In a setting where humanity is being wiped out by The Plague
, there will sometimes be one person who is mysteriously immune to the disease. This could be due to some inborn genetic resistance to the disease, or it could be that they are unknowingly exposing themselves to the cure in the course of their daily life (particularly if the disease has an Improbable Antidote
). On occasion, especially in works that are short or Cut Short
, there is no explanation.
Discovering this immune character is often the key to finding a cure to the disease, with the main difficulties being getting them safely to the scientists who can develop a cure and figuring out what factor in their environment protected them. Another possibility is that developing the cure might require extreme measures
, leading to dramatic ethical dilemmas
and making the immune character unwilling to cooperate
The heroes will want to protect and study this character to find a cure and save mankind. A Corrupt Corporate Executive
may want to kidnap them in order to monopolize the cure, and if The Government
is involved in the development of the cure, they will always seem almost creepily enthusiastic in going out of their way to find methods
that will not only be highly lethal but also unnecessarily painful. If the disease was deliberately engineered by a villain, then they may want to hunt down and kill the Immune to prevent a cure from being developed.
In darker works, this character's immunity might not be able to be turned into a cure for others, in which case they can become The Aloner
in an empty world After the End
. In really dark works, someone who had been the Immune ceases to be. Perhaps they were protected by environmental factors that were undermined before they were recognized.
If this character isn't affected by The Virus
but is still perfectly capable of spreading it to others, they may also play the role of Typhoid Mary
or Poisonous Person
. If the character was not human to begin with, Hybrid Overkill Avoidance
may protect them from becoming a Hybrid Monster
Note that this trope is completely different from the Real Life
term "asymptomatic carrier" (that's Typhoid Mary
) - A person who is immune will not have the disease or virus in the body even if they contract it (and thus unable to spread the virus or disease), while a asymptomatic carrier will have the person will carrying the virus or disease in the body, but show no symptoms of the virus or disease (and have same potential to spread the virus or disease). However, these two concepts have been used interchangeably and often misused.
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Anime & Manga
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Rika. She's immune to Hinamizawa Syndrome and medicine is derived from her blood.
- Marco and Zeus are immune to the Medusa Virus in King of Thorn because they are too confident in themselves for it to find a crack in their psyches to infect.
- This is part of the premise of the short-lived manga, Double Arts, in which the world has been decimated by a mysterious plague (a plague with no permanent cure). While there is a small percentage of young women who possess a tolerance to the disease, it is only the protagonist, a young man named Kiri Luchile, who is truly immune to its effects and even has the capability to nullify the disease when it reaches its final stage; by physically touching the infected person, Kiri can effectively halt the progression of the plague and stave off the infected person's death, but only so long as he holds on to them. This is a major plot point.
- In Casshern Sins, Casshern and Friender are the only ones who don't succumb to the Ruin, which causes the normally immortal robots to rust and decay much faster than in Real Life. Casshern is immune because he caused the Ruin and is apparently something along the lines of The Punishment. The source of Friender's immunity isn't spelled out explicitly, but it's implied to have come from eating some of Casshern's flesh.
- Saul and his mother Tanya from We're Alive are believed to be immune to the zombie outbreak after several close calls. This is pretty much confirmed in the final season when Saul is bitten directly on the neck by a zombie and doesn't turn. In the epilogue, many people believe that Saul and Lizzy's son, Nicolas, may also be immune, but he hasn't been exposed so it's unknown whether he is or not.
- The reason everybody was looking for Ray Palmer in Countdown to Final Crisis
- Also a plot point in Maximum Clonage arc of Spider-Man, where one person survived the test run of the Jackal's virus
- The Batman: Contagion story had a series of these, each typically revealing that there was one other person just before dying (and rendering the antibodies in their blood immediately useless).
- Yorick and Ampersand, the only males to survive the Gendercide in Y: The Last Man. Or so they thought.
- In All-Star Superman, Steve Lombard was immune to being turned into a Bizarro. He smugly asks Supes to scan him with his X-Ray Vision and create the antidote, but Superman answers, embarrassed, "I don't think I can recommend your performance enhancers to the rest of the population".
- Alice in Resident Evil: Extinction. It doesn't have any actual bearing on the plot, mind; it's just exposited by the White Queen at the end.
- Given Umbrella bonded her with the T-Virus at the end of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, it makes sense that she is immune. She's already infected.
- The survivors of the plague in Doomsday, with Cally in particular serving the role of "make a cure from her blood".
- The protagonist of I Am Legend is one of the few humans that are immune to the disease. He spend the next three years trying to synthesise a cure out of his blood for the humans that instead mutated into the feral Darkstalkers.
- Not true immunity, but in 28 Weeks Later both the wife and the son are infected by the Rage Virus, but show no symptoms, instead becoming carriers. It's implied that it has something to do with the fact they have heterochromic eyes.
- In Skinwalkers the key to curing lycanthropy are the antigens in a half-werewolf, half-human boy's blood.
