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Virology News
Topical news snippets about viruses that affect people.  And other things. Like zombies B-)
Curated by Ed Rybicki
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Synthetic chromosome for yeast!

Synthetic chromosome for yeast! | Virology News | Scoop.it

Scientists have created the first synthetic chromosome for yeast in a landmark for biological engineering.

Previously synthetic DNA has been designed and made for simpler organisms such as bacteria.

As a form of life whose cells contain a nucleus, yeast is related to plants and animals and shares 2,000 genes with us.

So the creation of the first of yeast's 16 chromosomes has been hailed as "a massive deal" in the emerging science of synthetic biology.

The genes in the original chromosome were replaced with synthetic versions and the finished manmade chromosome was then successfully integrated into a yeast cell.

The new cell was then observed to reproduce, passing a key test of viability.

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Giant Zombie Killer Virus Rises From Its 30 000 Year Grave To Kill Us All! Or Not?

Giant Zombie Killer Virus Rises From Its 30 000 Year Grave To Kill Us All!  Or Not? | Virology News | Scoop.it

I am not a fan of “Science By Hype”, which I think I have made abundantly clear via Virology News and elsewhere. Thus, I pour scorn on the “We found a structure which will lead to an AIDS vaccine”, and “We found an antibody that will cure AIDS” type of articles, WHILE at the same time, appreciating the ACTUAL science behind the hype. If there is any, of course. Which is why I am torn, on the subject of a giant DNA virus purportedly found in 30 000 year-old Siberian permafrost. I am also a fan of zombies, hence the title. But seriously, now: here we are, with news media and semi- and fully-serious science mags all hailing the description in PNAS, no less, of “Pithovirus sibericum“.  A giant virus, wakened from a 30 000 year sleep in Siberian permafrost, by the kiss of an amoeba. OK, by infecting an amoeba, but you see where I’m going here.

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A New Killer Virus in China?

A New Killer Virus in China? | Virology News | Scoop.it

n June 2012, three men removing slag from a derelict copper mine in southwestern China fell ill with severe pneumonia and died. Six months later, researchers went spelunking in the mine—an artificial cave hewn from a hillside—in search of pathogens. After taking anal swabs from bats, rats, and musk shrews living in the cave, the team has discovered what it says is a new virus that may have felled the workers.

 

The presumed pathogen resembles a genus of viruses known as henipaviruses, two of which are deadly: Hendra virus, discovered 20 years ago in Australia when it started killing horses—since then, four people who came in contact with infected horses have died—and Nipah virus, the cause of periodic outbreaks in people in Southeast Asia since 1998. The third confirmed henipavirus, Cedar virus, was first reported in Australia in 2012; it does not appear to infect humans. For all three species, the animals that harbor the virus in the wild—the natural reservoir—appear to be fruit-eating bats called flying foxes.

 

The new virus, named Mojiang paramyxovirus (MojV) after the county in Yunnan province where it was found, joins a growing list of species that share genetic similarities with henipaviruses and members of the Paramyxoviridae family that includes henipaviruses. The bats and shrews in the Yunnan cave tested negative for the new henipa-like virus; three of nine rats were infected. “It is not totally surprising to find henipa-like sequences in rodents,” as rats are the natural reservoir for some paramyxoviruses, says Lin-Fa Wang of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, who was not involved in the Mojiang study. MojV “could be a ‘bridging’ virus between those in bats and rodents,” says Wang, one of the leaders of the team that discovered Cedar virus.


Via Torben Barsballe
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The Assembly Pathway of an Icosahedral Single-Stranded RNA Virus Depends on the Strength of Inter-Subunit Attractions

The Assembly Pathway of an Icosahedral Single-Stranded RNA Virus Depends on the Strength of Inter-Subunit Attractions | Virology News | Scoop.it

The strength of attraction between capsid proteins (CPs) of cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) is controlled by the solution pH. Additionally, the strength of attraction between CP and the single-stranded RNA viral genome is controlled by ionic strength. By exploiting these properties, we are able to control and monitor the in vitro co-assembly of CCMV CP and single-stranded RNA as a function of the strength of CP–CP and CP–RNA attractions. Using the techniques of velocity sedimentation and electron microscopy, we find that the successful assembly of nuclease-resistant virus-like particles (VLPs) depends delicately on the strength of CP–CP attraction relative to CP–RNA attraction. If the attractions are too weak, the capsid cannot form; if they are too strong, the assembly suffers from kinetic traps. Separating the process into two steps—by first turning on CP–RNA attraction and then turning on CP–CP attraction—allows for the assembly of well-formed VLPs under a wide range of attraction strengths. These observations establish a protocol for the efficient in vitro assembly of CCMV VLPs and suggest potential strategies that the virus may employ in vivo.

