. I find that grammatical errors have little to do with actually ability to understand and talk about the science. Of course, that could just be a self-serving opinion. :wink:


…Which is what the article said.

Not exactly since they want on their crazy “venomous bite” kick.

From the article: ‘Keep in mind, “zombie venom” is my general term for specific bacteria or viruses in the mouth of a mindless attacker that gets injected into you and messes you up. Actual venom is more complex than that.’

“Zombie venom” = bacteria and viruses = pathogens, just like you said.

The point being that this bite doesn’t turn you into a zombie…

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