- Joanie in Warning Sign is immune to the bio-engineered Hate Plague because she's the only pregnant woman in the quarantined facility; the special hormones in her blood is what keeps her safe and is the basis of the cure. What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic??
- In the So Bad, It's Good movie Robot Monster, the only people who are left alive after the alien invasion are the friends and family of a middle aged scientist who'd dosed them all with a cure-all serum. (Initially though, the scientist thinks it's a protective electric barrier he erected that staved off the alien's attack.)
- In Contagion Mitch Emhoff turns out to be naturally immune.
- The doctor's wife in Blindness is the only one whose eyesight is retained in the mysterious blinding epidemic.
- Of the few surviving humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it's stated that most are immune to ALZ-113/Simian Flu.
- The Perfect Dark: Initial Vector novel.
- A big focus of The Andromeda Strain was finding out why two people were immune to the disease when everyone else died
- What made it interesting was that they were immune for similar, yet different reasons. The old man was an alcoholic, so his blood pH was acidic, and the baby was hyperventilating through crying, which made his blood pH alkaline. Turns out the Andromeda Strain could only survive within a narrow pH range.
- In The Changeling Plague, IdahoBlue was one of these for a previous disease epidemic (though not the titular one)
- In Chasm City of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe, the cure for the Melding Plague, called Dream Fuel, turns out to be blood harvested from an alien with natural immunity
- Dr. Robert Neville in virtually every adaptation of I Am Legend.
- The thief in Brian Evenson's short story Fugue State, who breaks into and loots quarantined apartments.
- Josť Saramago's Blindness follows the one woman immune to the plague of blindness.
- In Oryx and Crake, Snowman aka Jimmy believes that he is the only human left in the world after a man-made hemorrhagic virus destroys humanity in a matter of weeks. He inadvertently gained immunity some time before the outbreak of the pandemic via a vaccine created by his friend Crake.
- Everyone who lives through the first act of The Stand.
- Every character in George R. Stewart's Earth Abides is immune to the plague for one reason or another - which is only reasonable, since all the non-immunes die within the first few pages.
- In Diario de un Zombi Paula is immune to the zombie virus, a major plot point since finding out why can save the human race.
- In The Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil is the only being completely unaffected by the One Ring (it cannot even make him vanish when he puts it on his finger), implied to be because there is nothing he desires in the world that the Ring can tempt him with. The Council of Elrond considers giving the Ring into his keeping because of this, but the problem is that the very cause of this immunity means he wouldn't be a good guardian—he wouldn't be able to appreciate how important the Ring is and would casually toss it aside and forget about it.
- As Tom doesn't seem to fit anywhere into Middle-Earth's greater cosmology (only really becomes apparent if you read The Silmarillion, where the connectedness of everything else is laid out), it's possible that the Ring doesn't work on him because he is somehow outside its influence.
- In The Maze Runner Trilogy, it turns out most of the Gladers and Brenda and Jorge, along with a very small percentage of the world's population called "Immunes" are this. Well, most of the Gladers except for Newt. In fact, being this is why most of the Gladers were picked by WICKED in the first place, because they wanted to research their brains to find a cure.
Live Action Television
- There was a Star Trek: Voyager episode where B'Elanna's unborn baby provided the cure to a Klingon disease
- And come to think of it, she was also the source of the cure for the Vidiian Phage
- Also from Star Trek: The Original Series, Pavel Chekov in the episode "The Deadly Years." The landing party members age rapidly, except for him, which provides the key to discovering the Improbable Antidote.
- Heroes: Mohinder's blood carries the cure for the Shanti virus
- A big plot point in the second season of Dark Angel and the three follow-up novels. The Breeding Cult plan to unleash a disease that only they will survive, but Max turns out to possess total immunity
- An episode of The X-Files dealt with an oil rig worker who was immune to the alien black oil.
- An episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles revolved around them having to save a woman who will be naturally immune to a disease Skynet engineers to wipe out the Resistance.
- In the BBC series Survivors (the 2008 remake/"reimagining"), the last remnants of humanity are those who never caught the "European Flu" or who are naturally immune to it. Abby is the only person to ever develop symptoms but then recover, which causes her to get abducted in the season one finale.
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "The Broca Divide", where Dr. Fraiser is immune to the virus due to the strong antihistamines she takes for allergies.
- Daniel Jackson was temporarily immune for the same reasons until he was trapped off-world and no longer had access to his medication.
- Teen Wolf's Lydia Martin is the only known person who is immune to the bite of a werewolf and the venom of a Kanima. The reason behind this is currently unknown, but it's implied to have something to do with her unexplained ability to sense the supernatural.
- As of Season 3, we know it's because she is a Waling Woman, otherwise known as a banshee.
- Sam Winchester in Supernatural is immune to the Croatoan virus.
- In Magic: The Gathering, several members of the Mirran Resistance against New Phyrexia are immune to Phyresis, the most notable one being the Sylvok outcast Melira, who was born without any metal in her body, as most beings on Mirrodin were (and Phyresis affects metal).
