Virology News
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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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Influenza D Virus in Cattle, France, 2011

Influenza D Virus in Cattle, France, 2011 | Virology News |
A new influenza virus, genus D, isolated in US pigs and cattle, has also been circulating in cattle in France. It was first identified there in 2011, and an increase was detected in 2014. The virus genome in France is 94%–99% identical to its US counterpart, which suggests intercontinental spillover.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

A new flu??  Who knew!

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Eminent Virologist Dies

Eminent Virologist Dies | Virology News |
Emerging-disease researcher Richard Elliott has passed away at age 61.

Richard Elliott, who studied viruses and emerging diseases at the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research (CVR) died earlier this month (June 5). He was 61.

Elliot held the Bill Jarrett Chair of Infectious Diseases at the CVR and was well-known for his work with bunyavirus, an arbovirus that infects arthropods and vertebrates.

Elliott studied viral replication as a PhD student at the University of Oxford and spent his postdoc at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, studying influenza viruses. He became a professor of molecular biology at the University of Glasgow in 1995 and the institution’s joint head of virology in 1998. In 1996, he coauthored the first study demonstrating the production of an infectious RNA virus using complementary DNA.

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A Short History of the Discovery of Viruses

Viruses as a concept are just a little younger than bacteria - they were first described only in the 1890s - yet have probably co-existed with cellular life through nearly the whole of evolutionary history on this planet.
This book will give an account of the history of the discovery of viruses...

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My first effort at commercial publishing - for iBooks Reader on Mac / iPad / iPhone

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New test uses a single drop of blood to reveal entire history of viral infections

New test uses a single drop of blood to reveal entire history of viral infections | Virology News |
Cheap and rapid test allows doctors to access list of every virus that has infected or continues to infect a patient, and could transform disease detection
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Move Over, Bacteria! Viruses Make Their Mark as Mutualistic Microbial Symbionts

Viruses are being redefined as more than just pathogens. They are also critical symbiotic partners in the health of their hosts. In some cases, viruses have fused with their hosts in symbiogenetic relationships. Mutualistic interactions are found in plant, insect, and mammalian viruses, as well as with eukaryotic and prokaryotic microbes, and some interactions involve multiple players of the holobiont. With increased virus discovery, more mutualistic interactions are being described and more will undoubtedly be discovered.


Ed Rybicki's insight:

Some day we may realise that this is the norm for viruses - and that what we thought we knew about viruses is simply the behaviour of a simplistic and destructive subset of them that we labelled "pathogens".

It is beyond question that all organisms on this planet have evolved in the midst of a cloud of viruses: they have certainly shaped the evolution of immune systems and responses, let alone having directly influenced our evolution in ways like conferring cell fusion ability on cells that become the placenta in mammals.

It should therefore come as no surprise that viruses are very often commensals and even symbiotes.  While we generally don't understand just how we and our other cellular brethren might benefit from intimate association with viruses, I am sure that every new virome will shed light on this - as well as unearthing more and more of the biological dark matter that is viruses.

Nice one, Marilyn!

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Scanning for SIV's Sanctuaries in whole monkeys

Scanning for SIV's Sanctuaries in whole monkeys | Virology News |
Whole-body immunoPET scans of SIV-infected macaques reveal where the replicating virus hides.
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Isn't technology wonderful?

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Seoul confirms seventh MERS case

Seoul confirms seventh MERS case | Virology News |
South Korea confirmed its sixth and seventh MERS cases Thursday, surpassing Iran as the country with the fifth-highest number of MERS cases in the world. The two newly confirmed cases are in a health care worker and a patient. Both had been at the same medical facility where the first confirmed patient was being treated prior to his diagnosis from May 15 to 17. The newly diagnosed patient was not even on the authorit...
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Are we seeing breakout...?

