Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Disease risks lie in ancient poo? Not really.

30 September, 2015

Defrosting ancient poo could reintroduce some age-old bugs to the modern world, scientists say.

Defrosting ancient poo could reintroduce some age-old bugs to the modern world, scientists say.

An extremely infectious and deadly ancient virus, released from a frozen slumber by warming climates, could play havoc with immune systems that have no experience of such germs.

A team of international biologists, including the University of Canterbury’s Arvind Varsani, has proven that such an incident is theoretically possible, after they resurrected an ancient virus from the 700-year-old frozen droppings of Canadian caribou.

With a little reconstruction, the DNA virus, christened the “caribou faeces-associated virus”, has gone on to infect modern-day plants, according to a paper published yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Varsani said the team had proved ancient viruses were as worthwhile to study as today’s versions – as both may make up tomorrow’s germs

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Arvind Varsani, again! He’s everywhere B-)

…and some scientists pooh-pooh such statements [sorry!], because – as with the Giant Killer Viruses From Tundra! sensationalism, there is NO proof that (a) there are myriad killer viruses in permafrost, (b) very little proof that they will infect anything outside of a lab.

Seriously: the French team that found pitho- and molliviruses had to use lab-cultured amoebae to resurrect them; Arvind and crew had to make agroinfectious partially dimeric clones of their virus and inject them into lab plants to make them infectious.

And there’ll be precious little of that going in in clearings in the tundra.

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Inter-Seasonal Influenza is Characterized by Extended Virus Transmission and Persistence

26 June, 2015

Author Summary Human influenza virus commonly causes disease in the winter months of temperate countries, but exhibits more complex patterns in tropical localities. Most studies of this complex seasonality have only considered viruses sampled within the “normal” influenza season. To help reveal the drivers of influenza seasonality we utilized viruses sampled outside of the normal influenza season, focusing on Australia which is characterized by a wide range of climates. Using a phylogenetic a

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Nice piece of work: helps reinforce the notion that influenza doesn’t actually go away, especially in tropical and subtropical areas!

See on Scoop.itVirology and Bioinformatics from

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

19 June, 2015

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.


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Sigh…as 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.

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Move Over, Bacteria! Viruses Make Their Mark as Mutualistic Microbial Symbionts

3 June, 2015

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.


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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!

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Thimerosal: Clinical, epidemiologic and biochemical studies [a refutation]

12 May, 2015

“The culmination of the research that examines the effects of Thimerosal in humans indicates that it is a poison at minute levels with a plethora of deleterious consequences, even at the levels currently administered in vaccines.”



There is so much nonsense being written about vaccines, that it is necessary for responsible people to refute the nonsense wherever they see it.

Stephen Korsman, a clinical virologist of Groote Schuur Hospital and the SA National Health Laboratory Service, has done just this for this article.  My comments in square brackets:

"Disturbing.  1/7 authors had no [stated] conflict of interest.  The conflict of interest listed by the others was involvement in previous litigation.  Two of the authors are listed as being associated with CoMeD which promotes mercury-free drugs – surely that itself is a conflict of interest?  A company opposed to mercury?  They omit this affiliation from two authors – the first and last authors are affiliated to the “Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc” but in reality they are a father/son pair who run CoMeD with the other two.  So 4/7 authors run CoMeD –  The “Institute for Chronic Illnesses, Inc” has the same physical address as CoMeD, so they’re probably the same people.


That indicates that this team has a significant agenda.  That doesn’t, however, mean that they cannot write a decently researched review article on their pet subject.  It just means their agenda may have introduced bias.  And judging by their history in the medical field, that bias may very well be real here too.


Mark Geier has his medical licence revoked for treating autism with leuprorelin, which seems to be a gnrh analogue of sorts.  They came up with this idea themselves.  Some useful reading:  And there’s heaps more on Google about their history.  And Wikipedia, the source of all truth –


Judging by what Google says about them, they look very much like Wakefield (the MMR-autism guy) and Duesberg (the HIV denialist guy who converted Mbeki).  They could well be the few true believers amidst a large population of gullible fools, but I doubt it.  Wikipedia can be wrong, but in this case it seems to be on the same side as credible scientists.  Same for the Holocaust – there could very well be a huge conspiracy amongst historians to get us to believe a lie, but it probably did happen the way it’s laid out in history books.


Given the authors’ background and history of nonsense in this field, I’d believe the article only if I could get to the same conclusion by doing my own review, and I don’t think my competence would let me do that adequately, so I’d have to wait for scientists I trust (who, I admit, may be deluded idiots who reject the Geier family’s truth) to produce their own.


Lastly, the article says this was an “Invited critical review.”  I.e. the journal knew who they were and asked them to write about it.  Much like our medical students wanted to hear both sides of the lipid story.  When they get the anti-vaccine lobby in to teach the medical students so they get to hear both sides of the vaccine story, I’ll have a fit.


