Im going to have to add a ‘C’ to ‘How kooks are made‘– The easy answers are rarely the right answers.
Heres what I mean– Lets say scientists do a high-throughput screening on a whole bunch of compounds and find a protein made in bananas inhibits HIV-1 infection.
The ‘easy’ conclusions you make from this finding are not correct. You cannot eat bananas and be protected from HIV-1. You cannot eat bananas and get a therapeutic effect of this protein in already HIV+ individuals. You cannot apply bananas ‘topically’ and be protected from HIV-1. You cannot give people IV bananas as an anti-HIV therapy.
The ‘right’ conclusion from this finding is a long pathway of really goddamn hard work, and it might stop at a dead-end anyway. Making a GMO bacteria to produce large quantities of banana protein (bacteria can make more than banana), show that the bacteria-made protein still has the same effect. No? Have to try something else. GMO banana to make more of the banana protein, maybe. What happens to patients that use the pharm protein? In microbicides? In condoms? Increased cancer with your decreased HIV? Can this protein be tolerated as an actual therapy? IV? Oral? In what? At what concentrations? Is it prophylactic? Therapeutic? Or does everyone who gets this protein in their bloodstream feel like shit or die?
Im barely skimming the surface, here.
A truely bizzare paper was recently published in Medical Hypotheses (um… didnt that journal get shut down… um…???) trying to make an easy conclusion from observed data:
You see, HIV-1 doesnt transmit well orally. You cant get HIV from kissing or water fountains or whatever. The ‘easy’ conclusion from this fact? Use IV saliva to treat HIV!!! PROFIT!!!
Okay, first of all, ‘you cant get HIV orally’ isnt entirely true. For adults, yes. For babies, no. About half the HIV+ babies in Africa got it from their mothers breast milk. Weve been able to cut down on maternal–>infant transmission by giving moms antiretrovirals before they give birth. This positive effect can be ruined if moms dont stay on antiretrovirals while they are breastfeeding, or dont use formula.
Second of all, we currently arent exactly sure what components of adult human saliva contribute to this inhibition of transmission. So, even worse than ‘A protein in bananas inhibits HIV’, we really are at a ‘something in this smoothie inhibits HIV’ step. We dont know how to capitalize on ‘saliva’ as a treatment– this recent non-kook paper on the topic says “mucins, cystatins, defensins, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, lactoferrin, anti-HIV antibodies, and other factors” contribute to the anti-HIV-infectivity properties of saliva. Mucins are only on your skin for a reason. Defensins, when they are ‘in your bloodstream’ are safely contained within immune cells until they are in immediate need for a reason. You dont just start injecting people with these things.
And then you have the problem of there being no pharmacologic consistency in delivering these anti-HIV-infectivity molecules. One day you might have X amount of mucins in your spit. Tomorrow you might have
It would be lovely if curing HIV/AIDS was as simple as eating a banana a day or injecting yourself with your own spit.
But its not that simple.