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Breakthrough HIV study could change course of treatment for millions

Breakthrough HIV study could change course of treatment for millions | Virology News |
A large-scale trial shows that HIV meds work best when started earlier.
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Ivory Coast confirms H5N1 bird flu outbreak

Ivory Coast confirms H5N1 bird flu outbreak | Virology News |
Ivory Coast has confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu last month among backyard birds in the central town of Bouake, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday.
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World health body wants vaccination drive to avert 1.5 million child deaths yearly

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One fifth of the world's children still do not receive routine vaccinations that could prevent 1.5 million deaths a year from preventable diseases, the World Health...
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Cold sore virus 'can target skin cancer'

A research team involving the Institute of Cancer Research in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust say it is the first time that a large, randomised trial of viral immunotherapy has been shown to be a viable treatment for patients with...
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Herpes virus hijackers

Herpes virus hijackers | Virology News |
The virus responsible for the common cold sore hijacks the machinery within our cells, causing them to break down and help shield the virus from our immune system, researchers from the University of Cambridge and colleagues in Germany have discovered.
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Bird Flu Spreading [in the US] as Scientists Look Everywhere for Clues

Bird Flu Spreading [in the US] as Scientists Look Everywhere for Clues | Virology News |
Could it be blowing from farm to farm in the dirt? Could determined starlings and pigeons be carrying it into poultry houses on their feet? Is it spreading i...
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Farm workers. Just saying.

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New Zealand Stresses that It Is High Plains Virus Free, and the Virus Struggles with an Identity Crisis

High Plains virus (HPV), a tentative member of the genus Emaravirus, causes a potentially serious economic disease in cereals. Recently, in this journal, Tatineni et al. (1) mistakenly reported HPV as being present in New Zealand, citing the paper by Lebas et al. from 2005 (2). The 2005 report clearly states that New Zealand is HPV free in both the abstract and the introduction (2). To date, HPV is not known to occur in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries of New Zealand has very strict regulations in place to prevent the importation of unwanted organisms such as HPV. For example, the importation of Zea maysseeds must follow the requirements stated in Import Health Standard 155.02.05 (for seed for sowing) (3), which includes testing of HPV by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or PCR. The Tatineni et al. statement (1) will mislead regulatory officials of New Zealand's trading partners who regularly monitor world microbe dynamics in the scientific literature. In fact, there are plant biosecurity actions in place (4) that directly affect New Zealand's international trade when a regulated plant virus like HPV is reported as present.

Ed Rybicki's insight: a former plant virologist, I am very familiar with the potential confusion of acronyms of names of viruses that cause severe diseases in plants and in humans - like CMV for both cucumber mosaic and cytomegaloviruses, and AMV for alfalfa mosaic and avian myeloblastosis viruses.

However, this is the first time I have heard of another HPV - which, I will point out, is Human papillomavirus, and was named WAY before any High Plains virus was dreamt up.

I do wish the various branches and species of virologists would consult an authoritative source (like the ICTV Reports) before dreaming up acronyms.

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Influenza Virus. Introduction to a Killer

Read a sample or download Influenza Virus by Edward Rybicki & Russell Kightley with iBooks.
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My 5-year sabbatical project....

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ProMED MERS update

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

In this update:
[1] South Korea, 9 new cases-  MOH 6 Jun 2015
[2] South Korea, involved hospitals, more details - media report
[3] South Korea - WHO 5 Jun 2015
[4] China ex South Korea, virus sequenced, unchanged - media report
[5] Saudi Arabia, 5 new cases - MOH 5 Jun 2015
[6] Oman - WHO 4 Jun 2015

[1] South Korea, 9 new cases MOH 6 Jun 2015
Date: 6 Jun 2015
Source: Korean MOH 6 Jun 2015 [edited]

The Department of Health and Human Services announces 9 additional
cases; 3 of the 9 were patients in hospital B (St. Mary's Hospital in
Pyeongtaek), where index patient and medical staff.
1 other patient was at hospital E 28-30 May 2015 in the same hospital
room as case No. 16. 

The remaining 5 patients were at hospital D on 27 or 28 May 2015 in
the emergency department where other patient's were (?case no. 14).

