The Coming Wave Page #62
MA: No I am not. I believe, and this is only my belief - not science, that the virus is on the verge of a complete breakout of its current behavior and will soon change both its transmission vector and its virulence.
The nuts and bolts of what precipitates this transformation are not clear to me and, in truth, we may never know the answer to that question.
Q: Ma if you are not sure how it changes then how can you be so certain it will be dangerous?
MA: Well, it is not so black and white as you make it. What I believe is that it will change. It will go airborne and it will become quick and deadly. When it makes that magic mutation that gives it the ability to ride the water droplets expelled in a cough or sneeze to the lungs of a healthy person - not only will it have found the mechanism for rapid transmission but the mutation will also set in motion a very different chain of events from what we know now.
When the new HIV virus arrives in the lungs of a new patient there is the great potential for a positive feedback loop to be established between the new invader and the host's immune system. At the arrival of the new pathogen, cytokine will signal the body to send T Cells to fight the infection. The T cells, upon being stimulated by the cytokine will begin to produce even more cytokine.
This is the normal reaction and happens all the time. But we have a real problem don't we?
Q: HIV lives on T cells?
MA: Yes of course. So now we have the feedback loop. T cells rushing to the lungs where they are infected with new virus and more and more cytokine being produced by the body. The result is called a "Cytokine Storm". The lungs begin to fill with fluids and immune cells. The result is sudden death. When this event takes place in the lungs, it can kill a healthy young person in less than 48 hours. We learned this lesson in the 1918 flu outbreak.
Q: So the hardy virus can jump from lungs to lungs and once there put in motion a very serious reaction that will kill you rather quickly. Is that about it?
MA: Just about, the only addition I would add is that once the new bug creates this "soup" in the lungs - with each cough or sneeze this deadly pathogen is sent on an airborne journey looking for a healthy lung to infect..
Q: OK, I see all that and I understand why you have been so concerned about doing anything that might increase the chance of the virus mutating.
But, what I don't really see is this - Say it happens as you say, somewhere in Russia or China the virus is successful in breaking out and infecting a patient, his family and even some health care workers - wouldn't it quickly be quarantined and controlled? Even SARS can be contained.
MA: Yes were there to be an isolated breakout and the proper barrier nursing techniques could be initiated, then the prognosis would be for containment. But that is not to be the case.
Q: I don't understand what you mean.
MA: There is a very unusual phenomena in the world of Virology called "coincidental spontaneous mutation". We use this term to describe an event where the same mutation breaks out in multiple locations in the same time frame.
The causality of this event is highly debated but the phenomena is well documented.