The purpose of this blog is to teach you about viruses and viral disease. This topic is not one that everyone understands, yet nearly everyone would like to. I was most disturbed when the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy G. Thompson, referred to the anthrax bacillus as a virus. That incident crystallized in my mind the need to better educate the public about viruses.

I am your host at virology blog – Vincent Racaniello Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology & Immunology in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Why am I qualified to teach you virology? I have done laboratory research on viruses since 1975, when I entered the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Sciences at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine of the City University of New York. My thesis research, in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Palese, was focussed on influenza viruses. That’s me in the black and white photo below, taken in 1977. Yes, I’ve changed.

Vincent Racaniello 1977

In 1979 I joined the laboratory of Dr. David Baltimore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I did postdoctoral work on poliovirus. The moratorium on cloning full-length viral genomes had just been lifted, so I proceeded to make a DNA copy of poliovirus RNA, using the enzyme reverse transcriptase. I cloned this DNA into a bacterial plasmid and determined the nucleotide sequence of the poliovirus genome. In an exciting advance, I found that a DNA copy of poliovirus RNA is infectious when introduced into cells. This was the first demonstration of infectivity of a DNA copy of an animal RNA virus, and it permitted previously unthought of genetic manipulation of the viral genome. Today infectious DNA clones are used to study most viruses.

In 1982 I joined the faculty in the Department of Microbiology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City. There I established a laboratory to study viruses, and to train other scientists to become virologists. Over the years we have studied a variety of viruses including poliovirus, echovirus, enterovirus 70, rhinovirus, and hepatitis C virus. As principal investigator of my laboratory, I oversee the research that is carried out by Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows. I also teach virology to undergraduate students, as well as graduate, medical, dental, and nursing students.

Since I think about viruses every day, and I have always been interested in teaching others about viruses, this blog seemed to be an ideal forum to convey some of my knowledge on this topic.

After starting this blog, I became interested in using ‘new media’ (internet-based media) to disseminate information about viruses. I’ve summarized my use of this format in an article entitled “Social media and microbiology education“, which you can find at the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens. In addition to writing about viruses on virology blog, I also host and produce three podcasts: This Week in Virology, This Week in Parasitism, and This Week in Microbiology. I teach a virology course each spring at Columbia University, and I post videocasts of each lecture at the course website, at iTunes University, and at Coursera.

If you would like to learn about our work on viruses in more detail, please visit my website at Columbia University, or my Wikipedia page. You might also like to follow me on Twitter or Google+, where I often provide links to interesting stories about viruses. I have also written about my work on this site; links to some of these articles are provided below.

Earth’s virology course

Thirty years in my laboratory at Columbia University

Edwin D. Kilbourne, MD, 1920-2011 (his influence on my career)

Thirty years of infectious enthusiasm

Transgenic mice susceptible to poliovirus

Viruses and journalism: Poliovirus, HIV, and sperm

Poliovirus on BBC radio

Viruses and journalism: Off-the-shelf chemicals

Poliovirus is IRESistable


All of the opinions that I write on this blog are mine, and in no way represent the views of my employer, Columbia University. This information is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. If you think you are sick, see your doctor. Links to other sites to not constitute endorsements of those sites.

Vincent Racaniello

  • Rishat

    As-salaam alaikum By the will of Allah I have immunity against many infectious diseases. I have immunity against Ebola. By the will of Allah checked by a psychiatrist is quite adequate. At the request of the Administration of the President of Russia 2 times went to a psychiatric hospital. And thank God for the testimony of hospitalization were found.

    .Bolnoy Disabled 2 groups from childhood on two internal incurable disease By the will of Allah 17 years doing sports outdoors. Moonlighting distributor of newspapers in Almetjevsk. Sick not diabetes mellitus of other types. I drink a lot of water. On the recommendation of Allah saw on the Internet. Judging by the Internet can drink up to 20 liters of water a day, if not to take medicine. But Allah Almighty allowed me to take medicine. And with the permission of Allah, offer to make a vaccine against Ebola on my blood serum. PS. Since 2006, although not sick with influenza had often had the flu. Enter at risk as a distributor of newspapers .With Almighty Allah I have strong immunitet.Bely house and CDC sent letters to clarify I propose to make a vaccine for antibodies in my blood, not of my bloodphone +79046762574

  • Luís Amaral

    Hey, can you help me? I need some information about ebola virus, his protein, mutations. Do you know anyone that could help me?

  • Ahmereen Khan

    hello.. is it favourable to use plaque assay to detect viruses in raw eaten fruits and vegetables???? help plz

  • Linda

    I am a student from China. Last year, I saw a little deserted dog (immature) which was infected by the Canine Parvovirus (CPV). The veterinarian said that it was the dog’s fear of desertion which had caused the CPV to infect it. I thought the claim was too ridiculous. Dr. Vincent, I know you are not a veterinarian, but could you kindly help me to find the true cause of the CPV and how dogs can prevent from it?