Communicated by:

[With the addition of these 9 newly confirmed cases, there are now 50
cases of MERS-CoV associated with the ongoing outbreak in South Korea.
 If my interpretation of the machine translation is correct, there are
3 generations of cases -- generation no.1, the index case who traveled
to the Middle East where he was infected; generation no.2 with 35
cases confirmed to date; and generation 3  with 14 cases to date. 
(see moderator comment following section [2] below - it is possible
that there are more tertiary cases in hospital B). Of note, the
Ministry of Health has released the name of Hospital B as St. Mary's
Hospital in Pyeongtaek (see media report in section [2] below).

Given the large number of cases, presumably related to lack of
infection control procedures in the healthcare environment combined
with lack of suspicion for MERS-CoV infection, there have been
concerns raised re: the actual virus involved in this outbreak. 
According to a media report from China, sequencing of the isolate in
China showed no substantial changes in the virus from those in the
Middle East (see section [4] below).

Pyeongtaek is located in the southwestern portion of  Gyeonggi
Province.  According to Wikipedia, it is home to a South Korean naval
base and a large concentration of United States troops. (see
<>, including a map of the

The HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of South Korea is available at
<>. - Mod.MPP]

[2] South Korea, involved hospitals, more details - media report
Date: 6 Jun 2015
Source: Korean Herald [edited]

The Korean government on Friday [5 Jun 2015] named the hospital in
Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, where 71 percent of all confirmed
Middle East respiratory syndrome cases in Korea have occurred since
[20 May 2015], backtracking on its previous stance to withhold a list
of affected facilities.

Visitors to the facility -- now identified as Pyeongtaek St. Mary's
Hospital - from [15-29 May 2015] have been urged to report themselves
to the authorities.

As of Friday [5 Jun 2015] afternoon, the virus had killed 4 people,
infected 42 [now 50, see above MOH report in section [1] - Mod.MPP]
and pushed public health officials to quarantine more than 1800
others. The Seoul Municipal Government is separately placing some 1500
more people in isolation. 

"We have decided to take more proactive measures for those who either
stayed at or visited the specific facility, as an overwhelming number
of the infection cases -- 30 out of 42 -- took place at the hospital,"
Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo said. 

In spite of strong public demand and even repeated requests from Hong
Kong health authorities, Seoul has been standing firm on its decision
not to share the names of MERS-affected hospitals -- to prevent
"unnecessary fear and stigmatization." 

To date, 14 facilities have been confirmed as MERS-affected hospitals,
meaning they have received confirmed MERS patients at least once
during the outbreak. The Health Ministry said it had no plan to share
the names of the 13 remaining facilities.

Also on Friday [5 Jun 2015], President Park Geun-hye visited one of
the 17 government-certified facilities where confirmed MERS patients
are being treated in quarantine to encourage the medical staff. It was
her 1st on-site visit related to MERS since the 1st case was confirmed
more than 2 weeks ago.

Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital, which was shut down on [29 May 2015],
is one of the 4 medical facilities that the nation's 1st confirmed
patient either visited or stayed at prior to his diagnosis on [20 May

The 1st patient stayed at the facility from [15 to 17 May 2015]. Up
until Wednesday [3 Jun 2015], the Health Ministry had been claiming
that the 68-year-old was the sole spreader of the disease in the
facility, meaning all of the confirmed patients who contracted the
virus there were infected by him only, not by each other.

Yet on Friday it was revealed that 2 of the 6 newly confirmed patients
caught the virus while staying at the hospital from [20-28 May 2015].
During this period, the 1st confirmed patient was not present in the
facility. The newly reported cases prove that tertiary infection
occurred at the hospital before it was shut down on [29 May 2015]. 

Minister Moon also said the air-conditioning system of the hospital,
as well as its lack of ventilators, may have attributed to the intense
spread of MERS among its patients. Civil experts who work with the
government also confirmed that the virus was found in the temporarily
closed facility's bathrooms and doorknobs. The hospital, which houses
about 400 beds, opened in February [2015] and its building is
reportedly less than a year old. 

