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By Richard Evans on

Patient X: isolate or liquidate?

Patient X explores the concept of the super spreader, an asymptomatic person who carries and transmits a virus to a wide group of people, but who doesn't always exhibit any of its symptoms.

Patient X from Cold Star Media on Vimeo.

The most famous example of this is Mary Mallon—better known as Typhoid Mary. In early the early part of the last century in New York, Mary infected over 50 people—three of whom died—with typhoid fever, but was herself immune to the contagion’s effects. Poor Mary was hounded, investigated and twice quarantined. She spent the last six years of her life isolated at a hospital on an island in New York’s East River.

Viral outbreaks bring with them suspicion and fear. Those suspected of carrying a deadly infection are sometimes known as Patient Zero and face hardship and distrust. In the 1980s, a Canadian flight attendant called Gaëtan Dugas was widely and incorrectly vilified for having brought AIDS to the United States. The 2007 SARS virus was so contagious, in part because because of one superspreader: a flight attendant from Singpore who infected over 160 people—some of whom themselves were also superspreaders—during an outbreak that went on to kill over 700 people worldwide.

A picture of zombie-like makeup applied to Patient X for the Manchester Science Festival event Aeon

This is the scenario in which Patient X takes place. It’s designed as an immersive experience that is part-game, part-theatre, part-science lab. It brings the concept of the super-spreader into a near future when animal experiments are banned and when genetic engineering of humans is commonplace. Animals are replaced in labs by a type of bio-engineered test subject known as a biode. Dari is one such test subject and is trying to escape the lab where she is kept. If you join the search for Patient X, you’ll need to work out who Dari has infected and whether you want to help the authorities to quarantine her—or if you want to set her free.

The event inhabits the border between fiction and fact. You’ll rub shoulders with real-life scientists from the University of Manchester who will show you the science behind a contagion and how they spread. You’ll also meet a unique cast of characters—corporate CEO Julius Bach (Paul Warriner, Inspector George Gently, The Village), scientist Nina Marrs (stage actor Wiebke Acton) and, if you follow the clues, even Dari herself (played by Angela Costello, Churchill).

Patient X is treated by a nurse in the Manchester Science Festival event

In the run up to the event, we’ll feature plenty of free online video content giving character backgrounds about who’s involved, as well as how the virus originated and became so widespread.

Patient X is an intense, thrilling experience from Cold Star Media, the team behind Aeon: Live (part of last year’s Manchester Science Festival).

Aeon: Patient X is at the Manchester Science Festival on Saturday, 21 October. Click here to find out more and book tickets. 

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