Viruses on Time

Poliovirus recently made the cover of Time magazine. Prompted by a reader question, I searched the Time archive to find out if there have been other virology-themed covers. I found fifteen in all, depicting poliovirus (3), herpesvirus (1), HIV/AIDS (4), influenza (5), and SARS coronavirus (2) (I did not distinguish between US and international editions).

The earliest virus-themed cover that I found has Jonas Salk on the cover of the 29 March 1954 issue. Behind Salk is an image of poliovirus particles, probably drawn from an electron micrograph. Salk’s field trial of inactivated poliovirus vaccine had begun in 1954, and in April of the next year the results would be announced:

Jonas Salk

John Enders made the cover of the 17 November 1961 issue, with poliovirions in the background. Enders had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954, along with Weller and Robbins, for being the first to propagate the virus in cell culture. This finding paved the way for Salk’s vaccine work.

John Enders

Viruses were not on the cover of Time for 23 years. The 2 August 1982 cover did not have a virus image, but touted herpes simplex virus as ‘Today’s scarlet letter”:

herpes

The 4 July 1983 cover featured disease detectives and AIDS:

AIDS

AIDS returned on 12 August 1985, this time with an image of HIV:

AIDS threat

The 3 November 1986 cover featured the giant headline VIRUSES with a colorized scanning electron micrograph in the background. AIDS was also mentioned:

Viruses

The Man of the Year for 1996 was virologist David Ho, who graced the cover of the 30 December 1996 issue, with virions reflected in his glasses. This is one of the coolest of the Time virus covers, in my opinion. Naming Ho Man of the Year was fully deserved and helped propel the virology field into the spotlight it deserved.

David Ho

The cover of the 23 February 1998 issue features the flu hunters and a background electron micrograph of influenza virus. This story followed the 1997 outbreak of influenza H5N1 in Hong Kong:

Flu hunters

The Hong Kong outbreak was also featured on the 9 March 1998 cover, with influenza virions in the green lettering:

Flu hunters 2

The SARS outbreak made the 5 May 2003 cover. There were two versions distributed in different countries:

SARS

SARS Nation

Avian influenza was later featured on two more covers, 9 February 2004 and 26 September 2005:

Bird flu

Death threat

The 2009 influenza H1N1 pandemic was on the cover of the 24 August 2009 issue:

H1N1

And the latest virus on the cover is poliovirus, 14 January 2013:

Killing polio

Did I miss any?

The following covers did not feature viruses but were certainly relevant to virology. The antiviral interferon was featured on the 31 March 1980 issue:

Interferon

Herbert Boyer, one of the pioneers of recombinant DNA technology, was on the 9 March 1981 issue:

Herbert Boyer

The 23 May 1998 cover featured a story on how the immune system fights off disease:

Immune system

Science under siege (sound familiar?) was the story on the 12 September 1994 issue:

Science under siege

The 12 September 1994 Time cover asked if we are losing the war against infectious diseases:

Killer microbes

 There have been 6,169 Time covers, and viruses have been featured on only fifteen. I understand that Time is not a science magazine, but I think it could do more for virology, and science in general (there were other science themed covers that I found, but not that many more).

I wonder how many viruses have been on the cover of Newsweek? Life Magazine? Scientific American?

TWiV 213: Not bad for a hobby

On the final episode of the year of the science show This Week in Virology, the TWiV team reviews twelve cool virology stories from 2012.

You can find TWiV #213 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.

TWiV 194: Five postdocs in North America

On episode #194 of the science show This Week in Virology, Vincent returns to Madison, Wisconsin and meets with postdocs to discuss their science and their careers.

You can find TWiV #194 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.

TWiV 185: Dead parrots and live Wildcats

On episode #185 of the science show This Week in Virology, Vincent visits with members of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Northwestern University School of Medicine to discuss their work on herpesviruses and parainfluenzaviruses.

You can find TWiV #185 at www.microbe.tv/twiv.

TWiV 132: Virology 911

alfred sacchettiHosts: Vincent Racaniello, Rich Condit, Dickson DespommierAlan Dove, and Alfred Sacchetti

Vincent, Rich, Alan, and Dickson speak with Alfred Sacchetti, MD, Chief of Emergency Services at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, about viral infections encountered in the emergency room.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #132 (48 MB .mp3, 100 minutes).

