TA Top Five: Diseases, Viruses & Parasites

By Chewie, 2 years ago
*cough cough* Excuse me. I'm feeling a little down in the dumps at the moment. One positive about feeling under the weather though, is that I get to fit in more time with the Xbox. Sitting here feeling lousy and playing games though did get me thinking about all the different horrible diseases, viruses and parasites that have been so often utilised in our favourite games, often by insane antagonists hell-bent on annihilating the population. These are all diseases that don't exist in the real world so, before you mention it, Malaria from Far Cry 2 doesn't make the cut, despite how much it dominates that title's gameplay. Those darned injections!

Honorable Mentions

M2448 "Freak" Virus - Crackdown 2
14/06/14 - Freak 1

History
Originally the result of a failed experiment by Dr. Baltazar Czernenko as part of the Agent genetic modification program, the medical student Catalina Thorne developed the M2448 virus as an act of revenge against the Agency after she was kicked off its medical research program. She used a false free vaccination program to infect the population of Unity Heights, a borough of Pacific City. The virus spread quickly throughout Unity Heights and began to spread into the other boroughs of Pacific City, creating a mass epidemic.

Symptoms
Early signs of infection include unresponsiveness, redness around the eyes, pronounced veins and a distinctive odour.

Once the virus takes hold, it attacks the parts of the brain that inhibits primal, aggressive instincts. It also causes cells to divide and mutate at an alarming rate, creating an increased size and unusually malformed limbs. Additionally, the body begins producing an acid-like substance, presumably the by-product of the mutation process. Furthermore, the infected will demonstrate an increasing vulnerability to sunlight.

Over time, mutation develops, leading to more evolved levels of size and strength. During this development, the acid substance also changes colour from green, to yellow, to red. This can be a useful indicator as to the threat level of the Freak in question.

Transmission
The virus was originally transmitted through direct injection into the blood stream. However, infected citizens can spread the virus through bites and scratches.

Treatment & Prognosis
There is no known antidote or cure for the virus, so its destructive effects on human psychology and physiology cannot be reversed. However, its spread can be controlled. Because all higher level reasoning has been lost, it can be presumed that the Freaks no longer maintain any level of human conscience and therefore should be eliminated with extreme prejudice. A shot to the face usually puts the infected down quite nicely. They are also prone to sunlight, so to avoid infection, do not venture out at night. The Freaks do demonstrate some social and self-preservation behaviours, as can be seen by their "lairs", which are underground areas that they retreat to during the day. "Project Sunburst" is an Agency program intended to destroy all Freaks in the city by releasing large amounts of stored solar energy within these lairs.


Blight Disease- Dragon Age: Origins
15/06/14 - Blight

History
A Blight begins when the darkspawn, underground humanoid creatures, discover an Old God and taint them with their evil disease. The Old God then becomes an Archdemon and leads the hordes of darkspawn against the world, spreading death, destruction and disease. These periods are known as Blights and the disease that the darkspawn spread is known as Blight Disease.

Symptoms
Symptoms include hair loss, aggressive behaviour, boils, sores and unusual protrusions. Brain activity is also affected, with sufferers often going mad. Death usually comes quickly; however, some people with higher resistance to the disease do not die as quickly. In those cases, the sufferer becomes a "ghoul". The disease continues to corrupt the minds and bodies of these ghouls and death is ultimately inevitable. During this period however, the ghouls are compelled through a telepathic link through the taint to serve the darkspawn.

Transmission
The Blight is spread by coming into close proximity with the darkspawn, who exude their taint around them. The disease affects all forms of life, infecting animals as well as humans and killing all nearby flora, making areas infertile and entirely devoid of life.

Treatment & Prognosis
Because the Blight is of supernatural origins, it does not have a known antidote or cure. The only way to stop the spread of the disease is to kill the Archdemon who is leading the plague. The Grey Wardens have developed resistance to the disease through their "Joining" ceremony, in which they drink the blood of darkspawn. However, few survive this extreme ritual and, for those that do, this simply slows the progression of the disease. Ultimately, it will consume them.


The Top Five

5. Blacklight Virus - Prototype / Prototype 2
14/06/14 - Blacklight

History
Originally developed by the shady Blackwatch black-ops company as a bio-weapon called Redlight, biological and genetic research company Gentek took the original research, along with host Elizabeth Greene, and created the Blacklight variant.

Symptoms
The virus directly effects the host's DNA, consuming and redesigning the biological make-up of the infected and creating sentient cells that can take on the appearance of the consumed. These sentient cells can transform at will, allowing parts of the body to repurpose into any shape. Additionally, the infected organism can consume other organisms, allowing them to take on their form as well.

