The Last of Us: How Long Do the Infected Live? & How Do They Survive?


There is no doubt that the most dangerous enemies that humanity faced in The Last of Us are those that were infected by the Cordyceps fungus and have turned into infected humans that are so ferocious and aggressive that they would attack anyone they see. Of course, it has been 20 years since the start of the Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI) outbreak in The Last of Us, but there are still plenty of infected roaming outside the Quarantine Zones (QZs). So, how long do the infected live, and how do they survive?

The infected don’t have a definite lifespan as their lifespan depends on a lot of different factors, such as their environment. However, Joel said in episode 2 that some last for about a month or two while others have been walking around since the start of the outbreak. No one knows for sure how long they live.

One of the scariest parts about The Last of Us is that the knowledge that the general public has about the infected tends to be quite minimal, as people don’t fully understand these creatures and what they are capable of. In that regard, they also aren’t too sure about how long the infected live or how they survive. That is why the infected are so unpredictable and incredibly frightening.

How Long Do The Infected Live?

We already know that the storyline of The Last of Us revolves around Joel and Ellie and their journey west in a world that had already gone to hell due to the outbreak of the CBI. Essentially, the CBI infects people and causes them to act like mindless animals that would attack anyone they see so that the fungus can spread to a new host and then grow and feed off of the host. That is why the infected tend to go through different stages of infection depending on how big the Cordyceps growth is.

clicker 2

Of course, the thing that we need to understand here is that the Cordyceps fungus in the infected is a parasite that feeds off of its host while trying its best to make sure that it stays alive. The first thing that the fungus does is that it destroys the brain cells to make sure that the person no longer has any capacity to control their mind and body.

But, at the same time, the fungus steadily and slowly feeds off of the person’s bodily tissues so that it can grow and eventually spread itself to other people by infecting them as well. This explains why a single infected ant can destroy an entire colony in the natural world, as the Cordyceps fungus only needs one host to infect plenty of other ants or insects. The same is true for humans in the world of The Last of Us, as one single infected person will allow the fungus to spread to hundreds, thousands, millions, or even billions more because the main focus of the Cordyceps fungus is to keep itself alive by moving from one host to another all while eating through the current host.

As the fungus grows, the infected undergoes massive changes to its appearance, as this reflects the stage of the growth of the infection. For example, Bloaters are the biggest type of infected due to the fact that the infection has grown so massive that it added a layer of armor and “muscle” around the infected to make it stronger. But that also means that the Bloater is at the latter stages of its lifespan.


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So, considering that the Cordyceps fungus kills the host from the inside by feeding on it until the host can no longer provide any nutrients to the fungus, how long does the infected get to live while the fungus is feeding off of it?

The truth is that no one really knows how long an infected can live after the infection has started taking over the person’s body. This was something that Ellie asked Joel in episode 2 of HBO’s The Last of Us as she asked how long the infected get to live. To that end, Joel said that some of them get to live for about a month or two while others get to live for years, as there are those that have been walking around since the start of the outbreak 20 years ago.

Not even the video games give a conclusive answer as to how long the infected get to live, as there is no detailed research in the world of The Last of Us in that regard. All that they know is that the infected will last for as long as the fungus will allow it to live. And this is the scary part because there is no certainty as to how long the infected can live.

There are plenty of factors that could possibly contribute to how long an infected can live. It is possible that the person’s health before the infection could play a role, as bigger and healthier people might have more nutrients to provide. Meanwhile, those who are malnourished are probably less likely to live longer. There’s also the possibility that the environment plays a role in the lifespan of the infected.

dead clicker

It really depends on a lot of different factors. But the good thing is that not all of the infected get to live for years, as most of them tend to stay in the Runner stage. As such, there aren’t a lot of Clickers or Bloaters in the world of The Last of Us due to the fact that not all of the infected can live long enough to reach those infection stages.

How Do The Infected Survive?

As mentioned, the Cordyceps fungus eats the person from the inside after it infects them. That means that this fungus is a parasite that will feed off of the host without even giving something in return. We can even say that it is the worst kind of parasite because it not only takes away nutrients from the person but also takes away the host’s sanity and memories. So, if that’s the case, how do the infected survive?

It is possible that the Cordyceps fungus has the ability to put the host in a suspended state that would allow the body to last for as long as it can while it stays dormant. We can see this in the fact that there are infected that latch onto walls and are in dormant states until they find suitable prey that they could spread the infection.

tess in fected kiss

Of course, the survival of the fungus and the host also depends on several different factors that could be environmental in nature. But the point here is that the infected don’t get to survive for as long as normal humans do because of the fact that the fungus eats it from the inside. Still, the ones that get to live for years are those that were kept alive by the fungus long enough for them to “evolve” or “mutate” into different forms of infected. 


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If the fungus acts in a way that is similar to how it acts in the real world, it has the ability to preserve bodily tissue and prevent decay. This allows the fungus to “prolong” the lifespan of the infected despite the fact that the infected haven’t had any food or water for an extended period of time. The fungus essentially controls the neurologic system of the host’s body to such an extent that the host becomes a mere puppet to the Cordyceps.

The point is that there are so many things that we don’t understand about the Cordyceps infection, and that is what makes this outbreak so scary when you think about it. Not even the people living in the world of The Last of Us fully understand the nature of this infection.