COVID Vaccine Hesitancy

According to national polls, a significant fraction of Americans currently remains hesitant to take any of the three approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). I’ve seen several different reasons given, but one common reason is a safety concern. It is the fear that the rapid development and deployment of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines …

The Gut-Brain Connection

Our gastrointestinal system is teeming with diverse bacteria that collectively comprise our gut microbiome. These bacteria contribute to our digestive capability as well as more broadly influencing our overall health and wellbeing. As the bacteria in our gut digest our food they produce and excrete their own biomolecules that we call metabolites. Bacterial metabolites can …

COVID-19 Update – Variations on a Theme

The news is filled with alarming stories about new variants of SARS-CoV-2 that were isolated in recent weeks. These variants are versions of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that have acquired mutations. Mutations are a natural and regular occurrence that happens when the parental viral genome replicates during the process of making progeny viruses. In an …

Famous Virus Tales of Christmas Past

To start December here are some versions of Xmas tales that only a virologist would love. Happy holidays to all! “Twas the Night Before Coronavirus” - Santa isn’t the only thing sneaking into the house this winter! “A Christmas Calicivirus” - A crotchety old man discovers that it is better to give than receive (viruses that …

COVID-19 – Are We Nearing the Endgame?

I suspect that everyone has heard the highly encouraging news this week from two vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Both companies released the first phase 3 trial preliminary results this week and based on these early data each of their vaccines is highly effective after 2 doses. In the case of Pfizer’s vaccine, the initial …

Nobel for CRISPR

I just wanted to add my congratulations to the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners, Drs. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Only the 6th and 7th women to receive the Chemistry Nobel Prize, Doudna and Charpentier received the award for making the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system into the most powerful genetic tool of the 21st century. …

Human Gene Editing – Is the Future Now?

Many human diseases are the result of genetic errors, commonly called mutations. You can think of the four nucleotides (A, C, T, and G) that comprise our DNA as the letters of our genetic alphabet with these nucleotide letters making up our genes which are the “words” of our genome. Mutations result from changes in …

In Other Viral News

While SARS-CoV-2 continues to dominate our news and daily lives, research on other important viruses continues unabated in research labs around the world. An important recent paper in Nature Communications used multiple approaches to decode the genome of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 causes oral lesions commonly known as “cold sores” or “fever …

On a Hot Summer Night ….

It’s August, and if you live in Texas like I do it’s the season to sweat. Unfortunately, along with sweat comes odor, particularly in the armpit (the axilla region). Certain hairy regions of the body, such as the armpit and groin, contain apocrine glands whose physiological function in humans remains poorly understood. The apocrine glands …

COVID-19 Update – The Kinase Connection

Vaccines are a critical factor for stopping the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic as vaccines will help protect uninfected individuals, contribute to herd immunity, and restrict the spread of the virus. However, even after successful vaccines are developed it could take years to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses, to distribute them throughout the world, and to vaccinate …