I dont know why he took it down, but Ricky Gervais Tweeted the following a few days ago:
Any virologists or medical experts out there? What WOULD win out of AIDS & Rabies?
Maybe he took it down because he thought it was insensitive or something, but I think its a totally normal, valid question for a layman to have!
What WOULD win out of AIDS & Rabies steel-cage death-match????
First, a clarification. AIDS is the syndrome caused by infection by HIV-1. HIV-1 is the virus, not AIDS 🙂
Who would win in an HIV-1 vs rabies battle depends on how they are ‘battling’, and what signifies a ‘win’. A common misconception that laymen have (which I talked about on Skeptiles!) is that The Best virus kills more people, faster. That is not the case at all! Think about the title of this blog: ERV. Endogenous retroviruses have infected every human on this planet (several times over, to the point where ERVs constitute ~8% of the human genome) but they arent killing everyone. The virus survives if we survive to propagate. Almost 7 billion infected.
Contrast that with a virus like ebola. It certainly kills people relatively quickly, but that means it burns out before it can be passed to the next victim. Since it was identified in 1976, there have only been a couple thousand diagnosed ebola infections.
Which is the ‘better’ virus? 7 billion vs a touch over 2,000?
I would argue that its the viruses that dont make us really sick, the ones that are more discreet and silently pass from one human to the next, that are ‘better’ than the viruses that mindlessly consume their host, burning out before they can be transmitted to a new one. In fact that appears to be the trend with SIV, the virus that gave rise to HIV. African primates have been infected with SIV for tens of thousands of years. Over that time-frame, SIVs that killed primates too quickly were selected against, primates that could tolerate SIV infection better were selected for. The end result is that SIV in its natural hosts, African primates, is relatively non-pathogenic. What evolved was not a super-pathogenic-kill-ALL-the-monkeys SIV. The opposite happened.
But what would win in an HIV vs Rabies battle? The tortoise or the hare? We will have to look at this viral battle from lots of angles–
HIV-1 is a sick-and-stick virus. Like the herpes viruses (chicken pox, mono, HSV-1 and 2), once you are infected, you are infected for life. The complications of the infection are not immediately deadly/drastic so you can spread the virus allllllllll around to the people you interact with. Which means from that one zoonotic event (chimpanzee–>human, HIV-1 Group M), there are now 34 million people infected with HIV. A few million new infections every year, a couple million deaths/year.
We do *not* have an HIV-1 vaccine.
We *do* have effective anti-HIV drugs.
Rabies, on the other hand, is deadly, and relatively quickly (1-3 months, not like, hours-couple days– viruses arent as ‘fast’ as people think). It cannot be transmitted human-to-human, so humans are an ‘accident’, a dead-end host. But that doesnt help the 55,000 people who die from rabies infections every year, because there is no human vaccine or anti-rabies drugs.
However, we *do* have an effective rabies vaccine for dogs, the source of most human infections, so human rabies infections are going down.
We also *do* have effective prophylactic rabies exposure treatments. If you suspect you have been bitten by a rabid animal, immediate treatment is wonderfully successful. If you dont know you are infected and are subsequently diagnosed after you drop into a coma, all isnt lost either.
But those post-exposure treatments and those dog vaccines are a luxury of the West. Those 55,000 human rabies deaths happen in parts of the world where they cannot afford the necessary prevention and treatment (Africa, Asia). Dog rabies and human rabies deaths *can* be prevented.
… So who is the winner???
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Thats what he meant! “HIV vs Rabies, if they met in the blood?”
Well, this will be anticlimactic… They wouldnt even fight. They would both just float there, staring at each other, saying ‘Hey dude, have you seen a CD4+ T-cell?’ ‘Naw man, have you seen an acetylcholine receptor? I kinda need one. No? Thats cool.’ *stare* *stare* *blink*
Eventually they would either go their separate ways and find their respective target cells, or they would just fall apart and that would be that.
Worst steel-cage death-match ever :-/
But I dont want to end on a bum note, so, here is a bonus:
“Could you give AIDS cancer?”
We cant give AIDS cancer, but we can give cancer HIV! Viruses, including HIV, have all kinds of fun therapeutic potential! Pitting bad-guy-vs-bad-guy, HIV vs Rabies, Cancer vs HIV– Gervias might have meant it as a joke, or a joke/serious question, but its actually a really good idea! A really good idea that scientists are actively pursuing.