Thank you everyone.
This was certainly not a question with a simple solution, and was far more complicated than I could've imagined. All of you provided so many amazing, insightful responses, selecting an single answer has been extremely difficult. You illuminated and educated in so many areas, and you have my utmost gratitude and respect. Worldbuilding is an incredible community, and I'm genuinely honored to be a part of it.


Any suggestions for 4-5 items that could be collected for a fictional (yet convincing) immunization/inhibiting agent against an air-born, zombie virus.


5 years after a massive, zombie outbreak initially brought into the United States (before being identified within the country of origin).

Efforts to quarantine and irradiate the infected has proven ineffective since every individual is now a carrier, causing them "turn" when near death or ill.

The zombie infection changes dramatically when it mutates from the dormant state into the active version; assuming a nearly completely different virus altogether. Years were spent trying to cure the dormant version before discovering that it might be possible to immunize against the mutated version.

The CDC has finally identified a successful method of developing this immunization/inhibiting agent. Unfortunately, only a small group of them remain, desperately defending their position, using generator backups, and rapidly running low on resources. The military, who has been protecting them, is being reassigned but the researchers (being so close to their goal) refuse to leave.

The military advises that the area will be overrun regardless, but promise to supply a rescue chopper upon request. In a final act of hope, several soldiers volunteer to remain.

Now, it's a race to complete (and test) the vaccine using the limited equipment they have, and anything they can bring back from the surrounding area (pharmacies, hospitals, factories, etc.).

Infection Traits

  • The symptoms are that of the standard, Walking Dead style zombie: Aggressive, rabid-like, and mindless.
  • Victims, once turned, may be partially alive, or fully dead. In this case it doesn't really matter, so either one can be assumed.
  • The viral/microbial infection is spread though direct contact as well as being air-born.
  • Direct contact refers to any transfer of bodily fluids (blood, mucus, sweat, etc.), causing the infected to decline rapidly (12-24 hours).
  • The air-born strain remains dormant until the body's immune system is compromised (extreme illness or near death).
  • When turning, victims experience high fever, increased heart-rate, and eventual blindness due to the fever (sight is restored once they've turned completely).

Question: What components (medicines & equipment) could I use to plausibly immunize against zombism as described above?

  • Components need to withstand reasonable scrutiny by anyone with a medical background.
  • Medicinal components need to have a generic name (to avoid copyright infringement) and names that are readable are definitely preferred (Melphalan vs. Talimogene Laherparepvec).
  • Components are not limited to medicinal ingredients, but can also consist of anything else, such as equipment needed to prepare the immunization, tissue sample type, fungus, or anything that could reasonably contribute towards the immunization/inhibiting agent.
  • All items must be gathered within a relatively close distance to the CDC. Roughly within this area: https://goo.gl/maps/3Lk5KPZapiE2 (so locating immune survivors isn't possible).

Example Components

Please visit my ArtStation portfolio to see my digital paintings depicting the fully-turned zombies.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! Unfortunately, as this question seems to be asking for a list of medicines to cure what is essentially an arbitrary disease with arbitrary symptoms (except for zombification, which doesn't exist, so how would anyone know how it's cured in real life?) I believe it's too broad unless you're able to give a very specific list of symptoms $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ Please don't just add an "updated" to the title. Your question is currently on hold which means that any new edit you make will automatically send it to a special reopen queue where people judge whether your edit makes the question on topic. Everyone can see the revision history when clicking on the time of the last change. To get your question reopenend your should meaningfully edit your qestion('s body) to address the concerns raised in the comments - you should not add unnecessary stuff to the title. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Please do not cross-post your quesiton across multiple sites on the network. I marked two of your questions that were being migrated here as duplicates... It's considered bad form, especially because you didn't change them. Each site is meant for something different - if you think any question can be posted on multiple sites without any change then your question is probably not constrained enough and most if not all sites will close their version. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking for real world medications that could treat a fictional disease? It's not clear to me what you're expecting of an answer, and not having a list of symptoms makes it really difficult to guess what would "work". $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Jan 2, 2018 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ If everyone is already infected, then a vaccine is not possible. A vaccine primes the immune system so that it recognizes the pathogen when first exposed, thus fights it off before the disease can establish itself. If everyone is a carrier, it is too late for that. What it sounds like you are looking for is an inhibiting agent which prevents the change into a zombie, but that entirely depends on how your necromancy works. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2018 at 17:10

7 Answers 7


Vaccine development in the real world is a resource intensive and time-consuming process. However, with the imminent threat of zombie attacks, there are many shortcuts that could be taken to speed up the process.