- An expensive (and frequently banned) merit in Werewolf: The Apocalypse makes the character immune to contamination by Wyrm taint. The book notes that this will probably lead to some dangerous missions.
- One minor NPC in Ravenloft's domain of Dementlieu is a man who unknowingly inherited a ring of mind shielding. The mind-controlling villain who secretly controls that nation is aware this man is immune to his powers, and is determined to find out why.
- This is the reason Mavon's plague didn't completely sterilize the Earth's human population in The Wandering Ones.
- The Plague in Stand Still, Stay Silent attacks all mammals, but in every species, some percent is immune. For humans, in Year 90 it's about 11% on Iceland and 48% in the rest of Known World. All cats and non-mammalian species are immune as well.
- Uncreation is about an entire knightly order of them, who stage crusades in the plagued lands on the behalf of The Empire.
- In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Canadian healthcare has rendered Canadian Guy immune to Nomura Syndrome. They utilize this to get everyone else cured.
- In Endtown there are a few people who seem immune to the mutation virus. The Topsiders refer to them as "Typhoid Mary's" since even if they aren't mutated, still carry the virus, and do even more horrific things to them than normal mutants, who are simply disintegrated or turned into Wetware CPUs
- A The Simpsons Halloween special had Bart immune to the zombifying effects of the Krusty Burger. The survivors of the outbreak wanted to eat Bart, but they compromised by having Bart taking a bath with their food.
- The lice episode of Invader Zim. Zim (and Ms. Bitters, actually) are immune to the lice infestation. This leads to Zim being studied, and guess what? His skin, it destroys the lice! This lead to the creation of a Skin Gun to take down the "lice Queen". They do eradicate the Queen at least... except Ms. Bitters just has a higher scratch threshold than most, and was infected.
- In the television version of the X-Men "Legacy Virus" storyline, Cable came back in time to ensure that Wolverine would be infected with the titular virus, because his healing factor would both render him immune and lead to the development of a cure.
- In South Park, Cartman and Kyle get infected by HIV, and Cartman vows to find a cure. They go to Magic Johnson's house to figure out why he recovered from HIV. They notice that his bedroom is full of piles of money, because he doesn't trust banks. Sure enough, injecting shredded money into their veins cures them. Then Africa is informed of the good news, all they have to do is roll around in all their money.
- On the Sponge Bob Square Pants Christmas Special "Its A Sponge Bob Christmas", Plankton uses jerktonium to make everyone into a jerk. SpongeBob, however, turns out to be immune to its effects due to his 100% pure heart.
- Dairy farmers in the 18th century were found to be immune to smallpox, due to exposure to cowpox, which is caused by a very similar, closely-related virus but is far less virulent.
- The discovery that milkmaids had unusually low occurrence of smallpox led to Edward Jenner's invention of vaccination. Historically, inoculation for smallpox involved taking ground-up smallpox scabs and putting them in a cut on the hand (or some such), which did usually lead to immunity but would also typically lead to a mild case of smallpox, and in over 20% of cases full-blown smallpox (John Adams' younger son Charles had such an episode 1776; the process of inoculation is shown in all its graphic detail in John Adams) and in 2-3% of cases would lead to death (which is substantially better than the death rate for smallpox—20%-60%—which is why people bothered in the first place). Jenner's discovery led to a similar process being used with cowpox, which would almost never kill and which typically only caused a bit of inconvenience.
- The very word vaccination comes from vaccus, Latin for "cow", in honor of Jenner's discovery.
- Mary Mallon, otherwise known as "Typhoid Mary", the infamous asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. What made her notorious was the number of families she infected because of her vocation as a cook, yet she never got sick herself. It took a few years (she was most uncooperative) to isolate that she had a concentration of typhoid in her gall bladder that her body couldn't eliminate but managed to work around. She was eventually quarantined twice: the second time permanently.
- Individuals with the Delta 32 Mutation are immune or highly resistant to HIV infection. Historical and family records indicate that the ancestors of these individuals also had a higher survival rate during the Black Plague.
- While the Delta 32 mutation is the most famous mutation to grant aids resistance, people with this gene are actually the minority of long-term nonprogressor individuals with HIV. Other genes that assist in stopping aids progression are various HLA types: HLA-B5701, HLA-B5703, and HLA-B2705.
- Individuals with these genes are usually not totally immune to HIV, but instead show the ability to exert long term control over the virus without medication, and may be carriers in some cases.
- Indigenous populations in areas where malaria is a concern are often prone to sickle-cell anaemia, a genetic disorder characterized by malformed sickle-shaped blood cells. Two copies of the defective gene sickle all blood cells, but having one good and one defective gene only sickles one-third of the cells, which hinders the development of any one of the four protozoan species responsible for malaria, so it comes out as an evolutionary advantage overall. However, due to modern medicine, malaria is treatable and a lesser concern.
- Similarly, it appears that having one copy of the cystic fibrosis defective gene grants some resistance to cholera.