Fears of the deadly virus is only expanding as the Seoul municipal
government abruptly announced on Thursday night [4 Jun 2015] that the
35th confirmed patient, a medical doctor, may have exposed more than
1500 Seoul residents to the deadly virus.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon claimed that the doctor, who treated the
14th confirmed MERS patient at a large general hospital in Seoul on
[27 May 2015], attended 3 large-scale conferences over the weekend
while showing symptoms of MERS.

The Health Ministry on Thursday [4 Jun 2015] rebuked Seoul City's
claim that it was limiting information on the infected doctor, and
claimed it has shared all relevant information on the tracking of the
medical professional.

According to Mayor Park, the doctor started showing mild symptoms,
mainly coughing, on [29 May 2015], but still attended the events in
which more than 1500 people attended. He did so despite being advised
to stay home and being aware of the possibility of his infection, the
municipal government said. 

The doctor, however, said he never "treated" the 14th patient,
although they were both in the same emergency room for less than an
hour on [27 May 2015]. The doctor in fact treated an embolism patient
who later was quarantined after being placed near the 14th patient at
the facility.

The medical professional claimed that he hadn't even been informed
that the 14th MERS patient was in the same emergency room with him and
his patient on [27 May 2015] until [31 May 2015].

"I learned on [31 May 2015] that the patient I treated on [27 May
2015] was quarantined for possible MERS infection. I only attended 2
of the 3 events that the city government has mentioned," he said
during an interview with a local newspaper.

"As I began to experience unusual symptoms, I reported to the
authorities on [31 May 2015] and was quarantined at home on the same
day. I was eventually placed at a government-certified medical
facility on Tuesday [2 May 2015], the same day I was informed about my
MERS diagnosis."

The doctor said that although he was coughing on Saturday [30 May
2015] -- the day he showed up at 2 large-scale events attended by 1565
others -- it was because of his chronic sinus infection, not MERS.
According to him, he started experiencing MERS symptoms, including
unusual sputum production, on [31 May 2015]. Yet health experts said
his claims could not be proven, as it is hard to differentiate MERS
symptoms -- usually fever and coughing -- with symptoms of other
common diseases such as the flu. 

"The incubation period of MERS is 2 to 14 days," said a doctor who
wished to remain anonymous. "He started coughing 2 days after staying
with the MERS patient in the same room. So no one can be really sure
whether he was coughing on [29 May 2015] because of MERS or because of
his sinus infection."

Regardless, Seoul Mayor Park announced that the municipal government
is launching its own countermeasures to combat the disease. All 1565
individuals who were present at the events where the infected doctor
attended will be quarantined, he said. As of Thursday [4 Jun 2015]
morning, the city government managed to contact 84.2 percent of the
1565, advising them to stay home, the mayor said. 

Meanwhile, all of the newly confirmed cases are believed to be
tertiary infection cases. One of them has been identified as an air
force officer serving at the Osan Air Base in Pyeaongtaek. 

Following the 1st MERS case in the military, the Defense Ministry
quarantined 164 soldiers and 6 civilians. Among them, a navy staff
sergeant visited her grandfather, who later was diagnosed with MERS,
at a Daejeon-based hospital on [29 May 2015]. Although currently
asymptomatic, she is scheduled to be tested for the infection.

The 4th death occurred Thursday [4 Jun 2015]. The deceased is a
76-year-old who became the 3rd confirmed patient on [21 May 2015]. He
had been suffering from preexisting medical conditions including
asthma and cancer before his MERS diagnosis.

A total of 1317 schools and kindergartens, including 15 universities,
canceled classes to prevent possible infection as of Friday [5 Jun
2015] afternoon nationwide.

While the number of cases keeps growing, the Health Ministry began
investigating if the virus has mutated in Korea and become more
contagious. The investigation results are set to be released soon.

A special inspection team from the World Health Organization is to
arrive in Seoul to examine the situation as early as next week.

"Contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring
for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne
precautions should be applied when performing aerosol-generating
procedures," said WHO in its statement on the outbreak in Korea. 

"WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard
to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any
travel or trade restrictions."

Those who visited Pyeongtaek St. Mary's Hospital can report themselves
by either calling 129 or visiting <>.

Seoul residents who wish to be tested for MERS can call the Seoul
Metropolitan Government at 120 or 2133-0691 through 7.

[Byline: Claire Lee]

Communicated by:

[The above media report is very helpful in explaining some of the
difficult machine translations from the MOH website, where there is
mention that cases were treated in Hospital B apparently after the
index case was no longer there.  Hence, it is possible that the 3
cases I designated as secondary cases may in fact be tertiary cases. 
Hopefully the detailed discussions of cases provided in the WHO
updates will help clarify the situation. 

As for the doctor discussed as potentially having exposed more than
1500 individuals, the main hope is that 1) he wasn't very infectious
at the time of the meetings he attended and 2) if he was infectious at
that time, he is not a superspreader.

The media report also confirms a positive MERS-CoV among a military
individual.  Most likely confirming the suspected case mentioned in a
media report in an earlier ProMED-mail post (see section [5] of 
MERS-CoV (54): South Korea, Saudi Arabia, WHO 20150604.3407535). -

[3] South Korea - WHO 5 Jun 2015
Date: 5 Jun 2015
Source: WHO Global Alert and Response Disease Outbreak News [edited]

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - Republic of
Korea 5 Jun 2015
On [4 Jun 2015], the National IHR Focal Point of the Republic of Korea
notified WHO of 6 additional confirmed cases of Middle East
Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), including 1 death.

Details of the cases are as follows:

1-  A 69-year-old male developed symptoms on [1 Jun 2015] while
admitted to hospital for an unrelated medical condition since 28 May
[2015]. The patient shared the room with a laboratory-confirmed
MERS-CoV case that was reported in a previous DON on [4 Jun 2015]
(case n. 1). He tested positive for MERS-CoV on [3 Jun 2015].

2- A 54-year-old man developed symptoms on 29 May [2015]. After
receiving medical care, he did not experience further symptoms. On 15,
22 and 29 May [2015], the patient visited his mother who is a
laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV case that was reported in a previous DON
on 30 May [2015] (case n. 10). He tested positive for MERS-CoV on [3
Jun 2015].

3- A 47-year-old male developed symptoms on 21 May [2015]. He sought
medical care at different health facilities before being admitted to
hospital on [1 Jun 2015]. The patient is a friend of a
laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV case (case 2 - see above). He visited
his friend's mother on 15 May [2015]. The patient, who has no
comorbidities, tested positive for MERS-CoV on [3 Jun 2015].

4- A 25-year-old female health worker developed symptoms on 20 May
[2015]. The patient provided care to the 1st case from 15 to 17 May
[2015]. She tested positive for MERS-CoV on [3 Jun 2015]. Currently,
the patient is in stable condition.

5- A 38-year-old male doctor developed symptoms on 31 May [2015]. On
27 May [2015], the patient was exposed to a laboratory-confirmed
MERS-CoV case that was reported in a previous DON on [1 Jun 2015]
(case n. 1). He tested positive for MERS-CoV on [2 Jun 2015].

6- An 82-year-old male tested positive for MERS-CoV on [4 Jun 2015].
The patient, who suffered from chronic productive cough, developed
low-grade fever and dyspnoea on 6 May [2015]. As symptoms worsened, on
9 May [2015], he was admitted to hospital. From 28 to 30 May [2015],
the patient was admitted to the same ward as a laboratory-confirmed
MERS-CoV case that was reported in a previous DON on [4 Jun 2015]
(case n. 1). On 30 May [2015], to avoid close contact with the
MERS-CoV patient, he was transferred to an isolated room in ICU. The
patient passed away on [3 Jun 2015].

Contact tracing of household and healthcare contacts is ongoing for
the cases.

So far, a total of 36 MERS-CoV cases, including 3 deaths, have been
reported to WHO by the National IHR Focal Point of the Republic of
Korea. One of the 36 cases is the case that was confirmed in China and
also notified by the National IHR Focal Point of China.