The flu vaccine we’ve been given doesn’t seem to contain thiomersal, but the package insert says it may contain formaldehyde. [And so? All this means is that there may be minuscule traces of active HCHO, as it is SO reactive that it will have covalently bound -NH2 groups on the flu proteins and been rendered unreactive and harmless.  And, as far as I know, NO modern vaccines contain thiomersal any more.  Thanks Stephen!!].

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Defeating HIV

4 May, 2015

Recent discoveries are spurring a renaissance in HIV vaccine research and development.


This is an excellent article, by a long-time anti-HIV researcher and treatment / vaccine advocate.  He covers pretty much everything of recent relevance, and is pretty even-handed compared to the generally more rabid "Env only!" or "Adeno only!" crowds of bandwagon jumpers.

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Ebola virus mutating, scientists say

29 January, 2015

Scientists at the Institut Pasteur in France who are tracking the Ebola outbreak in Guinea say the virus has mutated.


I would be surprised it there weren’t evidence by now of adaptation to humans: never in any previous outbreak of EHD [Ebola haemorrhagic disease] has the person-person chain of transmission been sustained for so long, meaning never before has there been the opportunity for human-specific adaptations to become established.

The article points out that on consequence of mutation may be that the virus becomes less virulent, leading to a greater incidence of asymptomatic infection – of which there is already evidence from previous outbreaks, and which has been implicated in the lessening incidence of transmission because of increasing herd immunity.

However, this same property might lead to increased transmission to the non-exposed, because of a lack of signs that contacts with the infected person(s) should be avoided – and for a disease as lethal as EHD, even a reduced mortality rate still means you should avoid it at all costs.

The idea of developing a modified live measles virus vaccine as an Ebola virus vaccine vector, which is what the Institut Pasteur is apparently doing, seems to be a very good one.  Measles is still a major potential problem in that part of the world, necessitating regular infant immunisations, and coupling anti-measles with an anti-Ebola vaccine in those countries is probably very good use of both a proven vaccine and existing EPI infrastructure.


See on Scoop.itVirology News

First Ebola case linked to bat play – really?

30 December, 2014

The Ebola victim who is believed to have triggered the current outbreak – a two-year-old boy called Emile Ouamouno from Guinea – may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of bats, say scientists.

They made the connection on an expedition to the boy’s village, Meliandou.

They took samples and chatted to locals to find out more about Ebola’s source.

The team’s findings are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.


Really??  Kids played in a hollow tree where bats USED to be – and the bats in which no-one can find Ebola, are the source of the epidemic? Really??

Now even for one who is prepared to believe the worst of bats – which I am; I am on record as calling them fabulous furry flying cockroaches – the evidence here is VERY thin.

Consider the facts in evidence: 

"Villagers reported that children used to play frequently in the hollow tree"

"Emile – who died of Ebola in December 2013 – used to play there, according to his friends."

"The villagers said that the tree burned on March 24, 2014 and that once the tree caught fire, there issued a "rain of bats""

"A large number of these insectivorous free-tailed bats …were collected by the villagers for food, but disposed of the next day after a government-led ban on bushmeat consumption was announced."

"{While] The scientists …were unable to test any of the bushmeat that the villagers had disposed of, they captured and tested any living bats they could find in and around Meliandou."

"No Ebola could be detected in any of these hundred or so animals, however."

"But previous tests show this species of bat can carry Ebola."

So – the chain of logic goes: 

– Kids played in a tree

– One kid got Ebola

– Bats lived in the tree

– Those bats can be infected with Ebola

– Therefore the one kid was infected by those bats.

Really??  You would convict a whole community of bats for that, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY EVIDENCE they ACTUALLY carried Ebola??

This is thin – very, very thin.  I am also quite happy to believe the Ebola outbreak started with bats, BUT this proves nothing.  More evidence, less hype!!

See on Scoop.itVirology News

2014 in review: ViroBlogy

30 December, 2014

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.
SO we’re doing alright, then?? Thanks for reading – here’s to a great 2015!

The virus as art: Linda Stannard’s electron micrographs made colourful

3 November, 2014

Dr Linda Stannard was a virologist and electron micrsocopist of some repute, here at the University of Cape Town, when she retired some years back. She worked on a lot of interesting viruses, thanks to the diagnostic Virology lab at UCT’s Medical School as well as an eclectic mix of colleagues, and managed to create some stunning images of everything from TMV to poxviruses, herpesviruses, poliovirus, rotavirus, hepatitis B and adenoviruses.
Then she retired – and took her image collection with her, to be recycled as imaginative colorised versions for commercial purposes.
So Anna-Lise Williamson commissioned her to beautify the rather sterile environs of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), with the results that you see below. Her corridor and offices now look rather nice!






We are opening a competition to name each virus: winner to get the satisfaction of knowing they’re smart.


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