Earlier this year an influenza virus animation spread on YouTube just after the emergence of swine-origin influenza H1N1. I invited readers to criticise the animation which contained several errors.
A much better depiction of influenza virus animation has been created by XVIVO. It’s not only more beautifully rendered, but is scientifically much more accurate.
A slightly different version of the same video can be found at npr.org, but I prefer the video at XVIVO. The main problem is that NPR has added voice-over by Robert Krulwich. I find his narration annoying – he seems to be speaking down to the viewer, and he simplifies viral replication to the extent that what really occurs is obscured. For example, after the influenza virion is taken into the cell by endocytosis, Krulwich says
…and down it goes deeper and deeper and that welcoming structure disperses, and the virus capsule bursts and out comes the secret recipe for how to make more viruses and those little noodly things…
I don’t know what a virus ‘capsule’ is, but I assume he’s referring to the enveloped virion. And it doesn’t ‘burst’ – rather the viral and endosomal membranes fuse, allowing the viral RNAs to enter the cytoplasm. I understand that he’s trying to make virology accessible, but there are ways to do that without bending the truth. I think that Krulwich should take Influenza 101.
And ‘secret recipe’ and ‘noodly things’? Teaching does not work if you insult the students.