Nat Geo TV Blogs - National Geographic Channel is great image for your collection and this design is free to use with high definitions resolution. Copyright © 2014 Tattoo Design Bild, All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners. In the zombie flicks 28 Days Later and I Am Legend, an unstoppable viral plague sweeps across humanity, transforming people into mindless monsters with cannibalistic tendencies. Though dead humans can't come back to life, certain viruses can induce such aggressive, zombie-like behavior, scientists say in the new National Geographic Channel documentary The Truth Behind Zombies, premiering Saturday at 10 p.m. For instance, rabiesa€”a viral disease that infects the central nervous systema€”can drive people to be violently mad, according to Samita Andreansky, a virologist at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine in Florida who also appears in the documentary. Combine rabies with the ability of a flu virus to spread quickly through the air, and you might have the makings of a zombie apocalypse. Unlike movie zombies, which become reanimated almost immediately after infection, the first signs a human has rabiesa€”such as anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and paralysisa€”don't typically appear for ten days to a year, as the virus incubates inside the body. If the genetic code of the rabies virus experienced enough changes, or mutations, its incubation time could be reduced dramatically, scientists say.

Many viruses have naturally high mutation rates and constantly change as a means of evading or bypassing the defenses of their hosts. There are various ways viral mutations can occur, for example through copying mistakes during gene replication or damage from ultraviolet light. But for the rabies virus to trigger a zombie pandemic like in the movies, it would also have to be much more contagious. Humans typically catch rabies after being bitten by an infected animal, usually a doga€”and the infection usually stops there. Thanks to pet vaccinations, people rarely contract rabies in the United States today, and even fewer people die from the disease. A faster mode of transmission would be through the air, which is how the influenza virus spreads. Different forms, or strains, of the same virus can swap pieces of genetic code through processes called reassortment or recombination, said Elankumaran Subbiah, a virologist at Virginia Tech who was not involved in the documentary.
But unrelated viruses simply do not hybridize in nature, Subbiah told National Geographic News.

Likewise, it's scientifically unheard of for two radically different viruses such as rabies and influenza to borrow traits, he said. It's theoretically possiblea€”though extremely difficulta€”to create a hybrid rabies-influenza virus using modern genetic-engineering techniques, the University of Miami's Andreansky said.
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