For the sake of making this as close to real life as possible, I'll draw comparisons to a couple of real-world vaccines against various viruses.

Ebola vaccine

The direct-contact nature of the virus, plus some of the proposed symptoms, suggest parallels to Ebola. The 'Recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus–Zaire Ebola virus' is an Ebola vaccine with 95-100% efficacy. It is made by combining the vescicular stomatitis virus with an Ebola virus surface protein (probably a protein that the virus uses to infect cells).

So for your zombie vaccine, let's presume that you want to isolate one of the zombie virus surface proteins, and combine this with a carrier protein to ensure optimal presentation by the host immune system, without causing any zombie symptoms. Most of the reagents needed for this work can probably be found in the labs at the CDC. You might need a working PCR machine for some of the DNA work - these would be found in most laboratories.

Influenza vaccine

The current flu (influenza) vaccine involves an inactivated form of the virus, and can be produced in eggs. This is a low cost, but effective, means of producing the large quantities of virus needed for large-scale vaccine production.

I would suggest that this may be an appropriate way of producing your zombie vaccine, and would negate the need to do large-scale cell culture (which is very resource intensive). However, you need eggs. Lots of them. Surely someone has been keeping chickens in some of the nearby neighbourhoods.

Purification of the vaccine

Having produced your vaccine in eggs, you then need to purify it to avoid any deadly reactions that would inevitably occur were you to inject raw egg into someone. To do this you're going to need some large-scale protein purification products. To do this, let's say you've determined you need to do a rough purification step using Ammonium Sulfate Precipitation. You'll need to find a whole lot of Ammonium Sulfate. Further purification might be done with Ion Exchange Chromatography, for which you will need a lot of Ion Exchange Columns. There should be some in the CDC, or in the nearby Emery University.

Final purification might be done with High Performance Liquid Chromatography, or HPLC. You're going to need to get some HPLC Columns, and possible a HPLC machine. Again, maybe one of the nearby universities or hospitals might have some?

Finally, for vaccine delivery, you'll need clean needles and syringes. Lots of them. Perhaps the nearby hospitals would have a large supply?

I've left a lot of things out of the equation here, and skimmed over the initial design of the vaccine. But I think the biggest issue is going to be large scale production, rather than the smaller scale work that would go towards initial development/creation of the vaccine. Maybe the scientists have done most of the initial development already anyway, and just need to produce enough product to be able to test it properly?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm upvoting this for the mention of syringes, which slipped my mind when writing my answer. Of course, they'll need lots of sterilized needles and syringes! $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 8, 2018 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ If everyone is already a carrier (I think being a carrier means the virus is not active?), couldn't they just draw blood from the staff and the remaining/departing soldiers instead of producing viruses in eggs? $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ These are some great suggestions! Thank you so much. ... @RealSubtle A couple of other people noted this as well, and it's a fair point. Perhaps one approach to navigate around it would be ... that the zombie infection changes dramatically when it mutates from the dormant state into the active version; thereby assuming a nearly completely different virus altogether. Years were spent trying to cure the dormant version before discovering that it might be possible to immunize against the mutated version. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RealSubtle I actually missed the bit about everyone being a carrier! However, this is even more reason that we need a specialised vaccine construct, not just the virus that is currently circulating in humans - we need to modify the virus enough that we can elicit a protective immune response. Clearly humans don't naturally develop immunity following standard infection, so perhaps we need to modify or add some components to the standard viral proteins. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew Guy
    Jan 8, 2018 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewGuy -- Thank you again. Your suggestions where inspiring and extremely clever. I don't know if I would've ever discovered information on Thermal Cyclers and Ion Exchange Columns otherwise. The simplicity of eggs was especially great. $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2018 at 23:04

Classically, the key ingredient in a zombie-apocalypse cure (or vaccination) is an immune survivor; someone who has definitely been exposed, has subsequently been reduced to the triggering state of near death, and has later been restored to health without becoming a zombie. There is a strong (yet probably unsubstantiated) trope that for every possible disease, a small subset of potential hosts will possess a natural immunity and that any surviving doctor can somehow manufacture an effective medicine from the blood or DNA of a single immune person.