Globally, since September 2012, WHO has been notified of 1185
laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at
least 443 related deaths.

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[With the confirmation of the 36 cases involved in the South Korean
outbreak, the global tally of MERS-CoV infected individuals reported
to WHO is now at 1185 including at least 443 related deaths. The WHO
reports are very helpful in providing good summaries of the
epidemiologic information surrounding each of the cases available
without using sub-optimal machine translations. - Mod.MPP]


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Greetings from Switzerland!

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MERS Update from Korea

MERS Update from Korea | Virology News |
Through contact tracing, health officials confirm additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome in South Korea. 
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Ebola will return', veteran scientist warns

Ebola will return', veteran scientist warns | Virology News |

Congolese expert Jean-Jacques Muyembe may be little known to the public, but he has been one of the world's top Ebola investigators since the first epidemic erupted in central Africa in 1976.

Now, amid a decline in a west African outbreak that has taken more than 11,000 lives, Muyembe warns that Ebola will strike again in the future and that the deadly virus poses "a threat to the whole world".

Muyembe studied medicine in Kinshasa and at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He returned home to the Democratic Republic of Congo -- then known as Zaire -- in 1976, when the northern village of Yambuku was struck by a mysterious disease.

"They said many people were dying, and the health ministry asked me to go investigate," Muyembe told AFP.

He initially thought it could be a case of typhoid fever but he decided to continue investigating until he got to the bottom of it.

"I drew blood, and had no protective gloves or clothing," Muyembe said.

Accompanied by a Belgian nun suffering from fever, he returned from Yambuku to Kinshasa.

It was her blood samples, shipped in a makeshift cooler to the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, that enabled scientist Peter Piot to identify the worm-looking virus for the first time

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Yup...I've been following it since it started, and like pandemic flu, this is the one sure thing.  It WILL come again.

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Genomes Point the Way

Genomes Point the Way | Virology News |
Sequence analysis of Egyptian, Ethiopian, and non-African peoples indicates a likely route taken by modern humans migrating out of Africa.
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We all come from Africa...and some of us went back.

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Ebola researcher on rush for a vaccine

The lead researcher on an Ebola vaccine says the "extraordinary" rush may raise questions about how it is deployed. The lead researcher on an Ebola vaccine s...
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HIV Treatment Should Start at Diagnosis, US Health Officials Say

HIV Treatment Should Start at Diagnosis, US Health Officials Say | Virology News |
Federal health officials announced the new guidelines after a clinical trial showed pronounced benefits for people put on antiretroviral drugs as soon as they learned they were infected.
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Bird flu could be as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic

Bird flu could be as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic | Virology News |
Scientists must be allowed to work on deadly viruses in labs to ward off future outbreaks, Professor Derek Smith argues
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Ebola: Skip Randomized Trials, Experts Urge

Ebola: Skip Randomized Trials, Experts Urge | Virology News |
Other forms of study could get drugs to Ebola patients more quickly, they say.
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The most predictable disaster in the history of the human race. And it's not zombies.

...there's something out there that's as bad as war, something that kills as many people as war, and Gates doesn't think we're ready for it.

"Look at the death chart of the 20th century," he says, because he's the kind of guy that looks at death charts. "I think everybody would say there must be a spike for World War I. Sure enough, there it is, like 25 million. And there must be a big spike for World War II, and there it is, it's like 65 million. But then you'll see this other spike that is as large as World War II right after World War I, and most people, would say, 'What was that?'"

"Well, that was the Spanish flu."

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Yeah, yeah, yeah: there's a lot of people being saying similar things for a long time.  But now it's Bill Gates, so governments MAY pay attention!

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Shingles: a Slideshow

Shingles: a Slideshow | Virology News |
Caused by the same virus behind chickenpox, shingles is a painful nerve root infection resulting in a skin rash. What does the shingles rash looks like? Who’s at risk? And who needs the shingles vaccine?
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