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Im writing a story about a boy in the year 2033 that is immune to a zombie like virus (world war z like zombies) and when he is bitten instead of turning into a brain dead zombie/infected his body is able to co-exist with the virus without killing him. He ends up gaining super strength and speed. This virus quickly mutates the body for different tasks (ex. an infected with a bullet proof head, one that spits stomach acid or keratin like armor ) is their a way to implement increased strength without changing muscle size like cartilage reinforcing muscle tissue or bones being unbreakable? He also has an ability which lets him use a certain mutation from an infected hes eaten is this probable? he also ends up developing heightened vision and hearing.

i know the formatting is weird and hard to understand but im sleep deprived and running solely on coffee so give me a break if you have any questions feel free to ask and ill answer em'

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! No need to worry about messy formatting - we can edit your post to fix it up, or you can do it yourself if/when you're feeling more alert. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy May 22 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ I cant find the specific question where the muscle fibres of apes is mentioned but this question may help with increasing strength worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/151072/… $\endgroup$ – RandySavage May 22 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Generally an increase in strength will decrease dexterity. That's why you have to tone back down. - 'strength and agility (speed)'... (accompanied with a loss in dexterity). Increase metabolism for heightened vision and hearing, but w/o losing Dex you're handwaving. $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 22 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the boy already has another parasite/ bacteria inside him that co-exists and prepares what is needed for the newer virus to act differently. This could exceed your possibilities. $\endgroup$ – kaiser May 22 at 23:29
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One way to achieve some increased strength would be for the virus to totally override the bodies own natural neurological stop points for muscle movements and the pain threshold. Doing this would provide a significant amount of extra strength at the risk of causing some damage in extreme cases.

It might also be possible for a virus to interfere with the number and type of muscle cells providing additional strength. For example by increasing levels anabolic steroids and a range of other hormones. It might also alter gene expression and even introduce genes of it's own.

Bullet proof heads are a very tall order as would be keratin armour. But spitting stomach acid might be achieved by over stimulation of some body systems triggering involuntary projectile vomiting to specific stimuli.

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  • $\begingroup$ what about a healing factor of some sort how would that be implemented $\endgroup$ – Reaps May 22 at 15:50
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Viruses can do many kinds of stuff to the body. For example, the one that causes COVID-19 can cause shut down your senses of taste and smell (I don't know if it's permanent though). Ebola can temporarily change the color of your eyes. And as far as I know genetic therapy uses modified viruses to deliver new genes to specific cells, in order to get them working properly.

An artificial virus could deliver genes to the gonads and adrenal glands, causing them to produce more testosterone. The infected would bulk up in a matter of days (provided they exercise).

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I'm not sure if symbiosis from a true mutualistic perspective with a virus is possible, as viruses are natural intracelular parasites, but other than that it's not that bad. Your pathogen seems to be closer to a bacteria, and one capable of editing human DNA.

Regarding the changes in the body. Enhanced vision and hearing can be achieved mostly by a higher number of cells responsible for these activities. Considering we have birds with smaller eyes but higher cone density, it's not impossible.

Considering the muscles, you could maybe increase muscle density and reduce a little the layer of fat, but a significant increase will need additional muscle mass. To make that addition as small as possible, your pathogen could be modifying the bones' internal structure to strengthen them (maybe remaking links or incorporating particles to strengthen it, though it can't be truly unbreakable, that's impossible), as well as reducing some of the natural limiters your body imposes to your muscles (we're actually much stronger than what one usually sees, but it's precisely because using such strength is both tiring and potentially harmful that our brains limit it. There are several cases of people with tetanus breaking their own bones during the violent muscular contractions the disease is known for, and your mandibles on a daily basis can bite a finger off).

Regarding the mutations from the eaten zombie, I don't think so, at least not by eating. You said that the pathogen can force the body to develop different adaptations, but for that the pathogen needs information. Digesting the mutant will break down his precious genome and with it, it's ability. If instead of eating your character absorbs a part of it, we could have something similar to what happens in bacteria, with one sharing a beneficial mutation with others through the use of plasmids, except in here the plasmid would be a bit of the other zombie's body, whose genome is analyzed and broken down so the pathogen gets the info it needs to apply the mutation to the boy's body.

So, can the scenario you want happen? By going 100% into the real world logic? "No". It's not that it's truly impossible, but it wouldn't be like you described, and would take much longer periods to happen. However, taking science in a bit looser way and with a tad of sci-fi logic, yeah everything you want to implement is more or less doable, given it has in ways real-life examples (although usually on a smaller scale and taking more time to happen).

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  • $\begingroup$ Viruses can copy DNA and adapt too thats why they are perfect for a biological sci-fi take over. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage May 22 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Reaps for him to have healing factor the pathogen would need to induce large production of telomerase, as well as make sure the body always has a fair share of totipotent cells. Note that you'll need to throw the body into an overdrive state if you want wounds healing in seconds (if you're going by a real world logic, that is, otherwise go wild). $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex May 22 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @RandySavage both ideas are awesome! I like the idea of infrasound frequencies and the fact he gets tired during the overdrive it gives him a realistic debuff and doesn't make him some invincible being. $\endgroup$ – Reaps May 22 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Reaps Overdrive in this case will likey be due to hormone production and no matter how much adrenaline and happy hormones you pump out the receptors can only take in so much, even if you life the banner like with hormone receptor meds you will need to shit down if your running at normal human levels, designing that new level is another situation that might help? $\endgroup$ – RandySavage May 22 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Reaps as ProjectApex sys you need to pass levels of reality to reach the goal of your story, a virus can manipulate DNA this gives you a free run off what a virus could do to a biological body, at minimal you can emphasise what can do an manipulate, Ours bodies have a maximum levelmof stimulation whether it is chemical or electrical, you can play on those and take them to the levels you need. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage May 22 at 16:18
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Your boy is vat grown from engineered stem cells

In the future, need for replacement organs gives rise to factories for such. Stem cells capable of differentiating into organs are grown into a basic human framework capable of supporting the organ until harvest. Usually, mechanical and chemical methods are used to "prune" the host organism, preventing growth of arms, legs, brains and the like, and devoting resources to growing the desired organ.

There is a breakdown in a factory of this sort and the pruning ends. Many of the vat grown organ hosts die, but one lives and grows the body that his genetic code tells him to have. This is your character. He has a good brain but he does not know anything. He pretty much is operating on instinct initially. He learns fast.

His stem cells are superfluid and this accounts for their flexibility. Stem cells of his type are actually used for other commercial applications - for example migrating into and augmenting muscle in athletes or person who have been injured. Once he learns how to use the programming app, he can reprogram his cells. Increased strength does not happen in 5 minutes; it takes days, lots of food and exercise. But he can go from spindly vat twerp to muscleman in a few weeks once his cells are set to work.

As regards zombie bites his cells have accelerated apoptosis. Any detrimental change and they die are are replaced. This is necessary because they are prone to malignant transformation and taking over the vat. His body cordons off the infection fast. Transformed or infected cells just die and slough, rapidly. He can heal, but new stem cells have to show up from elsewhere and built tissue - it is not in seconds like Wolverine but over a few days or weeks.

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