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BUSM faculty author commentary on the global challenges of emerging viral infections
Date:3/18/2011

(Boston) Paul Duprex, PhD, and Elke Mhlberger, PhD, both associate professors of microbiology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), recently co-authored a commentary about viruses for Microbiology Today, the monthly publication of the Society of General Microbiology, which is the largest microbiological society in Europe. The article focuses on the history of viruses and vaccines and gives their perspective on what is necessary to evolve to the next era of virology research.

The ability to grow cells from humans and other animals in the laboratory helped researchers generate vaccines against a range of viruses such as measles, chickenpox and hepatitis A and B, all of which were developed by Maurice Hilleman in the 1950s. A seminal moment in vaccinology occurred in 1979 when the World Health Organization formally announced the eradication of smallpox, which, said the authors, was a result of an unprecedented collaboration between governments, donors, industry and health professionals.

Recent advances in molecular biology, which allow the complete genome sequence of a virus to be determined alongside huge strides in synthetic biology, now permits researchers to create viruses in the laboratory, even if they only have access to the genomic DNA sequence. The authors argue that this means it is no longer possible to formally eradicate a virus from the globe and that elimination for circulation is a much more attractive goal. Moreover, the authors argue that "emerging and re-emerging viruses will be a continuing threat to human health because of their amazing potential to adapt to their current hosts, to switch to new hosts and to evolve strategies to escape antiviral measures," highlighting the increased risks of naturally occurring infections or bioterrorism attacks.

"Viruses can be manipulated in many ways, including the replacement and addition of extra genes, and genomes have been both split and rearranged in previousl
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Contact: Jenny Eriksen
jenny.eriksen@bmc.org
617-638-6841
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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