On viruses and zombie raccoons

I was on Inside Edition last week to talk about zombies. That’s a weird sentence to type. While the story was dramatic, television clips are notoriously difficult to discuss anything of real significance. I had two main messages I wanted to get across. One, that we can’t be sure what these animals are suffering from […]

Zika: what we’re still missing

As you’ve probably seen, unless you’ve been living in a cave, Zika virus is the infectious disease topic du jour. From an obscure virus to the newest scare, interest in the virus has skyrocketed just in the past few weeks:   I have a few pieces already on Zika, so I won’t repeat myself here. […]

Baby on board–in a BSL4 lab

I’m happy to welcome Dr. Heather Lander to the blogosphere and Twitterverse. She’s a virologist who has done work with some of the world’s deadliest pathogens in a high-security biosafety level 4 laboratory. This is the type of lab where one must wear “space suits” to work with organisms. You’ve probably seen in dramatized in various movies and […]

Ebola is already in the United States

It’s odd to see otherwise pretty rational folks getting nervous about the news that the American Ebola patients are being flown back to the United States for treatment. “What if Ebola gets out?” “What if it infects the doctors/pilots/nurses taking care of them?” “I don’t want Ebola in the US!” Friends, I have news for […]

Repost: What’s it like to work an Ebola outbreak?

In the light of the current Ebola outbreak, I thought this post from 2007 was once again highly relevant.  As another Ebola outbreak simmers in Uganda (and appears to be increasing), I recently was in touch with Zoe Young, a water and sanitation expert with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF*, known in the US as Doctors without Borders), who was working […]

Ebola reemerges from the forest

Ebola has surfaced again. After a hiatus of over a year without any new identified outbreaks, the virus has reemerged in western Africa, in the first-ever multi-country outbreak of the Zaire strain of Ebola. As of this writing, there have been 122 suspected cases of the disease in Guinea (24 laboratory-confirmed per the WHO) and 80 […]

The microbiology of zombies, part III: “We’re all infected”

Warning: here be spoilers In many latter-day zombie movies, books, and TV shows, zombie-ism has a biological cause. In 28 Days Later, the infection is caused by the “Rage” virus, which escaped from a lab when animal rights activists break in and release a group of infected chimpanzees. Of course, one of the animals promptly […]

Student guest post: Mission Impossible: Fighting Zoonotic Infections in Nicaragua

Student guest post by Brandon Woods A Dangerous Paradise From jungles with jaguars to crystal blue lakes with freshwater sharks, Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful and dangerous countries in Central America. The brilliant biodiversity attracts millions of tourists each year and the looming volcanoes that pepper the landscape can be an exciting yet […]

Can we “catch” breast cancer?

Third of five student guest posts by Dana Lowry In 1911, Peyton Rous first discovered viruses can cause cancer.  A chicken with a lump in her breast had been brought to Rous by a farmer.  Rous prepared an extract that eliminated bacteria and tumor cells and injected this extract into other chickens—tumors grew.  Rous suggested “a minute […]

Pig-to-monkey Ebola: is there something in the air?

Ebola has long been known to be a zoonotic virus–one which jumps between species. Though it took several decades to find evidence of Ebola virus in bats, these animals had previously been associated with human index cases of Ebola disease have worked in bat-infested warehouses or traveled to caves where bats roost. Non-human primates have […]