A study in two African countries, Botswana and South Africa, seem to indicate that the HIV virus is mutating into a form that is less contagious. One would think that a virus would mutate to be more virulent. The reality is different as reported by CBSNews.
Thanks to natural selection, some viruses actually evolve to make the host less sick over time, Goulder explained.
“One might intuitively imagine that the most successful viruses are the ones that cause maximum disease and kill their hosts most rapidly,” Goulder said. “However, this is not necessarily the case, since if the hosts die quickly, the chances of the virus being transmitted reduce very rapidly. So, in fact, the most successful pathogens tend to be the ones that have evolved over time to cause very little disease.”
The new study was launched to verify if HIV was following that pattern. It was published Dec. 1 in Proceedings of a National Academy of Sciences. The researchers focused on an expansion of a pathogen in the dual countries exceedingly stricken by HIV.
Christian Brander, a research professor with the Institute for AIDS Research in Barcelona, Spain, called the study “outstanding.”
Scientists should wonder whether the same thing — a virus that becomes less transmissible over time — is happening to Ebola, Brander said.
“The virus has to change,” he said, “but these mutations have ramifications.”