The level of infection, and therefore the physical abilities of the the infected, varies from case to case. Some infected citizens will only exhibit small deformities, whereas others can develop much increased size and strength. Most infected lose all higher-level reasoning once the virus repurses the brain and only function to spread the infection amongst the uninfected. The infected have also exhibited telepathic abilities, similar to the concept of a "hive mind". This allows more powerful infected to control the actions of others. However, some strains of the virus allow the infected to retain some higher-level reasoning and memories. Sometimes this makes the infected believe they are still to all intents and purposes "human". However, their entire cellular make-up has been repurposed so this is not the case.

Transmission
The virus is highly contagious. It is primarily spread through bites or scratches from the infected. However, infection can occur through proximity to a hive due to exposure to the high concentration of infectious agents in the air surrounding the biological mass. Because the virus cannot be transmitted through water, the outbreak remained mostly contained on Manhattan Island.

Treatment & Prognosis
The catastrophic effects of the virus on the DNA of the infected causes mortality in 99.9% of the infected, usually from massive organ failure after core organs such as the brain or heart are fundamentally changed. However, some variants have a vastly reduced mortality rate. Bloodtox is a gas that has been developed to detect and affect the infected. It causes necrosis in infected cells. However, it has been observed that if organisms survive initial exposure to Bloodtox, they may develop resistance to it.


4. Rat Plague - Dishonored
15/06/14 - Rat Plague

History
Clearly a reference to the Black Death that swept through Europe in the Middle Ages, killing between 75 and 200 million people, the Rat Plague has been happily decimating the population of Dunwall. So called because it is thought to be carried via the very prevalent rodent population in the city's sewers, it is unknown how the plague entered the city. What is strange is that it does not follow the standard pattern of such epidemics in that the Dock area where it would be expected to enter the city was not where the first recorded sufferers were identified, rather it was the city's slum area where it seemed to originate. Rumours abound that the origins of the plague are a lot more mysterious and nefarious.

Symptoms
Those infected with the disease exhibit early symptoms such as skin discolouration, weight loss and hair loss. As the disease develops, it targets the lungs and brain, leading to a distinctive cough and a reduction in cognitive functions. Eventually, blood begins to seep from the eyes. This distinctive symptom indicates that the sufferer is in the late stages of infection and near death. It has led to the term "weepers" to describe sufferers.

Transmission
The plague has killed half of the population of the city of Dunwall. Due to poor sanitary conditions, it is particuarly prevalent in poorer districts. Dunwall has been blockaded in order to contain the disease within the city. Additionally, authorities have put up barriers to contain the disease in poor districts.

Treatment & Prognosis
Some restoratives have been developed, such as Sokolov's Elixir and Piero's Spiritual Remedy. However, these potions are extremely expensive and are only available to wealthy citizens. It has been suggested that the primary ingredient of both of these is the River Krust, a mollusc often found in humid environments. It should also be noted that they are not antidotes or cures. They simply boost the body's resistance to the disease. Other supposed remedies developed in poorer areas are much less effective, if at all. When infected, without any restorative at all, survival is very unlikely.


3. Forced Evolutionary Virus - Fallout 3 / Fallout: New Vegas
15/06/14 - FEV

History
Developed by the United States initially as a way to immunise its citizens against a possible biological super-virus from the Chinese in the Great War of 2077, the abnormal mutation side-effects of the testing phase led the army to instead utilise the FEV as a weapon, hoping that it could be used to create massive super-soldiers capable of annihilating whole armies. However, nuclear destruction put a stop to the virus's implementation and the experiment remained dormant for years. Uncovered by Dr Richard Grey as he explored the wasteland, the FEV went into full circulation after the Dr became hideously mutated and decided to create an army of mutants using the poor wasteland survivors who unwittingly wandered into the facility.

Symptoms
The FEV is a virus that directly affects the host's DNA, copying and rebuilding cells rapidly. Most humans who are exposed to the FEV do not survive; some do survive and are mutated but have very limited intelligence. A small proportion become the creatures known as "super-mutants". These individuals gain increased size and strength, age very slowly, are immune to disease and highly resistant to radiation. However, those affected with the virus are also rendered sterile. Most super-mutants are also extremely aggressive and often feral. It is believed that this is a result of the mutation process, which is excruciatingly painful, rather than the virus itself.

Transmission
Designed to be injected into hosts, direct physical contact with the FEV is still enough for it to be effective. This usually means an individual needs to be "dunked" in a vat of FEV for it to be effective. Coming into close proximity to infected individuals is not enough to become infected. Additionally, most people living in the wasteland have developed a limited resistance to the FEV due to a strain of it mutating to an airborne form that has been ingested in very small doses. This means that those living in Vaults since the Great War are particularly susceptible as they haven't built up this natural resistance.

Treatment & Prognosis
The effects of the FEV cannot be reversed. The best and only way of dealing with a super mutant is to send many, large bullets in the general direction of their face. As super mutants cannot procreate, the source of FEV should be eradicated in order for more not to be produced.


