I would like to know if there is any chance that the COVID-19 virus, or one of its variants, could become more deadly by interacting with the HIV virus.

Let's say for example, that a person who has the HIV virus contracts the original COVID-19 virus or one of its variants. When the two viruses come in contact with one another within that person's body, is there any possibility that a hybrid virus could be created from this interaction, perhaps a new variant of the HIV virus which can be transmitted by airborne transmission, or a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that can cause HIV-like symptoms in addition to its base symptoms?

I am not a biologist nor a virologist and I admit to knowing very little about virology so I am asking this simply out of scientific curiosity.

Is there any chance that the COVID-19 virus could become more deadly by it interacting with the HIV virus?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No. While both are RNA viruses, they are not related beyond that - SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus, while HIV is a retrovirus. They are tropic for entirely different cell types, so the chances of co-infection are low. They also replicate in entirely different ways, further reducing the chances of "gene-mixing". $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Aug 2 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Viruses are highly specialised to infect particular cell types - HIV and Covid infect totally different cell types so this seems highly unlikely. $\endgroup$
    – user438383
    Aug 2 at 12:59

While some viruses, such as influenza, can indeed hybridize to form different strains, you should not worry about SARS-CoV-2 hybridizing with anything but another coronavirus. They are simply too far removed, taxonomically, for such an interaction to be plausible.

Consider the following:

  • The taxonomic classification of SARS-CoV-2 is: Viruses; Riboviria; Orthornavirae; Pisuviricota; Pisoniviricetes; Nidovirales; Cornidovirineae; Coronaviridae; Orthocoronavirinae; Betacoronavirus; Sarbecovirus
  • The taxonomic classification of HIV is: Viruses; Riboviria; Pararnavirae; Artverviricota; Revtraviricetes; Ortervirales; Retroviridae; Orthoretrovirinae; Lentivirus; Primate lentivirus group; unclassified Primate lentivirus group

Notice that there is nothing in common after Riboviria, i.e., they are both RNA viruses, but have nothing else in common.

In terms of relationship, this is a branch at the same level as between us and fungi. So you should worry about HIV/COVID hybrids at about the same level that you should worry about tiger/cobra hybrids (i.e., not at all).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is correct, but I don't think it directly answers the question - at least not mechanistically. These viruses infect different tissues, their genomes are structured in different ways, their replication cycle is different - these are the factors that decide whether genes of the two viruses cannot be packaged in the same virion. And, if they did happen in the same virion, there are reasons why they wouldn't work together. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @RogerVadim Please feel free to add a further answer if you like. I stayed at the higher level because all of the sorts of effects you're talking about are what you'd expect from divergent taxa. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Aug 5 at 15:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ actually, I was suggesting that you develop your answer. But, if I have time, I could try to do it as well $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 17:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.