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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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-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 …