Item #: SCP-XXX
Object Class: Euclid
Special Containment Procedures: Six (6) live instances of SCP-XXX-3 are housed at Site-██ within their Class D hosts. Should a host degrade beyond the baseline indicated by Manual XXX.40.c, they are to be incinerated and a new host chosen from existing Class D personnel. Ideally, an SCP-XXX-1 instance produced by the previous host should be used to infect the replacement.
A lot of ten (10) SCP-XXX-1 instances per host are to be stored on site within a biohazard containment unit. Expired instances will be replaced with new ones produced by SCP-XXX-3 at the earliest opportunity.
All SCP-XXX-3 hosts discovered in the wild must receive a cursory medical and psychological examination prior to termination and incineration. In addition, any pharmacies, supermarkets, or convenience stores within the same population centre are to have their stock replaced and be monitored for at least three (3) months for additional SCP-XXX-3 hosts.
A public service campaign against the use of cotton swabs for cleaning the ear canal has been partially successful in curbing the spread of SCP-XXX.
For the purposes of security, all cotton swabs are banned from Site-██ and any personnel found in possession of them are to be interrogated and tested for SCP-XXX infection.
Description: SCP-XXX refers to a parasitic protist with characteristics similar to a plasmodial slime mold. The organism exists in three defined stages. The dormant stage, designated SCP-XXX-1, is superficially identical to a ██████ brand cotton swab. The handle of SCP-XXX-1 consists of specialized cells with chitinous walls, rather than cellulose found in a typical ██████ brand swab. The substance found on the ends resembles cotton. However, each strand is a single cell tasked with producing spores when in physical contact with human sepum. Testing has shown that sepum from other species has no effect on spore production.
Most dermal contact with SCP-XXX spores will not lead to infection, with the notable exception of contact within the ear canal. When used in this way, the skin readily absorbs the spores which enter the blood stream and become SCP-XXX-2. This stage lasts for at most 72 hours before cells pass the blood-brain barrier and transform into SCP-XXX-3. During this time period, antimalarial medications have been effective in fighting the infection.
SCP-XXX-3 feeds off of neural tissue. When cells enter the central nervous system, the majority will migrate to the prefrontal cortex. There, they will replace existing neurons, maintaining the same neurological structure, though not replicating the cells' functions. Using the neural connections, SCP-XXX-3 will spread to other cells, eventually merging with other infected areas.
Once approximately 30% of the prefrontal cortex has been replaced, a process which takes approximately 96 hours, the infection will begin to spread into the limbic system, leaving the remaining neural tissue unmolested during this time. The nasal cavity is converted into a specialized structure capable of producing new instances of SCP-XXX-1 at a rate of approximately one every three hours. Hosts are typically alarmed when SCP-XXX-1 instances begin emerging from their nostrils, though this stops within 24 hours as SCP-XXX-3 spreads to additional brain regions.
As SCP-XXX-3 spreads, the host's behaviour will change. There will be a marked decline in social activity unless there is any mention of ██████ brand cotton swabs, at which point they will speak about the benefits of this product and offer samples which are typically SCP-XXX-1. They will also seek out all shopping establishments which are likely to sell ██████ brand cotton swabs so as to place SCP-XXX-1 instances into existing packaging.
Later stages of SCP-XXX-3 infection will manifest as erratic movements as the cerebellum is compromised and significant weight loss as the body's resources are used for production of SCP-XXX-1. A diet supplemented with high protein intake will offset the weight loss for a time, depending on the physical state and income of the host. Death will ultimately result once 75% of all neural tissue is replaced with SCP-XXX-3. SCP-XXX-1 production will continue as SCP-XXX-3 uses its own biomass to create further instances. Due to loss of a steady oxygen source, many of these instances will be deformed or will display properties more typical of a generic slime mold during its mobile phase.