Our Viral World

If the COVID-19 epidemic has taught us anything, it’s that for all our scientific and medical advances, the human race is still very vulnerable to novel viruses. These novel viruses lurk in wild animal populations and can spread to people who come in contact with infected animals. Alternatively, wild animal viruses can infect domestic animals …

Dangerous Vocations

Accidents happen. Even in laboratories where safety is a priority they occur despite our best (and sometimes not so best) efforts to keep ourselves and our co-workers protected from injury and disease. Scientists working with infectious agents are particularly at risk even though there are numerous physical and procedural requirements in labs to ameliorate the …

Calculating Dementia

There is an old adage that you “can’t beat Father Time”. No matter what we do the aging process eventually brings a steady decline in our bodily functions as we endure decreased strength and muscle mass, reduced bone density, stiffer joints, and diminished elasticity in our blood vessels and arteries. However, perhaps no age-related decline …

Polio – The End of an Era?

What do polio and smallpox have in common? These are both dreaded viral diseases that science has (smallpox) or soon will (polio) completely eliminate from the planet through vaccination. Unlike many viruses that lurk in animal reservoirs, only humans are the natural hosts for both of these viruses. Smallpox virus and poliovirus persist by spreading …

This Little Piggy

Organ transplants have become a staple of modern medicine with 9 types of transplants approved in the United States: cornea, heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, skin, trachea, and vascular tissue. These transplants are usually highly successful at both extending and improving the quality of life in the recipients, with about 40,000 performed yearly in our …

Epigenetics and Stress: “The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on.” – Omar Khayyam

There is a well-known connection between early life stress (ELS) and depression that develops in adolescence or the adult years. Individuals with severe ELS suffer from an up to three-fold higher incidence of depression as adults, a risk seen both in humans and in animal models. What has remained mysterious is the mechanism by which …

Bioengineered Yeast Combat Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile (C. diff for short) is an environmental bacterium that has become increasingly common as an opportunistic pathogen. Like its relatives, Clostridium botulinum (the cause of botulism) and Clostridium tetani (the cause of tetanus), C. diff is a spore-forming organism. Spores are dormant forms of bacteria that are very stable and resistant structures. Their …

Rubella Has a Family at Last

Some viruses, such as the human papillomaviruses (HPVs), have co-evolved with mankind throughout evolutionary history. These ancient human viruses often cause silent infections and may establish persistent infections that last for years to decades. Other viruses, often ones associated with common human acute diseases, entered the human population only within the last few millennia. Typically, …