Since you are looking for the componentS which would make up a cure, I would suggest enhancing this trope to state that no single immune person can provide a cure for the zombie plague. Your cure can only be found by collecting a number of unrelated immune people and comparing their DNA to each other and to the non-immune majority.

The cure is present somewhere within the 3 billion base-pairs of each immune person's DNA, but since the average diversity between any two people's DNA is at least 0.1%, finding which distinct gene sequence grants immunity from a single sample is statistically impossible. Your single candidate will differ from your singular (presumably non-immune) doctor's DNA by approximately 3 million pairs. Adding multiple doctors and other non-immune people will help cross off some pairs, but since the cure is probably hidden in a combination of otherwise unrelated gene sequences, the statistical contribution of the non-immune can only help so much. Eventually, you need multiple immune people to determine specifically which gene sequences are responsible.

So perhaps what your surviving CDC scientists have that none of the other research teams have, is a comparatively large group of genetically distinct (unrelated) immune people. They have a large enough immune-positive sample to find the responsible genes, so now all they need is the medical equipment, solvents and reagents to perform genetic comparisons.

So perhaps the quest for your CDC scientists and their remaining guards is to convey their immune peoples (or at least their blood/saliva samples) to the headquarters of 23andMe in Mountain View, California. There is sure to be plenty of the right kind of equipment and chemicals available in their zombie infested labs.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a great idea Henry Taylor. Perhaps I can partially work that into the story. Unfortunately, the area that everything has to be located in is extremely limited -- which I regretfully failed to include (added it though, along with some further clarification). Nevertheless, if it's not possible to use medicinal components, perhaps your suggestion could be used -- as in "a collection of tissue samples, collected from identified, immune, subjects were lost when the helicopter carrying them spun out of control and crashed." Dropping the various samples across a wide area. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ In the universe where all of this is taking place, could the CDC have been given access to the genetic libraries of these offsite DNA analysis companies? Assuming certain internet connections are still functioning and power is still online between them, one or more of those databases may still be available to the people trapped in the CDC. In that case, the scientists and guards won't have to leave the premises to access the data they need. $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 2, 2018 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Ayelis, good point. However, the CDC doctors will still need equipment to analyze the DNA of the immune people. Some of those lucky people might already have records in the DNA analysis company computers which would be a great start, but the others would need to be sampled and those samples would then need to be decoded. Still, none of those tasks should be beyond the resources of a CDC center. The question really boils down to "what would a fully equipped CDC center need from the surrounding urban sprawl to justify character adventures in the wilds?" That is a tough one. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2018 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ For the sake of raising-the-stakes, in this scenario, a large portion of the CDC is infected, overrun, and locked down. To make matters worse, they're running on generators. They're limited a great deal, but this can always be tweaked based on what items might help them reach their goal. I like the DNA equipment idea as well. Unfortunately, most are rather large, except for some like a Spectrophotometer. For full disclaimer: This if for a board-game that's currently in development, and the items have to be retrieved by the players and brought back to the CDC successfully in order to win. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2018 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ To the best of my knowledge, viruses are usually fought by white blood cells using specific enzymes that can 'identify' and latch on to the virus. Those enzymes are simply protein chains that fold themselves into tiny molecular magnets which use hydrophilic bonds in order to attach to the specific shape of the virus. An immune person would have the pattern to create such an enzyme in their DNA, but thorough analysis of the virus itself could theoretically lead scientists to create an antiviral enzyme by hand, using technology similar to CRISPR-Cas9. bbc.com/news/health-30274635 $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 8, 2018 at 9:27

I'm taking a more low-level crack at this... I'll leave my other answer up in case anyone else finds it effective for their worldbuilding needs. My knowledge of drug combination therapy is limited, so these components are more about the basic vaccine creation process:

Suspending fluid - The primary ingredient in most vaccines is usually water or saline. Pure, clean, distilled water can be found at most grocers when the water company is shut down. Dirty river water can be filtered and distilled by hand easily with the right tools. Filters are available primarily in department stores, but can also be created with sand, charcoal, and persistence.

Active Ingredient - The Antigen(s)/Immunogen(s) in question. Can be created from certain semi-effective plants which might be found in nearby wilderness, or reverse engineered from the virus itself.

Antibiotics - Used to prevent contamination during vaccine creation and storage. Examples: Penicillin, Cephalosporin, Carbapenem, and some other familiar -cillins and -sporins and -cyclenes. Probably only found in nearby drug or department stores.

