Eliminating Cervical Cancer

In 1976, Harald zur Hausen, a German physician and researcher, first proposed that human papillomaviruses (HPVs) were the cause of cervical cancer. This hypothesis was controversial as the few known HPVs all caused benign skin warts. Additionally, many scientists believed that herpesviruses were implicated in cervical cancer and that the poorly studied HPVs were unlikely …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Can You Catch Type 1 Diabetes?

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 2, known as adult onset diabetes, usually occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, though in some cases it results from low production of insulin. In contrast, type 1 diabetes exclusively results from insufficient insulin production by the pancreas and is sometimes …

Measles – A Killer of Immune Memory

Measles was once a very common childhood disease that was rampant worldwide. Measles is caused by the Rubeola virus, is spread via respiratory droplets in coughs and sneezes, and is considered one of the most contagious viruses. Disease begins with high fever, red, watery eyes, coughing, and sore throat, followed a few days later by …

Polio – Another Step Backwards

Briefly last week there were headlines about a small number of polio cases found in the Philippines, a country declared polio free in 2000. While a few cases in another country may not seem very alarming, these cases starkly reflect a global public health failure. Polio is a very contagious viral infection that is usually …