MadSci Network: Virology


Area: Virology
Posted By: Tom Wilson, M.D./PhD, Pathology, Div. of Molecular Oncology, Washington University Medical School
Date: Sat Apr 20 08:28:37 1996

These are very important questions, but very hard to answer!

First, I do not personally work directly on AIDS or the AIDS virus.

However, I have many friends who do, and I am aware of the current research

and knowledge.  Also, all doctors today need to know a lot about AIDS, since

it is now common and affects all kinds of patients.

>>Where did the AIDS virus come from?

No one really knows.  Many people think that it was first caught by a person

as a "mutated" or "changed" virus from a monkey.  This is not a bad idea,

since monkeys have a virus very much like the AIDS virus.  But no one has

proven this, since that would be very hard to do.  Viruses "mutate" or

"change" very rapidly, so it doesn't take long for a virus to become so

different  that it looks like a totally new virus.  That is why a virus like

the AIDS virus can suddenly appear - it really was NOT there before, but

came into being only when the right combination of mutations or changes was

made by random chance.  Also, the AIDS virus MIGHT have been around for

longer than we know, but only as very rare cases.  It wasn't until a lot of

people started getting it that we were able to identify it, and then it was

too late to ever find out where it came from.

>>Will there ever be a cure for AIDS? 

Maybe.  Right now, there are no drugs that "cure" you from infection with

the AIDS virus, only drugs that slow the growth of the virus.  The biggest

problem is that the AIDS virus becomes a part of your "DNA" or "genes", and

no one knows how to get it out.  But in the future, amazing things will be

possible, you can count on that!!  So researchers are trying to stop AIDS

from happening once you have been infected with the virus.  These ways get

very complicated, but are being made possible by the HUGE amount of research

being done to understand the biology of the virus and the human body.  So

keep watching!

The most important thing that everyone agrees on is this:  the BEST way to

stop AIDS is to prevent people from getting it !!!   This means you!  You

should definitely  talk to your parents, teachers and friends about the ways

that you can help keep yourself from getting AIDS.

Thanks for your question.

Tom Wilson, MD PhD

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