Stabilizers/Preservatives - Employed to help the vaccine maintain its effectiveness after it leaves the lab. Examples: Gelatine, Sugar, Sorbitol, Lactose, MSG, Urea. Most can be found in any grocer's bakery aisle. Urea powder is sometimes sold as a topical cosmetic, and can also be found as a fertilizer in some hardware stores.

Adjuvants - Utilized to provoke the immune system to discover the vaccine, so it can learn to fight the actual infection. Examples: Alum (often sold as a spice over the counter), paraffin/mineral oil (sold at drug stores in pharmaceutical grade, though perhaps other mineral oil grades can be processed or reconcentrated in a laboratory or kitchen), Soybean saponins, Peanut oil.

Sources: Oxford, WHO, Wiki

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    $\begingroup$ Wow! Thank you so much @Ayelis. These are great! The Antibiotics, Antigens, and Immunogens might be difficult to work into the world setting though since they all require refrigeration. The antibiotics, in particular, have a rather short shelf life, even in tablet form. The others, however, are absolutely perfect since they could potentially be located throughout multiple business types. I even discovered that Urea can be used to prepare fabrics for dying and is sometimes sold at arts & crafts stores. (craftmore.com/jacquard-urea-organic-nitrogen-chemical-1lb) Thank you! :) $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2018 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if your game has different character types or items players can carry with them, but perhaps one may get an ice cooler that allows them to transport antibiotics and immunogens? Just a thought. ;) [Though this thought would also require the refrigerators to be working at both sites, which may not be possible or probable...] $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 11, 2018 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ I am also aware that certain topical antibiotics such as bacitracin and Neosporin (brand name for neomycin/polymyxin-b/bacitracin mix) do not require refrigeration before use... I'm not sure how easily these over-the-counter room-temperature antibiotic ointments could be repurposed to meet the needs of a laboratory setting however... Though, it appears most vaccines do have polymixin-b or neomycin as ingredients, while the oral poliovirus vaccine is known to contain bacitracin. (Source: chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/… ) $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 11, 2018 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the characters, you nailed it @Ayelis. They most certainly have their own abilities and advantages -- but yeah, except for the CDC, there's no power to speak of. Aside from a handful of survivors, everyone has either evacuated or turned. Since it's been 3-5 years post outbreak, it'll have to be assumed that the CDC can create things like polymyxins on their own (which, based on some searches, can apparently be produced from bacillus -- holy crap!). Every one of your posts have provided so many interesting insights and areas to read into. Good sir -- you very much rock. :) $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2018 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ Just wanted to extend my gratitude, and respect, once more @Ayelis. You provided so much great information and material to work with. Thank you again. :) $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2018 at 23:10

Murphy's Law

Drug discovery is an iterative process. I'm a assuming you have a cure, but that cure causes liver failure, renal bleeding, and permanent death. You just need one or two more iterations to fix it.

Drug discovery is also a collaborative process. This means you need to have internet access. Some of the software used for drug discovery rely on data pulled from various sources such as PubChem and PDB.

To keep in line with your need to stay at the CDC facility, I'm going to add this logic: The reason why the scientist want to stay at the CDC facility is because they have a unique-to-the-world piece of equipment that still works.

I used to work as a multi-hat IT person at a small pharmaceutical research company and have had many annoying little problems while there. Normally, they are easily solved. But, during a zombie Apocalypse, it could shutdown the CDC's research.

That is: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

As such, I titled this answer as "Murphy's Law"

I've tried to described each item as if it was written on a "Chance" card from Monopoly. Also, I'm trying to keep the locations different.

Final Note - the company I worked at specialized in small molecule compounds. In this case, the compound will weaken the virus, prevent reproduction, and/or attach to the virus in such a way that white blood cells can do their job more efficiently. That is how this cure would work.

Item 1 - Refuel

The portable generator at major news station is down. You are using their satellite dishes to gain access to the internet. Go refuel the portable generator that is there.

Item 2 - Pringles Cans

A pack of zombies has taken out a section of your connection to the internet. Go through people's garbage to find some cardboard tubes lined with aluminum so that you can increase the usable distance of your wireless access points.

Item 3 - CR2032

The last non-rechargeable electrical pipetter ran out of juice. Run to the local convenience store to pickup some CR2032 batteries. Target/Walmart is known to have them too.

Item 4 - Liquid Helium

The liquid Helium in your superconductor-based NMR is running low. Go to National Air & Gas to pickup some more.