 
Ed Rybicki's insight:

I do love it when a paper is published that could have been done pretty much any time in the last 40 years - and with one of my favourite viruses, that I played with a LOT back there before 1980.

Ultracentrifugation, pH meters, ionic strength determinations, EM...all tried and true, and used 40+ years ago. OK, they also used cloned BMV RNA 1 cDNA, and did 3-D image reconstruction from EMs, but hey, they needn't have done that!  Nice, straightforward physicochemical studies, on a well-characterised virus, with good, simple conclusions. 

Namely, that assembly of the virus is NOT just a simple mix-CP-and-RNA-and-it-will-happen, but that it depends upon both pH, for modulating ionic interactions,and ionic strength for modulating ionic interactions AND the "hydrophobic effect", as we used to know it.

While their conclusions are relevant for assembly of heat- and nuclease-resistant nano particles in vitro, I wonder if they are physiologically relevant: if "correct" assembly depends upon first, turning on CP-RNA attraction (ionic strength shift), and second, turning on CP-CP attraction (pH shift) - where in the cell does that happen?

In their own words, "It is generally accepted that the cytoplasm of plant cells is maintained near neutral pH with ionic strength of approximately 0.1 M. Our in vitro results show that these conditions are insufficient for nucleocapsid formation in the absence of cellular host factors."

Yeeee-ee-eesssss...precisely. What happens in the cell? The answer could lie in the one thing they don't report, but that some of the heroes of my distant youth - people like JB Bancroft and Thom Hohn, both quoted (from 1970 and 1969 respectively) in this paper, DID do. Namely, investigate what happens at different CP and RNA concentrations, at constant pH and ionic strength.

You see, it was shown 30+ years ago - and I have been lecturing on it since then - that CP and RNA for viruses like BMV / CCMV and MS2 form different complexes with their cognate partners at different molecular ratios. That is, at low CP:RNA ratios, a high-affinity complex is formed, which is basically a ribonucleoprotein complex without structure. Increasing the CP:RNA ratio for both MS2 and CCMV, as I recall (maybe Dick Verduin was involved with CCMV), results in further lower-affinity association of CP with both RNA and already-bound CP - which acts as a nucleation complex - to result in full capsid assembly.

I note that the process in both cases was shown to be specific, for low CP:RNA ratios: that is, it was cognate CP and RNA doing the high affinity nucleation complex formation.

And these guys deliberately used a heterologous RNA...albeit one from a related virus, but still: what would have happened if they'd used CCMV RNA?

Still - great paper, taking me back to when I wrote an essay on "Assembly of Spherical Plant Viruses" in my Honours year in 1977, quoting quite a few of the same references these folk did. Ah, simpler times...B-)

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"Cellborg" Assemblies Constitute New Kind of Living Material

"Cellborg" Assemblies Constitute New Kind of Living Material | Virology News | Scoop.it
Bioengineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that incorporate nonliving materials such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Oooooh...nano...

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Student Nurse Perspective: The Flu Vaccine.

Student Nurse Perspective: The Flu Vaccine. | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ed Rybicki's insight:

SERIOUSLY good post on nurses, flu, and misinformation. Disseminate at a nursing college / medical school near you!!

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Ebola alert grips Guinea and Sierra Leone

Ebola alert grips Guinea and Sierra Leone | Virology News | Scoop.it
Highly contagious virus kills 59 people in Guinea, with fears the disease may have spread to neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Ebola has killed at least 59 people in Guinea and there are fears the virus may have spread to neighbouring Sierra Leone, world health officials have said.

Cases of the disease, which can kill 90 percent of those infected, have been registered in three southeastern towns and in the Guinean capital, Conakry, since Februrary 9. They are the first recorded cases in the country.

