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gorillapaws's avatar

Could HIV ever mutate to spread like the cold?

Asked by gorillapaws (15876 points ) July 16th, 2010

Would it ever be possible for HIV to mutate into a virus that spreads like the cold, but still retain it’s lethal behavior? Is there something related to the anatomy of the HIV virus that would prevent it from mutating into a strain that can survive outside the body and be transmitted through airborne contact?

What makes the thought so scary is that you could be a carrier and able to transmit the disease without having symptoms, so by the time you realize you’re sick you’ve basically already infected everyone around you.

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16 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Anything is possible. Even developing a cure.

gorillapaws's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies sure anything’s possible, I was thinking possible like in winning the lottery, not as in possible like winning the lottery everyday consecutively for the next 50 years.

talljasperman's avatar

@gorillapaws don’t give the terrorists any ideas…I don’t need geneticaly engineered HIV virus’ coming after me

gorillapaws's avatar

@talljasperman the terrorists can’t even seem to make a bomb that works these days, I don’t expect them to be engineering any world-ending viruses anytime soon (which would undoubtably spread to the middle east as well).

shilolo's avatar

It is unlikely that HIV would mutate to achieve such an event. Although its mutation rate is high, many mutations are deleterious, and a complete change in life cycle/transmission would be very unusual. HIV can mutate to change which cells it infects in the body (so called tropism), but mode of transmission would require many more mutations (and probably a whole new set of proteins). That said, the related feline leukemia virus (also a retrovirus) can spread like a cold.

gorillapaws's avatar

@shilolo thanks for your answer. Are there documented instances of viruses mutating to the point where their transmission mechanism is altered (or is that just hollywood)? Are there fundamental differences in those viruses and ones like HIV?

shilolo's avatar

@gorillapaws The classic example is influenza, which can undergo both intrinsic mutation as well as genetic rearrangement with other influenza viruses.

mammal's avatar

No HIV was genetically engineered to infect the dissolute, it could never be indiscriminate.

shilolo's avatar

Dissolute? As in, lacking in morals? That’s quite a fancy trick by the evil modern virologists. To design a virus to only infect those lacking morals. What are the gene targets for that? What are the receptors one would use? I’m really curious because targeting morals sounds like a real paradigm shift in biology.

gorillapaws's avatar

@mammal do you have morals? Would you be willing to inject yourself with infected blood to prove that people with morals are immune? Sometimes I wish I could subtract Lurve from people…

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I think @mammal was trying to be ironic. I hope.

gorillapaws's avatar

@mammal apologies for not picking up on the irony (if indeed that was your intent).

UScitizen's avatar

Could it, of course. Is it likely? NFW.

mattbrowne's avatar

In theory, yes. But viruses haven’t done anything that extreme to any of our direct ancestors. Remember, all your great-great-...great grandparents are survivors. None of them were killed before they had sex. Extremely deadly viruses do not choose a strategy to kill all its hosts. These viruses are survivors too.

talljasperman's avatar

@gorillapaws not all terrioists come from third world countries….what about the antrax scientist from the states who sent letters with white powered antrax thru the mail

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