Tag Archives: HIV

Microbe Matters Book Club: The Coming Plague by Laurie Garret

Cover of "The Coming Plague: Newly Emergi...For this installment of book club I am happy to introduce The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance by Laurie Garret.

Written in 1994, this is an impressively well researched work on the current microbiological topics of the time. While this book is almost 20 years old, I was very impressed by how many of our current problems in health care were covered in these 620 pages and how well the content has held up to the passage of time.

What is even more impressive is how the author narrates the stories, giving a more human side to the factual recounting of disease outbreaks that most of us in the microbiology community are familiar with.

This book is arranged so that each chapter covers a specific disease or theme. Notable chapters on exotic pathogens include those on Bolivian Hemorrhagic fever, the Ebola virus, Lassa fever, the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in 1976, and the Hantavirus outbreak in the 4 corners region of the United States. These are all fascinating chapters as many of the people who were present for these events were interviewed and there is a real sense of the fear and confusion that accompanies the outbreak of unknown diseases.

These chapters also show “disease cowboys” in action during these outbreaks, scrambling to find out the causative agent or vector for these diseases. As someone who has just learned how to work in a Biosafety level 3 lab I can only imagine the difficulty involved in doing any kind or research in the field, let alone in with diseases that are known to be highly lethal.

The author does an excellent job of showing how environmental, social, and political factors drive the emergence of disease in human population. No other chapter covers this intersection quite as well as well as her work on the early years of the HIV epidemic. With 30 years separating me from this period in time it is easy to not think about how we got to where we are today with HIV; during my life it has always been here. It was eye-opening to see just how badly the epidemic was handled by politicians of the day or how distinguished scientists could fight so readily over discoveries relating to this new viral plague.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a more in-depth and extremely well written take on the challenges we face against the invisible armies of microbes that continually surround us.

Designer immunity, vectored immunoprophylaxis and the future of medicine

Antibody Molecule
Antibody Molecule (Photo credit: sc63)

 

One of my very favorite aspects of being a scientist is being right on the cutting edge of modern research. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where new discoveries are made daily that span from the mundane to the revelatory. Today I want to take the time to write about a recent paper that for me came to my attention that falls solidly in the revelatory category.

 

 

This 2012 Nature paper by Balazs et al is a great example of modern virology in combination with immunology is being used in novel ways to combat different health issues. Read on to see how this group used a viral vector to give mice protective immunity against HIV infection. Continue reading Designer immunity, vectored immunoprophylaxis and the future of medicine

Mining host functions in search of novel treatments: APOBEC3G and retroviruses

English: Diagram of the HIV virus.
Diagram of  HIV virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Readers! My apologies for the unexpected hiatus as preliminary exams and the end of the semester have occupied the bulk of my time recently. I thought I would make the most of the situation and post the written portion that I’ve recently completed as it is an interesting subject I was unaware of until recently. Studies in this area may lead to future treatments for retroviral infections such as human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1), the infectious agent responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) by showing exactly how the host protein APOBEC3G exerts an antiviral effect against this virus in the cell. Continue reading Mining host functions in search of novel treatments: APOBEC3G and retroviruses