HIV (what a nasty little bug)

Hi guys! Sorry I went on unannounced hiatus for a while – hope you haven’t been too lonely!

Anyway, here’s a really detailed and fascinating video of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), showing its structure and genetic make-up.

This video by Christopher Harkins won the VIDEO first prize in the autopack Visualization Challenge 2012.

HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is spread through body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids, and can also be present in minute amounts in breast milk, saliva, and tears; however, it is only able to infect someone when there is a break in the barrier provided by our skin or the mucosal layers of our digestive and respiratory tracts.

HIV is a lentivirus, which means that it is able to stay dormant for a long time in the body without any apparent symptoms. It’s also able to mutate rapidly, so much so that it has proven exceedingly difficult to pin it down with a single, workable vaccine, or even a single, workable anti-viral treatment; HIV-1, the predominant form of HIV, has been divided into at least four subgroups, which is then split into further subtypes, based on how virulent the form is.

There are two advances in HIV research that have led to cautious optimism amongst researchers, however – first, that sufficiently rapid treatment with anti-viral drugs may halt HIV in its tracks; the most newsworthy item regarding the baby who was functionally cured of HIV has also been backed up by a small study of 70 people, 14 of whom were also functionally cured of HIV. Second, that a chemical called mellitin found in bee venom, when loaded onto specifically designed nanoparticles, is able to poke holes in the external membrane of HIV, thus disrupting its structure and destroying it. This bypasses the problem of the rapidity of HIV mutation entirely, and should also be applicable for all the different types of HIV.

Awesome, isn’t it?

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