HIV has a very high mutation rate due to its inability to correct errors in DNA replication and it is very adaptable to its environment. Hence I wonder whether is it possible for it to mutate such that it becomes an airborne virus and what mutations was needed for it to occur. After all other viruses such as influenza have done so before. Furthermore from the virus point of view, doing so will allow it to be more successful evolutionary speaking since that would allow the virus to infect more people and hence reproduce itself more quickly. And what will be the consequence if it happens?

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    $\begingroup$ Quick answer: likely not. HIV is extremely vulnerable outside the body, which is why fluid-to-fluid transmission is required. A huge number of mutations, all in the same virion, would be required to give it the resistance to molecular oxygen, sunlight, dehydration, temperature changes, etc. to become airborne. Also, your statement it is very adaptable to its environment is not quite correct. It is adaptable to escaping immune surveillance, but not to other environments. In fact, many (if not most) of HIV's mutations render it incapable of completing its life cycle in one form or another. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ "...other viruses such as influenza have done so before." Are you saying that there was a time when the influenza virus was not transmissible through the air? When was that? As far as I know (I'm not a virologist), the virus doesn't fly through the air with the greatest of ease unless someone sneezes or coughs it out on a droplet. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ See this post. It is exactly about what MattDMo is saying. I am afraid this question is quite opinion-based. $\endgroup$
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ I think questions like these can offer some value if you approach them as Fermi problems. MattDMo seems to have correctly identified the barriers the virus would have to overcome, and we can roughly gauge the chances of all of those changes occurring in sequence. Which, without putting too much thought into it, I'd say somewhere around "when pigs fly." $\endgroup$
    – jzx
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:39


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