Item 5 - Analytical Grade Solvents

LCMS equipment is out of Analytical Grade Solvents. Investigate the local University for some more.

Item 6 - Specialized Circuit Board

The GPIB IEEE-488 circuit board that the computer uses to control the analytical equipment has fried. You can cannibalize the one found at nearby small pharmaceutical company

Most equipment now-days use USB and standard network interfaces. Older equipment used the GPIB IEEE-488 interface.

Item 7 - Snake-Away

A snake was found in one of the mice cages and couldn't get out; it must have been something he ate. Run to the local hardware store to pickup some snake-away and material to repair the broken, due to lack of maintenance, emergency exit door.

Mice are used for testing in order to find the lethal dose of a compound. Additionally, they can be used to gauge how large of a dose you need in order to make the drug effective. Taking 20 horse-pills 3 times a day for 20 days is not a valid cure.

Item 8 - Digital Software License Keys

The digital license keys for your main discovery software just expired and is now in the grace period. Break into ______ and generate a new key.

Drug discovery software is expensive. As such, they are protected by license management software. If the license was bought annually, the license key will need to be regenerated each year.

One option to generate a new key is to break into the HQ of the vendor and generate a key that lasts 100 years.

Another option is to generate a temporary key from the local sales rep's laptop. You'll need to take the laptop as these keys usually last only 1 month. One sales representative said their company stopped allowing sales reps to generate keys because they were giving away the software way too many times.

A third option: sometimes a physical dongle is used for single-seat/single-PC licenses. Today, the dongle is a USB stick. 1980's, companies like AutoCAD used Parallel Port dongles. Small company, maybe a consultant, would be the ones that have a dongle. However, you won't be able to use the full power of a super computer.

  • $\begingroup$ These are some great suggestions Michael. I especially like the ones regarding Liquid Helium and LC-MS Grade Solvents. Based on your answer, you're definitely targeting this based on my comment about this being for a board-game. :) Thank you very much. Researching the terms and equipment that you listed was extremely enlightening as well. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 19:18

from OP: /Efforts to quarantine and irradiate the infected has proven ineffective since every individual is now a carrier, causing them "turn" when near death or ill./

  1. As @pluckedkiwi points out in the comments, if everyone is a carrier it is too late for a vaccine. Sort of like everyone is carrying herpes. What you want to to prevent outbreaks of the herpes.

  2. If the outbreak only happens when you die it is hard to get too enthusiastic about risking your life to find a way to prevent it, even for a scientist. The dying thing is a bummer. Turning into a zombie does not make it a whole lot worse. If I can avoid dying generally I am very enthusiastic about that. If I am around other people they can refer to #5 below as I am dying of taco poisoning. Quicker, too. If I am not around other people I can zombie around after I die, no harm done.

But these were not your questions. You want anti zombie virus medicine.

Your virus is an RNA virus related to rabies.

Ideas for treatment:

1. Zombie virus, and a lot of it.

from Survival from Rabies Encephalitis

Insufficient rabies virus glycoprotein from low-titre inocula may also contribute to the delay (in immune reaction): an antibody response is not usually detected in infected humans before the second week of >illness, and often not until symptoms have appeared

If I am an asymptomatic carrier of zombie virus I conclude it is laying low in my body somehow, escaping immune surveillance. Some viruses (e.g. herpes) hide in cells and hibernate, escaping the immune system that way. Maybe for your virus it is because there is hardly any of it there, as is apparently sometimes the case for rabies. So: get a bunch of virus from zombies and inject me with it. I already have the freaking virus as OP states but I have no immune reaction. After I am injected, now my immune system will be aware of what it is and go to work building an antibody response. Later when the virus activates as I am dying of taco overdose, it will run afoul of the standing immune defenses my body made when I was healthy.

2. Interleukin-2

Same source as above:

Previous reports that immune activation plays a role in the pathogenesis of furious rabies have not been substantiated: indeed, furious rabies is associated with minimal inflammation and a high viral load.

IL-2 is the T cell party drug. It makes T cells go wild. The result looks like overwhelming sepsis: fever, hypotension, organ failure etc. 1 in 10 people with advanced melanoma can have lasting remissions from IL-2. The wild activated T-cells somehow figure out in that state what they could not figure out before: melanoma is bad. So too with the zombie virus. It is somehow laying low, not recognized by the immune system. Immune stimulation might goad my immune system into action. As with #1 above, when I am dying my immune defenses will remain intact to some degree and suppress virus activation.