"It is indeed Ebola fever. A laboratory in Lyon, France, confirmed the information," Damantang Albert Camara, a government spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

38 years on, it continues to pop out of the bush - due almost certainly to the "bush meat" trade.  So it goes when you mess with nature....

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Past, present and future of influenza viruses

Past, present and future of influenza viruses | Virology News | Scoop.it

Influenza viruses are genetically diverse owing to high mutation rates, frequent reassortment among genomic segments and their tendency to jump between hosts. Three studies describe new modelling approaches to analyse and predict influenza virus evolution and also shed light on the origin and spread of currently circulating viruses.

 
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This Old PI....

This Old PI.... | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ed Rybicki's insight:
I blame Chris Upton
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PNAS | Mobile

PNAS | Mobile | Virology News | Scoop.it

RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful approach for elucidating gene functions in a variety of organisms, including phytopathogenic fungi. In such fungi, RNAi has been induced by expressing hairpin RNAs delivered through plasmids, sequences integrated in fungal or plant genomes, or by RNAi generated in planta by a plant virus infection. All these approaches have some drawbacks ranging from instability of hairpin constructs in fungal cells to difficulties in preparing and handling transgenic plants to silence homologous sequences in fungi grown on these plants.

Here we show that RNAi can be expressed in the phytopathogenic fungus Colletotrichum acutatum (strain C71) by virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) without a plant intermediate, but by using the direct infection of a recombinant virus vector based on the plant virus, tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). We provide evidence that a wild-type isolate of TMV is able to enter C71 cells grown in liquid medium, replicate, and persist therein. With a similar approach, a recombinant TMV vector carrying a gene for the ectopic expression of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) induced the stable silencing of the GFP in the C. acutatumtransformant line 10 expressing GFP derived from C71.

The TMV-based vector also enabled C. acutatum to transiently express exogenous GFP up to six subcultures and for at least 2 mo after infection, without the need to develop transformation technology. With these characteristics, we anticipate this approach will find wider application as a tool in functional genomics of filamentous fungi.

 

TMV graphic from Russell Kightley Media

 
Ed Rybicki's insight:

This is a nice paper for two main reasons: one, they were able to get VIGS - virus-induced gene silencing - working in a non-model fungus; two, they did it with TMV.

TMV! A plant virus in good standing, not previously shown to infect fungi productively, even if it has been studied in yeast as far as replication requirements go.

This is very interesting, not the least because it opens up the possibility that TMV NATURALLY infects some soil / leaf surface fungi.

Which could open up some investigation of just how the virus gets around, because it has always been touted as being only "mechanically" transmissible - even though we and others have shown it CAN be transmitted by aphids (reasonably inefficiently).

Mind you, Barbara von Wechmar and others in our lab showed in the 1980s that wheat stem and leaf rust fungi could transmit Brome mosaic virus; they just did not have the techniques to look at whether or not it replicated too.

As far as my last post here is concerned, I think there is going to be a LOT of stuff coming out in the next few years on how "plant" and "insect" and "fungal" viruses are in fact considerably more promiscuous in choice of host(s) than we have hitherto been aware.

Now, just to prove what Barbara always said, that Tobacco necrosis virus is also a bacteriophage....

Thanks to Gary Foster (@Prof_GD_Foster) for pointing this out! 

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The common cold virus uses a unique ‘switch’ during lung infection

The common cold virus uses a unique ‘switch’ during lung infection | Virology News | Scoop.it
Ed Rybicki's insight:

VERY nice graphics to explain it all.

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Rare 'polio-like' disease reports

Rare 'polio-like' disease reports | Virology News | Scoop.it

US doctors are warning of an emerging polio-like disease in California where up to 20 people have been infected.

A meeting of the American Academy of Neurology heard that some patients had developed paralysis in all four limbs, which had not improved with treatment.

The US is polio-free, but related viruses can also attack the nervous system leading to paralysis.

Doctors say they do not expect an epidemic of the polio-like virus and that the infection remains rare.

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Mechanism of dengue virus entry into cells

Mechanism of dengue virus entry into cells | Virology News | Scoop.it

WASHINGTON D.C. Feb. 17, 2014 -- Dengue fever, an infectious tropical disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus, afflicts millions of people each year, causing fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and a characteristic skin rash. In some people the disease progresses to a severe, often fatal, form known as dengue hemorrhagic fever. 

