Other questions about this are on this meta post.

Context (Updated with new information based on Q1, Q2, Q3)
In an act of war, an advanced, extraterrestrial species has designed the machina plague - an infectious nanobot pathogen - to wipe out the human race. They will release 10,000 nanobots on January 1st, 2017. Every bot will be located inside one nondescript, human host in Haneda Airport, Tokyo. Release will be at local time.


  • Bots do not effect the host directly after infection in order to reproduce.
  • Health effects occur gradually after required number of bots is reached. Reaching this number may take between 8 and 24 hours after infection. Symptoms reach a sustained peak approx. 30 minutes after the first symptoms occur.
  • Plague is both waterborne and airborne, but bots will only reproduce in human blood
  • Outside of the bloodstream they will survive for up to 48 hours before losing power and shutting down; they may be revived if re-introduced
  • Bots can permeate flesh to reach capillaries
  • Bots reproduce using iron, manganese, lead
  • Hosts infect the bloodstreams of other humans using fangs
  • Hosts may also come in contact with other hosts' skin, or release bots into the air through respiration
  • Only humans can be infected, but other animals may be prey to hosts
  • Bots coordinate with other hosts' bots in proximity; no attempts to infect hosts occur. This interaction is not "hive-mind" level

Host Changes:

  • Bots lobotomize the host brain; preserve feral instincts and locomotion
  • Bots reroute nutrients inside the body to form fangs, tubes
  • Hosts prey on live animals for blood (and for food), replenishing iron supplies, maintaining blood iron
  • New red blood cells are made periodically and in abundance
  • Bots repair host if injuries are deadly or life span is exceeded
  • Typical "pathogen" symptoms are suppressed if possible to avoid suspicion


  • Decapitation separates brain from body, meaning no acquiring food; bots eventually become dormant
  • Stake through the heart stops blood flow; organs die before bots remove stake, causing eventual death
  • Hosts hide from sunlight, which reveals the structures beneath their skin
  • Nanobot communication signals can be detected - identifying a host
  • Signals can be jammed, making hosts attack each other thinking they're more humans
  • Strong EMPS may quarantine large areas as a last resort

The fourth question in this series:
Assuming the scenario provided in the context is feasible, what measures must humans take to "cure" the plague? "Curing" will ideally include removing and/or destroying bots and internal structures, and repairing all possible damage, while keeping the hosts alive. Simply eradicating the spread if current hosts must die or stay infected is acceptable.

Cures should use relatively cheap technology and precautions, and should be applicable to individuals (as opposed to huge EMPs every time an infected person is discovered, for example)

  • $\begingroup$ maybe giant magnets would help? directly suck the nanobots out of the body. it sounds silly but it could work $\endgroup$
    – JackIta
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ "Bots lobotomize the host brain;" - as in, literally cut parts out? Are connections severed, or entire parts removed? Or just "de-stimulated" and put inert by electical and chemical means, but otherwise intact? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot If any of those methods are helpful for a full cure but could still work as a plague you may pick which one you use. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Nov 25, 2016 at 9:59

2 Answers 2


Again, there are two parts to this, each with two sub pieces:

  1. Getting rid of nanobots
    1. Disabling / destroying them
    2. Physical removal of leftovers
  2. Bringing patients back to health
    1. Brain
    2. Hands and other "external" parts


When I was a student at Warsaw University of Technology, we built short range EMP using Hertz experiment idea - a spark antenna and simple high voltage generator. Looked so steampunk. Only XIX century tools. The point is, it's simple. With XXI century tech, EMP pods would be fast, cheap and easy to manufacture and use. Power hungry, yes, you can't have everything.


Small amount can be dealt with by our immune system. For large amounts, you might want to learn from the attacker. Use nanobots or some handwavium. We don't really know how to do it. That's why "accident tattoos" are usually left alone. Extracting grains of steel, coal, asphalt etc tends to cause more damage than leaving it alone.

This part have to be left for author's creativity, I'm afraid.


Lobotomy is cutting or destroying parts of the brain.