2. Genophage from Mass Effect / Mass Effect 2 / Mass Effect 3
15/04/14 - Genophage

History
The genophage was a biological weapon designed by salarians and used by the turians against the krogans (i.e. some aliens by other aliens against more aliens). The intention was to vastly reduce the number of krogans by introducing a genetic mutation that caused most foetuses to not develop properly, leading to stillbirths. It worked. The krogans are now an almost entirely extinct species.

Symptoms
Although there are no visible symptoms of the disease, it has a devastating effect on krogan physiology, causing near total infant mortality. Prior to its introduction, krogan females could lay clutches of eggs numbering up to 1,000 over the course of year. After the disease was released, on average only 1 in 1000 eggs will produce live offspring.

Transmission
The genophage was deployed on the krogan homeworld and, released into the atmosphere, affected all krogan on the planet. The disease continues throughout the generations as any successful births retain the genetic mutation causing its effects. Additionally, because of an unwillingness by most krogan to carry out focused breeding programs, possible improvements to successful birth numbers have not been carried out.

Treatment & Prognosis
For many years, there was no known cure for the genophage. As every cell of the body is "infected", gene therapy was not a viable treatment. Unfortunately, the lack of science-minded krogans has meant that scientific developments have been few. Occasionally, reported cures have been discovered, but these were mostly lost. Some krogans have resorted to measures such as testicle transplants to improve the changes of successful siring. However, these are fruitless endeavours. There have also been reports that some krogans have begun to develop a natural resistance to the disease as successful birth numbers have started to increase.


1. Progenitor Virus, Plaga Parasites & Their Many Variations - Resident Evil Series
15/06/14 - Progenitor

History
Originating from the Stairway of the Sun flower in Western Africa, the Progenitor Virus was used in local traditions with the Majini tribesmen ingesting the flowers to determine who would lead them. Those who survived would supposedly gain superior strength. Discovered, examined and refined by the founders of the Umbrella corporation in the 1960s, the first iteration of the refined virus was the t-Virus, which was a result of combing the Progenitor with leech DNA. Future refinements and combinations included the T-Veronica virus, T-Abyss virus, G-virus, NE-a Type parasite, Uroboros virus and C-virus. Additionally, the Plaga parasite was discovered in Europe. Originally utilised by a cult called "Los Iluminados", combinations of the Progenitor virus strains and the Plaga have been used in biological terrorism to control and mutate the population.

Symptoms
The different strains of virus and parasite have a variety of effects on human physiology. The t-Virus kills cells, then clones them with its own genetic make-up. It also produces energy that allows the host to continue motor functioning with minimal brain activity. As these energy levels are minimal, the host is driven by the need to feed and replenish the energy. Because live cells are killed and the virus can successfully process dead tissue, the hosts are technically dead and reanimated; in essence, zombies. If hosts are left in a dormant state, the virus continues to mutate the tissue, such as sharp teeth, clawed fingers and a red hue, leading to the "Crimson Head" and ultimately the "Licker" mutations. Other variations of the virus cause much greater levels of mutation, such as the Uroboros virus's tentacle mutation or the C-virus's various regenerative mutations in its "J'avo" hosts. Additionally, more recent variants such as the C-virus maintain the host's higher-level brain activity, allowing them to communicate and use weapons.

The Plaga parasite latches onto a host's nervous system. Hosts are known to cough up blood, convulse, hallucinate and exhibit redness or bleeding around the eyes, sometimes with a glowing effect. The host doesn't often exhibit mutations like with the Progenitor virus variants. However, in some variants if enough damage is done to the host, the Plaga will emerge through the host's head and directly attack the perceived threat.

Transmission
Initially, hosts need the virus directly injected into their bloodstream for the virus to take hold. However, secondary means of transmission include bites and scratches from the infected. The Plaga parasites must be injected or forced into the orifices of individuals, they cannot be transmitted another way.

Treatment & Prognosis
There are some vaccines produced to aid with suppressing the viruses. If the Plaga parasite is located before it fully attaches to the nervous system, it can be killed using radiation. However, these methods must be taken at an early stage of infection. If significant mutation takes hold and brain functions are severely affected, then no vaccine will be effective. In many instances the virus causes almost instant death. Those who have been overcome and reanimated with the t-virus and some variants can be brought down by destroying the brain. However, other variations are not susceptible to such damage. In these instances, weaknesses can include bright light (Plaga) and fire (most variants).


That's it for our Top Five. I'm off to wrap myself in a plastic bubble, Howard Hughes style. Did we miss any of your favourite diseases, viruses and infections off the list? And, hey, if you think you can do better, why not create your own devastating disease in the upcoming Xbox One title Plague Inc: Evolved.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Chewie
Written by Chewie
Chewie is a Wookiee from Kashyyyk. Since helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Emperor, he has taken up Achievement-Hunting and Newshoundery on TA. Also, ice-skating.