Max Brooks's The Zombie Survival Guide (2003) says that zombies are caused by the Solanum virus.

Did Max Brooks completely make that up, or did any of the classic zombie movies (such as the Romero films) suggest that a virus was the cause of zombies? If a virus was an original idea from Brooks, then did any of the classic zombie movies suggest something else that might have been the cause of zombies?

  • 3
    I wouldn't go so far as to call them "classic" movies, or even classic sources, but 28 Days Later (2002) the Resident Evil games and movies (the games were first released in 1996) had a virus as the source.
    – phantom42
    Nov 24, 2014 at 17:59
  • Solanum Virus is another name for the 'potato virus X' and 'potato virus Y' blights, so the next logical step, 'potato virus Z' would naturally cause 'world war Z'. Nov 24, 2014 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


The Romero films are generally silent about the genesis of the zombie menace. There's a fleeting mention in the film version of "Night of the Living Dead" about a space probe and radiation (that wasn't in the original Romero script) :

Reporter : You're coming from a meeting regarding the explosion of the Venus probe, is that right? Yes, yes, that was the subject of the meeting.

Scientist : In other words, it is the military's viewpoint that this...the radiation is not the cause of the mutation. I can't speak for the entire military at this time, gentlemen.

In this video, Max Brooks confirms two things.

  • That Solanum was an original creation (he credits it to his own bad writing)
  • The second thing he confirms is rather more obvious.

  • Solanum is definitely an original Brooks creation. There were some zombie films and literature which had zombieism caused by a virus before Brooks', but Solanum is something he came up with on his own. Nov 24, 2014 at 17:59
  • @JamesSheridan - After having watched him yell at a fan. I've gone off the guy.
    – Valorum
    Nov 24, 2014 at 18:24
  • I'm not sure that video can be taken as confirmation of anything, since his whole answer seems pretty sarcastic. Nov 24, 2014 at 18:32
  • @pacoverflow - He mentions that it's his creation (in relation to the question).
    – Valorum
    Nov 24, 2014 at 18:33
  • "The answer is [to the question of why he invented Solanum] because I'm a really bad writer, with nothing better to do /massive-sarc".
    – Valorum
    Nov 24, 2014 at 18:36

Alright so to get down to the basis on how exactly does the virus spread here are my points.

  • Solanum is an virus that activates an immunological response which brings the Immune System to attempt to get rid of it, creating a fever and numerous other ways. Once the host has been affected the Immune system itself kills the host and not the virus, once the virus has control over the body Solanum precedes to center itself on or in the Cerebellum and brain stem, and possibly Hypothalamus as zombies show an 'hunger' for flesh.
  • Reason 2: An genetic factor on a cellular level throughout ALL of the humans worldwide lies dormant and therefore harmless is present. Once that genetic factor is activated by a stimulus (in this case Solanum ) which is received from a bite or scratch makes the genetic factor malignant and therefore non-dormant and the body activates an immunological response as it would with anything attempting to get rid of the foreign body (solanum) and the host would be killed by the immune system and later re-animated as what we would call a 'zombie' however it would be pre-mature to refer to them as 'zombies' in this case as the genetic factor would be hereditary and not 'of human creation' or 'of nature'

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