Category Archives: Viral Disease

Why swine and avian flu matters for people

An iteroparous organism is one that can underg...
 I might have the flu!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we enter another autumn season the memories of summer begin to fade and our minds turn towards the impending winter as the leaves begin to crisp and fall. This time of year also marks the appearance of flu-shots and news stories about the newest and scariest strains of influenza virus. Recently,  there have been multiple reports in the US  about a new form of swine flu that has been circulating at county fairs as people and pigs enter close proximity (see Related Articles after the jump).

Why is a strain of flu that infects pigs or dangerous or even relevant for people? As it turns out, from the point of view of the influenza virus a pig, bird, or human are not terribly different. Furthermore, pigs are also susceptible to certain strains of bird flu just like humans and can be multiply infected with different strains that could be human, avian, or porcine in origin. What this means is that pigs are an ideal breeding ground for reassortant  viruses and their subsequent antigenic shift, and this is where things get dangerous.

Click through to find out more about these potentially dangerous reassortant flu viruses… Continue reading Why swine and avian flu matters for people

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Of Mice and Men: Hantavirus in the news

Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus 8360 lores
Deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. Vector for Sin Nombre virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So far in the month of September there have been eight confirmed cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and three confirmed deaths due to infections with Sin Nombre virus, a hantavirus contracted at Yosemite national park. Up to 30,000 other people were exposed to this potentially fatal disease, yet before this very few people had heard of Sin Nombre or hantaviruses in general. (Editor’s Note: 230,000 more people who visited Yosemite national park were notified of the virus on September 13th, 2012).

Relatively little is known about this rare disease, but we do know enough about the basic virology and ecology of this virus to take effective steps towards prevention.

Read on to find out more about Sin Nombre virus and what we can do to protect ourselves from infection.

Continue reading Of Mice and Men: Hantavirus in the news

A primer on West Nile Virus

Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown)...
Culex mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus shown) are biological vectors that transmit West Nile Virus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately there has been a lot of coverage about West Nile virus in the news. In fact, for a variety of different factors this is shaping up to potentially be the worst outbreak since the disease peaked in the US in 2003.

Right now in early September we are in the mid-season of West Nile activity and new cases will continue to be reported in the coming weeks. While this is an important disease to be aware of there are some very basic steps that can be taken to protect you from infection. Widespread panic is completely unnecessary as preventative measures are effective despite the lack of approved treatments for this disease.

Keep reading for an overview of the diseases caused by West Nile virus, where it is, and how to disrupt transmission of the virus to prevent infection.

Continue reading A primer on West Nile Virus

Can a virus cause cancer? A brief introduction to tumor virology

Burkitt's Lymphoma
Burkitt’s Lymphoma patient

Can a virus cause cancer in humans?

In a word, yes. In fact, at this point multiple viruses have been identified as playing a role in the progression of many different cancers. The very first of these cancer-causing viruses was discovered by Peyton Rous in 1911, making the field of tumor virology over one century old. While this initial discovery was a virus that causes tumors in chickens, many important human cancers have since been discovered to have a viral component. The first human tumor virus to be discovered was Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in association with Burkitt’s lymphoma in 1965. Since then many more viruses have been found to be tumorigenic in humans and more may still be awaiting to be discovered.

How is it that these many different viruses are involved in so many different types of cancers? What about these viruses makes them tumorigenic?

Continue reading Can a virus cause cancer? A brief introduction to tumor virology

Triumphs in rational drug design: Hepatitis C

English: The genome organisation of Hepatitis ...
The genome organisation of Hepatitis c virus. One open reading frame encodes a polyprotein of 3010 amino acids. This protein is cut by viral and cell enzymes to active proteins. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Despite our ever-dwindling supply of effective antibiotics, there have been a growing number of drugs that are effective against viral diseases. Many of these new drugs are not the result of happy chance or serendipity, as was penicillin, but rather the result of a process known as rational drug design. Continue reading Triumphs in rational drug design: Hepatitis C

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