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Analysis and Comment (23)

Ebola is now intercontinental. Ebola is now intercontinental. Katadikazo

Break in transmission – how Nigeria took control of Ebola

The scale of the ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus in western Africa has taken healthcare workers, scientists, policy makers, in fact everyone, by surprise. Prior to this outbreak the largest number of human…
Commotion outside house of infected nurse Teresa Ramos near Madrid. Commotion outside house of infected nurse Teresa Ramos near Madrid. EPA

Ebola won’t gain a foothold in Western countries – here’s why

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the worst in recorded history. There have been in excess of 7,400 cases and 3,439 deaths, primarily in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More recently, the spread of…
Time to run. Time to run. Mytoenailcameoff

Rabies – a global killer that dog jabs can eliminate

Chacha, a farmer and businessman from northern Tanzania, returned home from market one afternoon to find that his family’s newly adopted puppy had bitten five of his children. The puppy had been playful…
A Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) in the wild near Melbourne. A Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) in the wild near Melbourne. Raoul Ribot

Colour variability in Crimson Rosellas is linked to a virus

Despite its name, the Crimson Rosella is perhaps Australia’s most colour-variable bird and a cause of this striking and beautiful diversity seems to be a disease that’s potentially deadly to many other…
Most agree that if an individual is likely to die and an experimental therapy has a reasonable chance to prevent death, then it should be given. Most agree that if an individual is likely to die and an experimental therapy has a reasonable chance to prevent death, then it should be given. EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

Fast-tracking access to experimental Ebola drugs

The current outbreak of Zaire Ebola virus in Western Africa is the largest ever recorded. More than 1800 people have been infected and nearly 1000 people have died. But while drug therapies are close to…
Liberia’s lack of infrastructure. Liberia’s lack of infrastructure. Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Tackling Ebola: isolate, hydrate and educate

Our understanding of Ebola has increased considerably since outbreaks of a mysterious haemorrhagic fever caused by an unknown virus first occurred in Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo…
As long-frozen parts of Earth thaw, it’s inevitable that old viruses will be unearthed. What risks do they have to humans? As long-frozen parts of Earth thaw, it’s inevitable that old viruses will be unearthed. What risks do they have to humans? Gerolf Nikolay/Flickr

Ancient viruses sound scary, but there’s no need to panic

You may have seen recently that scientists recovered and “revived” a giant virus from Siberian permafrost (frozen soil) that dates back 30,000 years. The researchers raised concerns that drilling in the…
Most biologists argue viruses aren’t alive because they can’t replicate by themselves. Most biologists argue viruses aren’t alive because they can’t replicate by themselves. Tom Thai/Flikr

Explainer: what is a virus?

It may seem like a fairly fundamental question, but there is still debate over whether viruses should be considered a form of life. The diversity of viral infections is immense. Viruses cause everything…
Too much information could be a recipe for disaster. Too much information could be a recipe for disaster. Abode of Chaos

The next pandemic could be downloaded from the internet

Last October, scientists in California sequenced the DNA for the “type H” botulinum toxin. One gram of this toxin would be sufficient to kill half a billion people, making it the deadliest substance yet…
Primates - human and non-human - can be infected by Ebola. Primates - human and non-human - can be infected by Ebola. Chris Huh

First Ebola antibody treatment to halt deadly virus in primates

As viruses go, Ebola is one that strikes particular fear. It’s infectious and four out of the five identified strains can cause severe hemorrhagic fever, which in later stages leads to bleeding from the…
Out of the lab and into real life. Out of the lab and into real life. Mike Blyth

Africa should test smartphone microscope in the field

As a virologist working in the Gambia, the idea of a portable microscope that uses fluorescent imaging and can be attached to your smartphone to detect viruses and bacteria in the field sounds amazing…
Helpful viruses get protected by decoy viruses in the bloodstream. Helpful viruses get protected by decoy viruses in the bloodstream. Maddy Cow

Clouds of decoy viruses help cure genetic disease

The presence of foreign objects, like viruses, in our bloodstream is usually a bad thing. Evolution has created some extremely efficient immune cells that patrol the blood, seeking out material that should…
The new strain (C4a) of enterovirus EV71 has infected hundreds of thousands mostly pre-school-age children in China, Cambodia and Taiwan. The new strain (C4a) of enterovirus EV71 has infected hundreds of thousands mostly pre-school-age children in China, Cambodia and Taiwan. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is the new enterovirus or EV71?

A virus that can cause paralysis in children has been circulating in New South Wales during autumn and has recently spread to Victoria. Around 30 young children, mainly from Sydney’s northern and southeastern…
The novel coronavirus is in the same family as the SARS virus, but has some different biological features and is not as infectious. The novel coronavirus is in the same family as the SARS virus, but has some different biological features and is not as infectious. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is the new coronavirus?

Ten years ago the world was gripped by the threat of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which was caused by a coronavirus. The outbreak infected more than 8,000 people and around 800 died. Over…
Up to 80% of people who contract herpes remain completely asymptomatic. Up to 80% of people who contract herpes remain completely asymptomatic. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: what is herpes?

When it comes to sexual health, the virus that causes those tingling blisters and angry sores of genital herpes is often the most reviled and feared. Most cases of genital herpes in humans are caused by…
West Nile virus is responsible for a significant number of bird deaths in the United States. West Nile virus is responsible for a significant number of bird deaths in the United States. Ed Gaillard

Explainer: West Nile virus outbreak in the United States

A state of emergency has been declared in Dallas, Texas as local authorities battle an outbreak of the deadly West Nile virus. The state is on track to report record numbers of the mosquito-borne disease…
You can’t catch warts from toads, but you can from other people. You can’t catch warts from toads, but you can from other people. DaveHuth

Monday’s medical myth: warts aren’t contagious

As a general practitioner (GP), I see a lot of warts. They’re a common skin complaint that most people experience at least one in their lives. Common warts are small dome-shaped lumps on the surface of…
Vaccines are the public health measure that, after safe food and water, have saved most lives. Vaccines are the public health measure that, after safe food and water, have saved most lives. Flickr/VCU CNS

Catch cancer? No thanks, I’d rather have a shot!

A couple of years ago, I contributed to a documentary with the intriguing title Catching Cancer. We don’t normally regard cancer as an infection, so it often comes as a surprise to learn that more than…
Kate Willetts, Aug 28 2008, the first woman to receive the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. Kate Willetts, Aug 28 2008, the first woman to receive the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil. AAP

Australia can beat virus-related cancers if we only show the will

Australia has had a pioneering role in the discoveries that underpin our understanding that some cancers can be caused by infectious agents. But we still face many problems that could be solved if we only…
Mutations of the flu virus render drugs ineffective for treating infected patients. Mutations of the flu virus render drugs ineffective for treating infected patients. Leonid Mamchenkov

Marvellous mutants: how nimble flu viruses outsmart drugs

The United Nations Food and Agricultute Organisation is warning authorities to be on high alert after a mutant strain of bird flu was found to be spreading across Asia. While bird flu hasn’t traditionally…

Research and News (4)

Research Briefs (16)

Bacteria versus virus in oceanic war

The most abundant bacteria on record are also the hosts of the most abundant viruses, a result found by researchers from…

Genome of malaria parasite sequenced

Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of the malaria-causing parasite, plasmodium vivax. The parasite shows the…

Raw sewage full of unknown viruses

Raw sewage could be home to thousands of novel, undiscovered viruses, some of which could have implications for human health…