Opinion article* published in The Conversation written by Judy-Anne Osborn, Lecturer in Mathematics at University of Newcastle

Could a dire new infection sweep the world in a matter of weeks? Might the disease be so strange that it alters the behaviour of people beyond recognition, making them predatory and fearless? Could a great city like Philadelphia be overrun in a matter of hours?

World War Z, the latest Brad Pitt action thriller, is premised on these disturbing possibilities, and there’s a seed of science in each of them. The film is loosely based on a book by Max Brooks, history major and son of film director Mel Brooks, who has said that although his book is called “World War Z: an oral history of the Zombie Wars”, it should really be called “World War Z: insert real plague here”.

The terror of a zombie plague is deftly realised in this film, with a lot of tense action and surprisingly little gore.  The plot centres around seemingly inexorable logic: infection deletes personalities and creates zombies, infected individuals infect others faster than they can be killed, and the infected have lost all self-preservation intent, so can’t be awed or reasoned into stopping their destruction of humanity.

The chilling idea that a single bite can transform loved individuals into automata intent only on transmitting the infection, is reflected in some real illnesses, some of which we can’t always cure. Rabies may be transferred by a bite, and cause mania, violence, brain damage and death; and can be transferred from animals to humans.

Read the full article in The Conversation.