Interferon might be a less dramatic way to accomplish the same end. People routinely are treated with interferon-alpha for hepatitis C, an RNA virus. But it is not as exciting as IL-2.

3 and 4: Amantadine and Ribavirin. Treatment of rabies with induction of coma

The linked article describes the survival of a girl with rabies and how it was accomplished: throwing the kitchen sink at it.

After the induction of coma and on the basis of discussions with scientists at the CDC, we instituted antiviral therapy. Studies in animals have shown little penetration of ribavirin into the central nervous system, and it has had little effect in animal models, but we administered the drug with the rationale that elevated protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid indicated permeability of the blood–brain barrier and that ribavirin might protect against rabies myocarditis... >Amantadine... was added on the fourth hospital day because of its in >vitro activity against rabies virus.

Both these drugs have activity against RNA viruses. Amantadine is the original anti influenza drug (rimantadine or Tamiflu is its descendant) and it works thru some sort of action on the viral envelope. Ribavirin is used against hepatitis C and many other RNA viruses including those causing viral hemorrhagic fevers. It is a nucleoside analog and causes hypermutation in RNA viruses.

Both of these drugs are ok for long term outpatient use. I can take my "don't zombie when I die" pills when I brush my teeth and put on my rash lotion at night.

5. Cyanide This one would not be for regular use, but to keep handy and take when it became clear that the taco was truly bad and I was done for. Cyanide is poisonous because it shuts down cellular metabolism. Viruses rely on cellular metabolism to reproduce. The cyanide pill will be the end of me and the end of my cells, and also the end of the virus.

  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful information, and hilariously presented as well. LOL! The information on Interleukin-2 was incredibly interesting. I read up on that quite a bit. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 21:48

I'm really focusing here on the "Components are not limited to medicinal ingredients, but can also consist of anything else" stipulation.

  1. Computers / Networking Equipment

    Assuming the internet has gone down (and really, why wouldn't it in a worldwide apocalypse scenario) the CDC would likely no longer have access to The Cloud nor its power of distributed processing. Therefore in order to calculate a cure in short order, they would have to build up their own store of available CPU cycles, which they would do by networking together more and more CPUs and GPUs. Locally. In their own building. On their own LAN. Which means they'd need computers. But they'd also need...

  2. Solar Panels / Gasoline / Wood

    While Georgia does have its fair share of power stations, I'm not sure how many of them can be counted on to run indefinitely on autopilot when the world goes to pot. Meanwhile, the CDC needs power.

    For every new computer on the network, our plucky survivors would need the ability to provide enough electricity to that computer in order to keep it running during the calculations. Solar panels may work well for this purpose. They're relatively rare, but can be spotted easily with a pair of binoculars from a tall building, and can be serialized fairly easily. As a downside, they might not be quite common enough within the intended radius, nor might they provide enough overall power for your situation...

    Barring solar, gasoline is a somewhat common resource that could be used to power your standard gas-powered generator, but it would also run out as a resource fairly quickly. Honestly, the stuff doesn't keep forever. In a few months, whatever you siphon from any vehicle or station will become pretty much worthless. I know, most zombie movies and shows have that wrong. But if your timeline is short enough, gasoline might be your answer.

    Your survivors might be crafty and resourceful enough to build gasifiers. This is an old technology that is often employed during fuel shortages in order to turn wood into fuel for vehicles or to generate electricity. Wood is a fairly renewable and common resource, found in or near a lot of homes and forests. Chop quietly...

  3. Food / Water / Water Filters

    The survivors themselves should not be discounted as a crucial ingredient in preparing the cure. They're necessary for gathering all of these ingredients, after all, and they likely will be necessary for distributing the cure also. After some amount of time, the scientists certainly will have to attend to their own needs, and I'm pretty sure the Centers for Disease Control were more designed as just a set of research laboratories than any sort of long-term zombie shelters.

    A constant source of fresh food and water will be necessary to keep these survivors whole and hale. The fridges and vending machines in the CDC kitchens are only so large. In maps of CDC Campuses I've found online, I don't necessarily see a garden or a greenhouse anywhere. Any water filters that may be installed will also only last so long, and that's assuming the water pressure doesn't dissipate completely when the power goes out. (People who currently work with, or have worked with the CDC, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on any of this.)