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Weekly Science Picks

Al – The Physics of Superheroes and NKT Watch
Dickson –
Fibonacci Fun by Trudi Hammel Garland and Rachel Gage
Rich – Retraction Watch
Alan – Neil deGrasse’s comments on UFOs, argument from ignorance, and scientific method (YouTube)
Destanie
Microcosm by Carl Zimmer
Vincent – The intestinal microbiota and viral susceptibility

Listener Pick of the Week

Jim  – Extraordinary Measures

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TWiV 115: Color me infected

brainbow pseudorabies virusHosts: Vincent RacanielloAlan DoveRich Condit, and Marc Pelletier

On episode #115 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Alan, Rich and Marc discuss the finding that a limited number of incoming herpesviral genomes can replicate and express in a cell, and controlling viral replication in Aedes aegypti with a Wolbachia symbiont.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #115 (84 MB .mp3, 117 minutes).

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Marc – Homebrew bioreactor (photo, movie) – culture bottle and drive, oil-free vacuum pumps
Rich –
Logitech Harmony Universal Remote
Alan – H.M.S. Challenger Reports
Vincent – Sequence of the strawberry genome and blog post by lead author

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TWiV 106: Making viral DNA II

the 5prime end problemHosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, and Rich Condit

On episode #106 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent, Dickson, and Rich continue Virology 101 with a second installment of their discussion of how viruses with DNA genomes replicate their genetic information.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #106 (69 MB .mp3, 95 minutes)

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Links for this episode:

  • Figures for this episode (pdf)
  • Letters read on TWiV 106
  • Video of this episode – download .mov or .wmv or view below

Weekly Science Picks

Rich – Google Health
Dickson – The Neandertal genome
Vincent – Lab techniques videos (thanks, Erik!)

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Bats harbor many viral sequences

How large is the zoonotic pool – all the animal viruses that could one day infect humans? Assuming that there are 50,000 vertebrates on earth, each with 20 viruses, the number is one million – probably a vast underestimate. Determining just how many viruses exist in a variety of animal species is technically feasible, limited only by the number of hosts that can be sampled. A study of the virome of several North America bats reveals that these animals – which constitute 25% of all the known mammalian species – harbor a very large collection of viral sequences.

Advances in nucleotide sequencing technologies (deep sequencing) have made it possible in recent years to study the virome – the genomes of all viruses in a host – in human blood, diarrhea, and respiratory secretions; grapevines, and feces of horses and bats. The latter mammals are a particularly important subject because it is known that they harbor the predecessors of several important human viruses, including SARS coronavirus, ebolavirus, marburgvirus, Nipah, Hendra, and rabies viruses. Since there are about 1200 known species of bats, the potential for future human zoonoses is significant.

A multicenter group comprising virologists* and chiropterists (scientists who study bats) has examined the virome of three North American bat species: big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus), and little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). Deep sequencing was used to analyze fecal and oral samples from 41 bats captured on one night in Western Maryland. The results provide a comprehensive glimpse of the bat virome.

The 576,624 sequence ‘reads’ (a read is the result of a single sequence reaction, in this study ~250 nucleotides) on six pools of fecal samples revealed an amazing diversity of viral sequences (figure), with representatives of human, other mammals, insect, bacteriophage, fish, shrimp, protist, reptile, plant, avian, fungi, algae, and marine viruses. Among the interesting findings are sequences of three novel coronaviruses from big brown bats. Many coronaviruses have previously been found in bats; the results of this study provide more evidence that these mammals are likely to be sources of future human infections.

Novel viruses of plants and insects were also identified in fecal samples from all bats. This observation can be explained by the bats’ prodigious appetite for insects, which harbor both insect or plant viruses (the latter transmitted to plants by insect vectors). It seems unlikely that these viruses replicate in bats, but pass through the gastrointestinal tract into the feces.

Perhaps not surprisingly (given the diversity of bacteria that colonize mammalian intestinal tracts), sequences of novel bacteriophages were also identified in fecal samples. One appears to have high sequence identity with a bacteriophage that infects the plague bacterium Yersina pestis. Curiously, such bacteria are not known to colonies animals in the northeastern United States. A second bacteriophage infects strains of E. coli associated with human illnesses. These findings suggest that bats could be involved in the spread of human bacterial pathogens.

The main viral sequences identified in pooled oral samples were of a novel cytomegalovirus. These viruses appear to be common in bats, and have been been detected in many previous studies.

One question that arises from these findings is whether bats are unique in harboring a large collection of diverse viruses. The answer to this question awaits studies of the viromes of other wild animals.

Viral discovery by massive sequencing will no doubt identify many new viruses in a wide range of species. However, this technology cannot answer some of the more intriguing biological questions, such as which hosts support viral replication, and whether it is associated with disease. Answers to these questions will require construction of complete DNA copies of viral genomes and recovery of infectious viruses by transfection of cells in culture.

