Saturday, September 04, 2004

HIV-1 allegory, take II

Ok, I'll try this again... hoping my browser won't eat my post before I'm finished!

Imagine a huge city, buzzing with millions of different people. It's very active, growing steadily, exchanging goods with it's neighbors. Unfortunately, it is periodically infested with bugs and vermin, which can harass citizens, contaminate buildings, etc. If uncontrolled, they can wreak havoc on the whole city, potentially destroying it.

Don't worry too much! There's an elaborate system whose only purpose is to control these infestations. It is composed of four (to simplify a little) specialized agents. First, there's multiple squads specialized in the hunting of bugs; each is highly trained to search and destroy one specific class of bugs. Second, there are decontamination teams; they research bug-specific sprays and disperse them on a city-wide scale, who recognize and incapacitate unwanted 'strangers'. Both of these are under the control of officers, which, after they're alerted of infestations, alert both teams, 'activate' them, causing them to multiply and overwhelm the enemy. Last but not least, cleaning teams pick up corpses and various debris and alert officers when they find something unusual. Everything's working perfect for most bugs; they get spotted, targeted and killed, causing minimal damage.

However, a new kind of vermin, called HIV-1, is uncontrollable. It target specifically officers and cleaning teams. It can harass officers to the point where they cause suicide, or infect them, become a part of them(few other bugs can do that; this particularity make HIV-1 invisible to the system while it's dormant) and either produce new bugs, quickly killing it's host in the process, or go in a latency mode, where it's undetectable. It can also infect cleaning teams in the same way, except that they last a lot longer, and thus produce in the long time more bugs. Officers and cleaning teams get replaced, but in the first case, the supply of officers is not quite enough to replace losses. Their number slowly but steadily decrease up to the point where there's not enough officers to control others infections. At this moment, the city is overwhelmed by bugs of multiple kinds and sources, and is eventually destroyed. What's worst is that HIV-1 is easily transmissible from city to city by certain types of exchange channels; it propagate rapidly throughout the world. The government tried to develop weapons against it. They are effective at stopping HIV-1 from infecting new hosts; the ones that are infected and producing bugs eventually die, like we said. However, the major problem is in infected cells where HIV-1 is dormant... it stays there until the army is gone (the army can't stay forever, citizens are not happy under martial law) and they reactivate and reinfect the whole city. To make things even worse, it mutate at an amazing rate, allowing it to evade decontaminating teams, death squads and government weapons. The last category must now be used in combinations, to retard the evolution of weapons-resistant bugs. No other strategy have proven efficient enough.

There you have it! Next time I'll post the real world equivalent, so you can make links and understand things better... :)

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