Now, new research ... to be presented at the 58th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting, which takes place in San Francisco from Feb. 15-19, could offer vital insight into the mechanism of dengue virus entry into cells -- and aid vaccine and clinical drug development.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

And lead to world peace and cold fusion. Obviously. But seriously, an exciting new development.

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Why it’s worth spending a billion dollars a year to eradicate polio

Why it’s worth spending a billion dollars a year to eradicate polio | Virology News | Scoop.it
Tomorrow, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to officially certify that south-east Asia, formerly one of the regions with the worst levels of polio, has eradicated the disease, after India found new no cases in the previous three years. (The WHO counts India as part of south-east Asia.) To understand why that matters, read this heart-breaking profile of Rukhsar Khatoon, the...
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Exploiting bacteriophages for human health

Exploiting bacteriophages for human health | Virology News | Scoop.it
This short review is worth reading because it takes a thoughtful and holistic approach to the idea of phage therapy.

Via Chris Upton + helpers
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Chris Upton + helpers's curator insight, March 27, 2014 11:51 AM

Via Alan Cann's excellent MicrobiologyBytes site

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Bat-eating ban to curb Ebola virus

Bat-eating ban to curb Ebola virus | Virology News | Scoop.it

"That'll be a bat and lagerGuinea has banned the sale and consumption of bats to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, its health minister has said.

Bats, a local delicacy, appeared to be the "main agents" for the Ebola outbreak in the south, Rene Lamah said.

Sixty-two people have now been killed by the virus in Guinea, with suspected cases reported in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola is spread by close contact. There is no known cure or vaccine.

It kills between 25% and 90% of victims, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.


People who eat the animals often boil them into a sort of spicy pepper soup, our correspondent says. The soup is sold in village stores where people gather to drink alcohol.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Different foods for different folks...."That'll be a bat soup and lager, please!"

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Michelo Simuyandi's curator insight, March 27, 2014 5:58 AM

An Alternative protein source needs to be found

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Canada Launches Official Vaccination Smart Phone App

Canada Launches Official Vaccination Smart Phone App | Virology News | Scoop.it
Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health at the Canadian Public Health Association, yesterday launched a new vaccination app for iPhone and Android: ImmunizeCA
Ed Rybicki's insight:

We need us one of those here in SA!

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Suspected Ebola Case Is Detected In Canada

Suspected Ebola Case Is Detected In Canada | Virology News | Scoop.it

Suspected Ebola Case Is Detected In Canada

A possible case of Ebola has been detected in Canada after a passenger returned from Africa where dozens have died from the virus.

"All we know at this point is that we have a person who is critically ill who travelled from a country where these diseases occur," said Denise Werker, joint director of health in Saskatchewan province in western Canada.

She said the casualty had been in Liberia and had developed the symptoms after landing in Canada.

He or she would not have been contagious when travelling and was now in isolation pending test results.

Aid workers and health officials in Guinea are battling to contain western Africa's first outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus as neighbouring Liberia reported its first suspected victims.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Lots of screaming and running about, doubtless.

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Measles outbreak in Guinea threatens children

Measles outbreak in Guinea threatens children | Virology News | Scoop.it
At least one child has died since the outbreak began in November, with others vulnerable due to a lack of vaccinations.

An outbreak of measles is threatening the lives of children in Guinea, one of West Africa's poorest countries.

The UN children's agency UNICEF says one child has been confimed dead since the outbreak began in November, but the real number may be much higher.

A UN survey shows only 37 percent of children in Guinea get all the vaccines they need to stay healthy, making the majority vulnerable. Thirty-seven cases of measles have been confirmed in the capital Conakry.

 
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Makes one sad: kids in New York getting measles because their parents are too stupid to vaccinate them; kids in Guinea getting it because they're too poor.

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The co-pathogenesis of influenza viruses with bacteria in the lung

The co-pathogenesis of influenza viruses with bacteria in the lung | Virology News | Scoop.it

Concern that a highly pathogenic virus might cause the next influenza pandemic has spurred recent research into influenza and its complications. Bacterial superinfection in the lungs of people suffering from influenza is a key element that promotes severe disease and mortality. This co-pathogenesis is characterized by complex interactions between co-infecting pathogens and the host, leading to the disruption of physical barriers, dysregulation of immune responses and delays in a return to homeostasis. The net effect of this cascade can be the outgrowth of the pathogens, immune-mediated pathology and increased morbidity. In this Review, advances in our understanding of the underlying mechanisms are discussed, and the key questions that will drive the field forwards are articulated.