The title of this post is ‘Bats harbor many viral sequences’, not ‘many viruses’. That’s because no infectious viruses were identified – only parts of their genomes. If you wish to conclude that a certain virus infects bats, you must either isolate the virus in cell culture, or show that the entire viral genome is present in tissues or fluids.

*including Eric F. Donaldson and Matt Frieman, who spoke about this work on TWiV 90 and 65.

Donaldson EF, Haskew AN, Gates JE, Huynh J, Moore CJ, & Frieman MB (2010). Metagenomic Analysis of the Virome of three North American Bat Species: Viral Diversity Between Different Bat Species that Share a Common Habitat. Journal of virology PMID: 20926577

TWiV 84: Gators go viral

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Rich Condit, Dave Bloom, and Grant McFadden

On episode #84 of the podcast This Week in Virology, Vincent and Rich spoke with Dave Bloom and Grant McFadden about their work on herpesviruses and poxviruses in this episode recorded before an audience at the University of Florida, Gainesville – home of the Gators.

This episode is sponsored by Data Robotics Inc. Use the promotion code TWIVPOD to receive $75-$500 off a Drobo.

Win a free Drobo S! Contest rules here.

Click the arrow above to play, or right-click to download TWiV #84 (71 MB .mp3, 99 minutes)

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Rich Charles F. Littlewood photographs
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Not so humble pie (thanks, Sophie!)
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DavidIs Parkinson’s Disease a prion disorder?

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What color is a virus?

neuronconnThe Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2008 was awarded to Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP. Dr. Chalfie’s contribution was to show that GFP could be used as a genetic tag by producing the protein in the transparent roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. Who was the first to insert the gene for GFP into a viral genome?

The GFP gene was first inserted into the genome of potato virus X, a plant pathogen. One to two days after inoculation of the recombinant virus onto plants, regions of the leaves fluoresced bright green when illuminated with UV light. Animal viruses followed several years later, with insertion of the GFP gene into the genome of adenovirus. Infection with the recombinant virus lead to green fluorescence in cultured mammalian cells and in living brain slices, suggesting the possibility of using this technology to trace neuronal connections. This potential was subsequently realized when recombinant viruses that produce GFP were used to trace neuronal connections in the nervous system of living animals. Proteins like GFP that emit light of different wavelengths have been discovered in different organisms, allowing the tracking of multiple proteins in virus infected cells.

More recently, fluorescent proteins have been used to visualize single virus particles in living cells. In an early validation of the technique, the gene encoding the herpes simplex virus type 1 VP26 protein, which is located on the outer surface of the capsid, was fused with the coding sequence for GFP. The fusion protein was incorporated into intranuclear capsids and mature virions, which produced green fluorescence in infected cells. By using such viruses, entry, uncoating, replication, assembly, and exit of single virus particles can be studied in real time in living cells. For example, the movement of HIV-1 particles labeled with GFP (by fusion with the viral protein Vpr) was beautifully visualized in cells that had been injected with rhodamine-tubulin to label microtubules.

Of course, virus particles are too small to have color. I once told this to a second-grade class as I was showing them the X-ray structures of eight different picornaviruses, each of which I had colored differently. One young man raised his hand and said “Do you make them different colors just to know which is which?” Who said you can’t teach virology in elementary school!

M Chalfie, Y Tu, G Euskirchen, W. Ward, D. Prasher (1994). Green fluorescent protein as a marker for gene expression Science, 263 (5148), 802-805 DOI: 10.1126/science.8303295

David C. Baulcombe, Sean Chapman, Simon Cruz (1995). Jellyfish green fluorescent protein as a reporter for virus infections The Plant Journal, 7 (6), 1045-1053 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-313X.1995.07061045.x

K MORIYOSHI, L RICHARDS, C AKAZAWA, D OLEARY, S NAKANISHI (1996). Labeling Neural Cells Using Adenoviral Gene Transfer of Membrane-Targeted GFP Neuron, 16 (2), 255-260 DOI: 10.1016/S0896-6273(00)80044-6

Desai P Person S (1998) Incorporation of the green fluorescent protein into the herpes simplex virus type 1 capsid. J. Virol. 72:7563-7568.

M EKSTRAND (2008). The alpha-herpesviruses: molecular pathfinders in nervous system circuits Trends in Molecular Medicine, 14 (3), 134-140 DOI: 10.1016/j.molmed.2007.12.008

D. McDonald Vodicka MA, Lucero G, Svitkina TM, Borisy GG, Emerman M, Hope TJ. (2002). Visualization of the intracellular behavior of HIV in living cells The Journal of Cell Biology, 159 (3), 441-452 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.200203150