Viruses and Brain Disease

Humans may produce upwards of 100,000 proteins. Each different type of protein normally folds into a unique shape (its tertiary structure) that is essential to its function. Proteins can misfold due to mutations that change the amino acid sequence of the protein leading to a defective protein. Alternatively, sometimes a wild-type protein (the normal protein) …

Move Over COVID, Influenza Is Coming to Town

Seasonal influenza sweeps around the world year after year infecting millions of people across the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In a typical year, influenza causes 30-40 million cases in the United States with an average of 37,000 deaths per year from 2010-2019. However, because of the COVID-19 precautions (masks, social distancing, lockdowns, and cancellation of …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Coronavirus Update – A Vaccine Primer

Vaccination is based on the concept of immune memory. When we encounter a new pathogen, we mount an immune response that helps us recover from the infection and also creates immune memory. This process typically takes 1-2 weeks to develop, so we often get sick before there is sufficient immunity to rid our bodies of …

Coronavirus and the Host Response

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to accelerate in the U.S. and many other countries. As a potential vaccine is likely over a year away, there is great interest in finding an effective antiviral drug. Numerous antiviral drugs were developed for other viruses and many of these are being tested. Additionally, there are many other existing drugs …