We get a lot of questions from readers about all sorts of zombie-related topics, but recently one led us to do some new research that has frightening implications.
The reader wanted to know what would happen if a zombie bit someone with AIDS, specifically if the HIV virus that causes AIDS would have any harmful effect on the zombie.
Our gut reaction was to answer no. After all, the zombie would have the worst virus ever seen in the history of mankind. It’s already dead, so what more harm could be done to it?
While we stand by that answer, the question got us thinking about viral competition. It’s generally understood that viruses are all working to attack the host, but the thing is, they’re not necessarily working together. Each type of viruses is working for itself, trying to reproduce and control as many host cells as possible.
Viruses can attack each other to fight for a cell, but something far scarier could take place. Research by Lisa Bono from the University of North Carolina has shown that when there is intense competition for preferred host cells, a virus will mutate, evolving to infect new creatures.
In the case of a battle between the zombie virus and HIV, either mutating would be devastating to the surviving human population. If HIV were to move to animals in the human food chain, people could become infected with a disease that requires carefully monitored treatment and access to specific medications, two things that would be hard to find in a zombie apocalypse.
Worse still, if the zombie virus made the jump to animals, it would spread even faster than in people. And who wants to be faced with the menace of dozens of zombie squirrels? Even Daryl Dixon would be afraid.