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virology blog is about viruses and viral disease. The aim is to discuss the latest research on viruses and viral pathogenesis, by drawing upon the primary literature. We also clarify, comment on, and explore viruses in the news.

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  • March 22, 2012
  • 10:36 AM

A spike for piercing the cell membrane

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Some viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophages) deliver their DNA into the host cell with an amazing injection machine. The tailed bacteriophages (such as T4, illustrated) store their DNA in a capsid attached to a long tail tube that is surrounded by a sheath. At the bottom of the tube is a baseplate with a spike [...]... Read more »

Browning, C., Shneider, M., Bowman, V., Schwarzer, D., & Leiman, P. (2012) Phage Pierces the Host Cell Membrane with the Iron-Loaded Spike. Structure, 20(2), 326-339. DOI: 10.1016/j.str.2011.12.009  

  • February 23, 2012
  • 10:37 AM

Renato Dulbecco, 1914-2012

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

For the second time in a week I note the passing of an important virologist. Renato Dulbecco, together with David Baltimore and Howard Temin, received the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries about how tumor viruses interact with the genetic material of the cell. Dulbecco also devised my favorite virological method, the plaque [...]... Read more »

  • February 14, 2012
  • 05:52 PM

Norton Zinder, 1928-2012

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Norton Zinder made two important discoveries in the field of virology. While a Ph.D. student with Joshua Lederberg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison he found that viruses of bacteria (bacteriophages) could move genes from one host to another, a process called transduction. Later in his own laboratory at The Rockefeller University he isolated the first [...]... Read more »

Loeb, T. (1961) A Bacteriophage Containing RNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 47(3), 282-289. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.47.3.282  

  • January 18, 2012
  • 10:56 AM

How lethal is ebolavirus?

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

After we discussed newly discovered entry factors for ebolavirus and hepatitis C virus on TWiV 166, the New York Times covered part of the story in Key protein may give Ebola virus its opening. Given my recent interest in the case fatality ratio of avian influenza H5N1, I was intrigued by the following introductory statement: Of the pathogens [...]... Read more »

Becquart P, Wauquier N, Mahlakõiv T, Nkoghe D, Padilla C, Souris M, Ollomo B, Gonzalez JP, De Lamballerie X, Kazanji M.... (2010) High prevalence of both humoral and cellular immunity to Zaire ebolavirus among rural populations in Gabon. PloS one, 5(2). PMID: 20161740  

  • January 3, 2012
  • 11:16 AM

Should we fear avian H5N1 influenza?

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt Why is there such widespread fear of avian H5N1 influenza virus? Why did Paul Keim, chair of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) say “I can’t think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one”.  What lead Donald [...]... Read more »

Khuntirat, B., Yoon, I., Blair, P., Krueger, W., Chittaganpitch, M., Putnam, S., Supawat, K., Gibbons, R., Pattamadilok, S., Sawanpanyalert, P.... (2011) Evidence for Subclinical Avian Influenza Virus Infections Among Rural Thai Villagers. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 53(8). DOI: 10.1093/cid/cir525  

  • December 14, 2011
  • 10:48 AM

Megavirus, the biggest known virus

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

The mantle of world’s biggest virus has passed from Mimivirus to Megavirus. But in this case, size doesn’t matter. It’s the genes that these viruses share and do not share that make this story important. The discovery of Mimivirus in a French cooling tower amazed virologists. At 750 nanometers in diameter, it dwarfed all other [...]... Read more »

Arslan D, Legendre M, Seltzer V, Abergel C, & Claverie JM. (2011) Distant Mimivirus relative with a larger genome highlights the fundamental features of Megaviridae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(42), 17486-91. PMID: 21987820  

  • November 8, 2011
  • 10:28 AM

The viruses in your food

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

At the recent Brazilian Virology Society meeting George Rohrmann gave me a copy of his book, Baculovirus Molecular Biology. Baculoviruses are double-stranded DNA containing viruses that infect insects and other arthropods. Early in the first chapter of George’s book I learned that baculoviruses may be present on uncooked cabbage leaves: …in one study it was found [...]... Read more »

Zhang, T., Breitbart, M., Lee, W., Run, J., Wei, C., Soh, S., Hibberd, M., Liu, E., Rohwer, F., & Ruan, Y. (2006) RNA Viral Community in Human Feces: Prevalence of Plant Pathogenic Viruses. PLoS Biology, 4(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040003  

  • November 3, 2011
  • 07:49 AM

How good is the influenza vaccine?

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

I hear from many readers that they routinely get the flu vaccine every year, yet they often contract the disease. I usually tell them that the vaccine is not perfect: it doesn’t protect everyone who gets it. Now we have the numbers to back up this statement, and they are not pretty. There have been [...]... Read more »

  • October 7, 2011
  • 07:39 AM

David and Goliath: How one cytokine may take down influenza

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

This article was written for extra credit by a student in my virology course. by Alexandra Jacunski Recent research has suggested a new method of flu prevention and treatment: the administration of granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to the lungs of mice significantly reduced flu symptoms and prevented mortality after a lethal dose of influenza virus. [...]... Read more »

Huang FF, Barnes PF, Feng Y, Donis R, Chroneos ZC, Idell S, Allen T, Perez DR, Whitsett JA, Dunussi-Joannopoulos K.... (2011) GM-CSF in the lung protects against lethal influenza infection. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 184(2), 259-68. PMID: 21474645  

  • September 6, 2011
  • 05:50 PM

Gut microbes influence defense against influenza

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

The bacteria in our intestines outnumber by tenfold the 100 trillion cells that comprise the human body. This gut microbiota has many beneficial functions, including the production of vitamins and hormones, fermentation, regulation of gut development, and shaping intestinal immune responses. They also play a role in pathological conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and [...]... Read more »

Ichinohe T, Pang IK, Kumamoto Y, Peaper DR, Ho JH, Murray TS, & Iwasaki A. (2011) Microbiota regulates immune defense against respiratory tract influenza A virus infection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(13), 5354-9. PMID: 21402903  

  • August 31, 2011
  • 03:34 PM

Women AND men beware: HPV, the culprit behind more than just cervical cancers?

