Does the HIV virus have the potential to mutate and become airborne? (I love your blog, by the way.)
First things first: Thanks for the love, my blog loves ya right back!
Sure, HIV could mutate and become airborne. Actually, I could fashion a nozzle and aspirator right now into some kind of HIV aerosol sprayer and airborne the shit out of that virus. Whoosh, just sprayed HIV everywhere, sorry guys.
Of course, you mean something more than “could we make HIV fly through the air”. Viruses travel through the air all the time, and that’s not really important. What is important is what they land on. Even more important is whether they can infect what they land on.
Condoms are a pretty good preventative measure for the transmission of HIV. And they probably come into contact with lots of the virus. It’s just that the condom molecules don’t have the receptors on them that the virus needs in order to infect (if you wil allow me the ridiculous metaphor). Viruses don’t just float into cells, they hijack very specific cell receptors to do it. So if a cell doesn’t have a specific receptor (say, HIV-RECEPTOR-1), then the virus can’t get in.
Your airway tissue and lungs don’t express the kind of receptors that HIV needs in order to infect you. But they do express what cold and flu viruses need. So while it’s possible, eons in the future, that HIV develops this ability (anything’s possible), it’s not likely.
I’d worry more about flu and antibiotic-resistant bacteria if you really need to worry about something.