Even if you can get new tissue to grow, you will end up with a different person. Worse, in some aspects it'll be unlike normal humans, because our brains are supposed to get different stimuli at different stages of development. It might be deemed not worth it. Even if it is worth it, you will have a lot of mental infants in adult, worn out, sick bodies. I'm not sure if that's more ethical than just letting them die.


If unneeded (by machines) brain parts are still there, you need to reconnect them. Stem cells give a lot of hope. Of course, it'll take time and a lot of care by physicians, psychiatrists, massagers etc. But this can be done, or at least we hope it can. In a book, it would be believable.


That's the simplest situation. All you need to do is to disable nanobots and restore brain chemistry to it's normal state. And then heal a lot of trauma. But possibly easiest of all three.

Hands etc

We can 3d print ears, noses, things like that. Simple structures. It takes time and cell colonies, and pretty high tech, but it's doable. But with hands it's a different issue. We can't, yet, regrow them, or print them. And there will be a shortage of donors for transplants. So you either teach them to live with claws, cut them out and put prosthetic on, or again, learn from the attacker and create nanobots that will perform the same procedure, but backwards.

A series of surgical procedures could, in theory, make these claws look more normal, but it'll be expensive, long, and not a good thing for a body in dire need of rest and healing. And effects would be crude anyway.


Curing the plague

Well nanobots at their base are bots. If independence day (film) teaches us anything it is that no matter how alien a network or an object is if it is present it can be made to work against the enemy.

More specifically If you ever achieve a nanobot sample you will definitely try to dig depper down into it understanding its weakness maybe also reverse engineering them to create more for the sole purpose of finding their weakness. In this process you understand quite a bit of their of anatomy. This is probably how their communication frequency will probably be deteced in the first place. At this stage you can take the following measures:

1. Nanobots Vs. Nanobots

What cuts a diamond obviously another diamond. (Metaphorically speaking) You can effectively 'cut' Nanobots using Nanobots Once you reverse engineer them maybe you find some way to cvreate something that hunts these pathogens and kills them. Kind of like Phage Therapy. Except this time you have fully controllable phages An army of pathogens microscopic yet fatal waits at your command. Wath and take it easy as you pit these out against the nanobots

2. Hack n Crack

If the nanobots use frequencies to communicate communications can be intercepted. If they can be intercepted they can be sabotaged. Acess to any such instrument will have the potential to literally make the nanobots go crazy. You can even maybe if story permits give them a self destruct feature. Reprogram them to become an active part of Human immune system. Basically do anything. Have Fun.

As far as the cost is concerned All of this would cost a few billion to a trillion dollars at most and thats like about $ \frac{1}{2}$ to 1$ per person. Possibly Slightly higher.

2. Preventions' better than cure

Mayb If you prevent the disease from spreading you cn cause EMP's which might be feasible and also cheap on a local scale. People could cover their entire body. It is definitely Advised buring outbreak of Mosquitoborne Diseases. and possibly breathe through a molecular filter kind of mask. Water would be purified possibly treated with EMP's and whatnot to prevent the disease's spread. Also If the disease can be confined maybe It is possible that a part of the world has to die for the greater good. Also if it is confined It makes defeating the Virus much much easier since now you have an easy way to sabotage them and logistical issues are much less in magnitude.


Those who are affected would mostly have to remain in Isolation because if parts of brain are Cut (This gets disgusting to talk) from each other there is so less you could do. Peraps if you can you may be able to reprogram engineer Nanobots to do your bidding as parts of the human brain. But for most I dont think people are going to come out easy with parts of their brains cut and behaving like animals maybe the government might decide to take a step and kill all of them as a danger to society and Human Race.

As for affected body parts other than brain You have had great deal of advancement in prosthetics and all. Also at the point maybe you have the capacity to regrow certain parts of the body almost exactly(I remember seeing such a TV show on sopme science channel a couple of years Ago). However Damage would be moderate to severe and extermination may also be neccesary in some cases. The plague for the time it lasts Is going to be bad.


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