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

This article was written for extra credit by a student in my virology course. by Bethany DiPrete Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, and as of yet, there is no cure.  However, there is a vaccine to prevent infection by certain strains. Recent research may encourage not [...]... Read more »

  • August 3, 2011
  • 02:33 PM

Thirty years of infectious enthusiasm

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Thirty years ago this month I did an experiment that set the course of my career, and provided an important step forward for animal virology. I showed that a cloned DNA copy of the poliovirus RNA genome is infectious in mammalian cells. When I arrived as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Baltimore [...]... Read more »

  • July 25, 2011
  • 06:33 PM

Live tweeting of the ASV meeting

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Last week I attended the 30th annual meeting of the American Society for Virology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During the morning symposia, which consist of formal 35-minute talks, I decided to post ongoing summaries of each talk on Twitter, a process known as ‘live tweeting’ or ‘live blogging’. Some individuals were skeptical about this activity, because [...]... Read more »

Lister, A., Datta, R., Hofmann, O., Krause, R., Kuhn, M., Roth, B., & Schneider, R. (2010) Live Coverage of Scientific Conferences Using Web Technologies. PLoS Computational Biology, 6(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000563  

  • July 12, 2011
  • 11:32 AM

Transgenic mice susceptible to poliovirus

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Yesterday I terminated the last remaining mice in my small colony, including the line of poliovirus receptor transgenic mice that we established here in 1990. Remarkably, I had never written about this animal model for poliomyelitis which has played an important role in the work done in my laboratory. While I was still working on [...]... Read more »

  • July 6, 2011
  • 06:00 PM

Happy as a clam? Maybe not.

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

This article was written for extra credit by a student in my recently concluded virology course. by Adriana Lopez The expression “Happy as a Clam” comes with new meaning as hepatitis A virus has been detected in clams, mussels, and oysters in markets for human consumption. As bivalve shellfish are excellent bio-accumulators of contaminants and chemicals, [...]... Read more »

Terio, V., Tantillo, G., Martella, V., Pinto, P., Buonavoglia, C., & Kingsley, D. (2010) High Pressure Inactivation of HAV Within Mussels. Food and Environmental Virology, 2(2), 83-88. DOI: 10.1007/s12560-010-9032-7  

  • June 30, 2011
  • 02:44 PM

Poliomyelitis after a twelve year incubation period

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Analysis of poliovirus recovered from the stool of a patient with fatal poliomyelitis revealed that she had been infected with the virus 12 years earlier, probably when one of her children received the oral poliovirus vaccine. This case has the longest known incubation period for vaccine-derived poliomyelitis, and highlights our still rudimentary understanding of how [...]... Read more »

  • June 23, 2011
  • 07:07 PM

Murine gammaretroviruses in prostate cancer cell lines

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

The retrovirus XMRV arose during passage of a human prostate tumor in nude mice. The genomes of these mice contain two different proviral DNAs related to XMRV, pre-XMRV-1 and pre-XMRV-2, that recombined to produce XMRV that has been isolated from humans. Two other prostate cancer cell lines also contain mouse gammaretroviruses that are not XMRV. These viruses [...]... Read more »

Karen Sandell Sfanos, Amanda L. Aloia, Jessica L. Hicks, David M. Esopi, Jared P. Steranka, Wei Shao, Silvia Sanchez-Martinez, Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, Kathleen H. Burns, Alan Rein.... (2011) Identification of Replication Competent Murine Gammaretroviruses in Commonly Used Prostate Cancer Cell Lines. PLoS One. info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0020874

  • June 16, 2011
  • 10:05 PM

Viruses go green

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Visualization of M13 virus (orange strand to the right) using the surface proteins (purple strands) to grab the carbon nanotubes and put them in order. Image credit: Matt Klug, Biomolecular Materials Group, MIT. This article was written for extra credit by a student in my recently concluded virology course. by Ian Blubaugh A team at MIT [...]... Read more »

  • May 31, 2011
  • 11:45 AM

XMRV is a recombinant virus from mice

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

The novel human retrovirus XMRV has been associated with prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. The nucleotide sequence of XMRV isolated from humans indicates that the virus is nearly identical with XMRV produced from a human prostate tumor cell line called 22Rv1. This cell line was derived by passage of human prostate tumor tissue in [...]... Read more »

T. Paprotka, K. A. Delviks-Frankenberry, O. Cingoz, A. Martinez, H.-J. Kung, C.G. Tepper, W-S Hu, M. J. Fivash, J.M. Coffin, & V.K. Pathak. (2011) Recombinant origin of the retrovirus XMRV. Science Express. info:/

  • May 25, 2011
  • 11:02 PM

Canine hepacivirus, a relative of hepatitis C virus

by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog

Contemporary human viruses most likely originated by cross-species transmission from non-human animals. Examples include HIV-1, which crossed from chimpanzees to humans, and SARS coronavirus, which originated in bats. Since the 1989 discovery of hepatitis C virus (classified as a hepacivirus in the family Flaviviridae) the origin of the virus been obscure. During the characterization of [...]... Read more »

A. Kapoor, P. Simmonds, G. Gerold, N. Qaisar, K. Jain, J.A. Henriquez, C. Firth, D.L. Hirschberg, C. Rice, S. Shields.... (2011) Characterization of a canine homolog of hepatitis C virus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. info:/

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