  

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Don't never forget the bacteria...a nasty team, bugs and flu viruses.

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The Impact of Missing Vaccines on Africa and Asia

The Impact of Missing Vaccines on Africa and Asia | Virology News | Scoop.it

Vaccines may have saved millions of people from disease and death, but there remains a number of key areas which lack vaccines. And nowhere is this clearer than in some of the world’s poorest regions. With vaccines not yet available for dengue fever, HIV or malaria, what impact is their continuing reign of terror having over Africa and the South East Asia Region (SEAR)?

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Viruses Reconsidered | The Scientist Magazine®

Viruses Reconsidered | The Scientist Magazine® | Virology News | Scoop.it
The discovery of more and more viruses of record-breaking size calls for a reclassification of life on Earth.
 

...with the advent of whole-genome sequencing, researchers are beginning to realize that most organisms are in fact chimeras containing genes from many different sources—eukaryotic, prokaryotic, and viral alike—leading us to rethink evolution, especially the extent of gene flow between the visible and microscopic worlds. Genomic analysis has, for example, suggested that eukaryotes are the result of ancient interactions between bacteria and archaea. In this context, viruses are becoming more widely recognized as shuttles of genetic material, with metagenomic studies suggesting that the billions of viruses on Earth harbor more genetic information than the rest of the living world combined. (See “Going Viral,” The Scientist, September 2013.) These studies point to viruses being at least as critical in the evolution of life as all the other organisms on Earth.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

I hate that graphic - it's inaccurate; the satellite viruses do not "infect" other virus particles - but otherwise this is a good and thoughtful article.

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TRSV or not TRSV, that is the question. In bees, obviously.

TRSV or not TRSV, that is the question. In bees, obviously. | Virology News | Scoop.it
I promised some time ago now to blog on the exciting topic of whether or not a plant virus is infecting honeybees - and here it is!  I was also contacted by the legendary Dr Adrian Gibbs about this...
Ed Rybicki's insight:

Artful literary deconstruction of what I still think is a good article - with a throw-in of stuff I thought had been published, but turns out only to have appeared in Carolyn Williamson's 1988 PhD thesis.  Consider this a publication!

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GM crops: European scientists descend on Africa to promote biotech

GM crops: European scientists descend on Africa to promote biotech | Virology News | Scoop.it

Africa is expected to be the next target of GM food companies, as European scientists and policymakers travel to Ethiopia to boost the prospect of growing more of the controversial crops on the continent.

Anne Glover, the chief scientific adviser to the European commission, and other prominent pro-GM researchers and policymakers from European countries including Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden will this week meet Ethiopian, Kenyan, Ghanaian and Nigerian farm ministers as well as officials from the African Union.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

And that'll go down REALLY well: European governments and policymakers pushing GM crops in Africa, when their own people don't want them?  

Whether those reasons are stupid or not, and whether or not it is a good idea to plant GM in Africa, I can see a knee-jerk anti-Europe response could well work to completely screw up just what it is they are trying to do.

Consider: Zimbabwe and Zambia resolutely oppose even the import of GM maize as FOOD, let alone allowing the planting of it.  Africans have a history of being VERY suspicious of outsiders bearing gifts - because there is a history of dumping stuff in Africa, of everything from suspect pharmaceuticals to excess chickens.

I predict a lead balloon result for this conference and for the initiative.  Time for Europe to listen to the Kenyans, Burkinabe and South Africans about the merits of growing GM - and not the other way around!

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Small molecules stop Human papillomavirus assembling

Small molecules stop Human papillomavirus assembling | Virology News | Scoop.it
Pillarene molecule binds to exposed amino acids on pathogen protein

Researchers in China have disrupted the life cycle of the leading cause of cervical cancer – the human papilloma virus – using a macrocyclic molecule called a pillarene. The team hope their findings will offer new prophylactic avenues against the virus.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Great stuff!  And regular readers will realise that this is the second chemotherapeutic agent demonstrated to work against HPV in a short while recently - the other being an antiretroviral agent.

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