Science of 'Venom': How real-life parasites can take over the human brain

Science of 'Venom': How real-life parasites can take over the human brain

- in Science

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In the splashy new movie “Venom,” an alien “symbiote” brought to Earth merges with the body of an investigative reporter played by actor Tom Hardy, giving him superhuman strength — and otherworldly aggression.

In the real world, of course, alien symbiotes don’t exist (at least we haven’t encountered any yet). But parasites are all too real, and some have devastating effects on their hosts.

Ana Rodriguez would know. In her lab at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City, the microbiologist studies parasites that cause devastating illnesses like malaria and Chagas disease.

But can parasites cause profound behavioral and psychological changes akin to those depicted in the film?

To learn more about the science behind “Venom” and whether scientists worry that real-life alien microbes might someday infect humans, MACH recently sat down with Rodriguez at NYU Langone’s Science Building. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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