  • Linda

    Dear Dr. Vincent
    I am a student from China. I am very interested in your virology passages although I cannot understand all of them. Last year, I have heard a virus called Canine Parvovirus (CPV) which does harm to dogs and sometimes causes dogs’ death. The vet said that when dogs got deserted, they were usually infected by the virus. However, I still do not understand how this virus infect dogs. Dr. Vincent, have you heard about this kind of virus? Could you kindly give me a detailed explain of CPV? Thanks a lot!

  • Linda

    This website has ebola’s detailed explain. Go and check it yourself.

  • Lynn

    Hello Dr. Racaniello,
    Thank you for taking the time to teach the public about viruses. Your blog is scientific yet accessible to non-medical people. I found this site in a quest to learn more about the latest medical thoughts on acute flaccid myelitis. My daughter’s dear friend, a beautiful, healthy high school student has just been diagnosed with this. She went from healthy to completely paralyzed and on a ventilator within hours. I have been reading about the possible relationship between flaccid myelitis and the enterovirus 68. Is something new emerging with this relationship? She is reportedly 1 of only 100 cases in the country, with a cluster in Colorado in September. I appreciate any light you can shed. Thank you again for your work.

  • Lynn

    Dr. Racaniello, I have read the articles you posted on your blog and everything I can find on acute flaccid myelitis. I guess my question is – are there any new developments, treatments, theories?

  • George

    Vincent, I need a good egg light like the one in the photo on your blog from Dec, 10th 2009 on influenza virus growth in eggs so the egg is lit up. Do you have any preferences?

  • http://iteror.blogspot.nl/ F Gerard Lelieveld

    Hear hear, virologists like to complain that the public is unaware and calls them bio-terrorists, but if someone from the public raises an informed question they’d rather not know. Vincent, if you silently move to other reasons why this dual use research poses no harm, namely: “ferrets are not humans”, so we don’t know if the virus does anything harmful, then you hide your mistakes under the table. Is that what virologists do, hide their errors? When the ferrets broke loose in St.Jude and the BSL3+ lab worker had a cut in the gloves, we are lucky the employee didn’t hide that fact. Besides, the ferret model for influenza is supposed to come closest to the way humans are infected, that’s why ferrets are used in the first place. Here’s a picture of Troy C. Sutton, “responsible” for the new contageous deadly bird flu virus. http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Troy_Sutton I’d rather put my trust in you Vincent.

  • kathy

    where do I find information for a virus settling in your major joints?

  • lasma

    Would you like to know more about no modified anticancer virus called Rigvir? Check vwww.virotherapy.eu or callme +49 157 33725592, lasma@viroterapia.es

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  • Jordan Thomas


    I am soon to finish my Bsc in Microbiology and have been offered the opportunity to study a Masters degree in virology, investigating Herpesviruses.

    It has been difficult to save up money for this during my time at university and so now I lack the required funds. This is a huge opportunity for me and I would deeply regret losing out on it because of money problems.

    Any donations would be greatly appreciated, Thank you.


  • Ravindra Bahl

    Are virus intelligent

  • Ravindra Bahl

    What is intelligent vaccine?

  • Ravindra Bahl

    are viruses young women lover

  • nigel

    Hi, apologies if this is a silly question but I’m new to this area of study. I have been looking at negative sense single stranded RNA virus genomes which are of course surrounded by nucleoprotein. I’m led to understand that this prevents base pairing in replication. I’m also led to believe, perhaps incorrectly that negative sense single stranded virus RNA genomes have secondary structures. If so is the secondary structure covered in nucleoprotein or have I got it completely wrong? Would be really grateful for some help on this matter. Thanks

  • Andy Davies

    My wife suffers from HPV related conditions (intraepithelial neoplasia – VIN, CIN and AIN). none of the neoplasia has become cancerous, however during flair ups the condition is painful and can be persistent for some weeks. There has been talk of resection of the affected tissue with surgery. however the root cause of the condition (HPV) will remain and during period of lower immunity because of stress etc. as a result I consider it likely that the neoplasia will manifest itself again post surgery. do you consider this to be the case also. Is surgery even an option as all cells are probably infected. Also why do viral infections that manifest as skin complaints appear to return in the same locations every time, like cold sores. thanks for your assistance.

  • Seth Caldwell

    I’m surprised I haven’t heard more news about https://www.hhmi.org/news/radical-vaccine-design-effective-against-herpes-viruses – never heard you bring it up, but it seems very promising! Loved your coursera class and follow your blog and this week in virology – maybe it was mentioned there when I was on vacation

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