Could we eliminate the common cold?

18 March 2014


Could we eliminate the common cold by isolating people?


Chris - So, who's in favour of every time we experience a cold, we just isolate ourselves in the middle of nowhere until we get better? What do you think, Richard?

Richard - Well, it does drive me mad when you're in work and someone comes in with a streaming cold and then infects everyone else. So yeah, I'm in favour. I don't think it would work because you've got cold viruses just everywhere. You'd have to disinfect the world.

Chris - Tamela?

Tamela - Well, I don't know the lifetime of the virus, but presumably, they can outlast being outside of a human body for a while. But yeah, I completely agree. You can usually trace it back to a particular person that sneezed 2 weeks ago and then everyone got the cold afterwards, so it's quite annoying.

Chris - Yeah, I knew people at work like that. I mean, it's based on sort of sound mathematical principles though isn't it because when I was in South Africa, I was talking to a gentleman there who runs an antenatal clinic for people who were in the poorer end of society. South Africa is an unusual country because it has a big problem with HIV, but it also has a lot of money and therefore, can spend that money on drugs for HIV. So, you tend to have a very high number of people in the population who have HIV who are treated. So, he said, perhaps 50% of the young women coming to antenatal clinic in his clinic have HIV. It's a dramatically high number, but he said to me, "Look. If you could stop the entire world having sex for 3 months, actually, HIV would completely vanish because most of the transmissions that occur are when people are first infected and they're really, really infectious because they have no immune response to the virus. They've got very high levels of the virus in their bloodstream and that's when they're most likely to pass it on." So, the point Conrad is making seems a bit facetious, "Let's isolate ourselves" but, actually, it does have a sound mathematical point, and taken to an extreme with a virus like HIV, you could actually potentially knock it on the head. But we know for a fact that that's just not going to happen because no one is going to do that, but interesting all the same...

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