  4. Viral Samples

    Some viruses and bacteria have demonstrated a pesky habit of adapting, mutating, or evolving to meet new situations; various sorts of mutations could make them unpredictable and difficult to fight. Assuming the zombie infection has made it around the world, there's likely some variety to the illness that needs to be accounted for... so zombies themselves (or at least, their vital fluids and tissue samples) may need to be harvested.

  5. Antibiotics / Antimalarials / Antiseptics / Antivirals / Antiparasitics

    Perhaps this is more what you were after, and I'd be remiss if I didn't include it:

    Common Antibiotics like penicillins, cephalosporins, and carbapenems; Antimalarials such as quinine, artesunate, and doxycycline; Antiseptics such as ethanol, propanol, iodine, and hydrogen peroxide; or any of a slew of Antivirals, Virucides, and Antiparasitics; each definitely would be important in specific situations wherein the method of transmission is primarily bacterial, malarial, topical, viral, or parasitic in nature...

    But if this were indeed the case and these common drugs were largely effective, one might question why they weren't employed A LOT sooner to stem the tide of the outbreak. An obscure or complex combination of these might be necessary. If calculating a single new vaccine isn't what best suits your zombie apocalypse, calculating a combination of drugs and/or vaccines to quell the outbreak may be required.

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    $\begingroup$ I really appreciate the high-level ideas @Ayelis. Some of them qualify more as necessary resources than immunization components, but they're all vitally important considerations. I couldn't agree with you more regarding the gasoline shelf-life statement. It's aggravating how many movies and shows have completely ignored this (one of the countless inaccuracies that caused my disdain for Jurassic World). One would like to think that the CDC would be equipped with load-sharing/balancing power generators that run on natural gas, but that would probably be giving our government too much credit. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ Upon further reflection, I think I see what you mean as far as low-level ideas, Dustin. You're looking for Antigen A through Antigen E, where said Antigens might be found in the vicinity of the CDC, and mixed to form a cure... Most of what I said might be useless in that context. I don't have a lot of expertise with virology, but I do know that when creating vaccines, you may also need adjuvants in order to provoke an immune system response. I'm not sure how commonplace adjuvants might be, outside of a pharmacological setting. At least, I haven't seen Aluminum Salt in any grocer around here... $\endgroup$
    – Ayelis
    Jan 10, 2018 at 3:11

You could pick any particular mechanism and build an explanation.

Viral vaccination

The word vaccination derives from latin for cow, since cowpox conferred immunity to smallpox. If your zombie virus mutated from some common (or rare) virus, then having previously been exposed to some (ebola, influenza, chickenpox, a specific rare variety of rabies) variant could confer immunity. Now, surviving ebola to gain immunity might be more risky than just staying indoors. Perhaps there are several techniques that make the initial disease more survivable, like regular transfusions or a specific medicine. So, your cure needs a mild strain of rabies, 10 units of blood, and 3 boxes of tamiflu to gain immunity over the course of a 2 week rabies infection.

Latent viral infection

You've described the airborne form as a latent infection, perhaps there is a treatment that will cure the latent infection, either a medicine or a course of treatment (it resides dormant in the liver, so exposure to methanol trigger stress in the liver that causes the virus to release into the blood, expecting a weakened host, but some medicine or blood chemistry destroys it or triggers the immune system to attack it).


Bacteria have more complexity than viruses, and numerous have several stages including dormant forms like TB, botulism, and anthrax. Again, pick a mechanism of infection or treatment and work backward to a plausible explanation. Bacteria have differing sensitivities to a wide variety of medicines, so you could need a drug cocktail or certain conditions combined with a drug (like temp or blood pH). Whatever you want to come up with.

Or the virus infects a specific bacteria preferentially, so it confers immunity to bacterial infection, or the bacterial infection causes the virus to be expressed and develop an immune response, or whatever.

Do you want the treatment to be some rare thing that needs to be collected? Or hard to do in the right order at the right time? Or to have an interesting discovery story?

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    $\begingroup$ I clarified the question to help people understand what the OP is looking for. He's not looking for what his cause for zombism is, but what medicines and machines would be needed to immunize against zombism given the traits described. Does this affect your answer? $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2018 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ Much appreciated @JBH. :) Thank you sir. ------ user15741 - I'm definitely leaning more towards the interesting discovery story quality -- but anything that imposes time constraints would certainly be welcomed. $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2018 at 19:24

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