About

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 manipulations 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 five podcasts: This Week in Virology, This Week in Parasitism, This Week in Microbiology, This Week in Evolution, and Urban Agriculture. You can find them all on iTunes or at MicrobeTV. I teach a virology course each spring at Columbia University, and I post videocasts of each lecture at the course website, at YouTube, 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; on YouTube, where I posts videos about viruses; or on Instagram, or the This Week in Virology page on Facebook. 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

Disclaimers

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 do not constitute endorsements of those sites.

Vincent Racaniello

205 thoughts on “About”

  1. 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?

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

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  8. 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

  9. 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.

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  27. Dr. Racaniello,

    Thank you for providing this site and all of the excellent information and good will to those seeking a better understanding of viruses. I am a recent “eavesdropper “of TWIV so my knowledge of archival topics is severely limited. Ivermectin appears to be an efficacious therapeutic for early on-set SARS CoV-2 and came to my attention via my family internist. I am hoping to receive your critical perspective of the FLCCC protocol? Please find attached link below:
    https://covid19criticalcare.com

    (First Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance)
    https://covid19criticalcare.com

    It is with great pleasure that I look forward to the benefits of your broadcasts and blogs .

    Warm regards
    Carl Fullerton MS

  28. Dear Professor Racaniello; I am professor emeritus in Molecular Biology. I used to work in the lab and to teach a lot, now I am still active in Science propagation fields. I am reading your “Virology” lectures, 2020 and 2021 , admiring the content and style of lecturing, and caring about recent additions about the viral pandemic. I profit from it in my everyday work on science popularisation. I thank you very much for your talented lectures, and warm contact with students of all kinds. PLEASE, continue!
    PS I had my Covid episode and now, being senior, I am in the process of taking Pfitzer vaccine.

  29. Franklin Brunner

    Vincent,

    I am a big fan of Twiv and the all the information to educate us on virology.

    I was wondering if you are familiar with Dr. Sam Bailey’s YouTube channel and her explanations of the PCR tests. She seems credible and includes solid reference points.

    Would be interested in your thoughts.

    Regards,

  30. Christine phaneuf

    Dr vincent: Love the show twiv. I have been ill since feb 2020. Going around in circles with my drs at Kaiser in southern California. Worried and exhausted. If you can help contact me that would be much appreciated.

  31. Dr vincent: Love the show twiv. I have been ill since feb 2020. Going around in circles with my drs at Kaiser in southern California. Worried and exhausted. If you can help contact me that would be much appreciated….

  32. Sir, is there any article here which focuses on important landmarks and history of virology? I have recently started reading your blog. Couldn’t locate the article.

  33. Belén Lamas

    Dr. Vincent,
    I would like to know if microparticles of copper in face masks protect against Sars-cov2 and if they do it, I’d like to know how.
    Regards from Chile.

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  37. I’m reading your blog article on lexicon of viral particles.
    Dude, you refer to a viral particle in paragraph five as “Reproducing”…..ok, you hurt your credibility and next you’ll be trying to say they metabolize and “eat”……but if you do, you are part of the lexicon problem and not the solution. Duhhhhhh hint/plot twist: They can only replicate, they need the mechanisms of hosts to replicate. They don’t reproduce. Just like they don’t metabolize.

  38. Dr. Racaniello,

    Really enjoy your podcasts on YouTube! Very informative! It’s helpful to hear your pre-media and pre-politicized answers to the very serious questions and concerns around COVID.

    Question for you and your colleagues: (Perhaps you could post this question on your next podcast?)

    Our kids (and us, the parents) will be almost 2 weeks out from their (our) first Pfizer vaccines when they will begin mask optional public school next week. We’re a little nervous about it as we know they likely will not wear masks due to peer pressures, etc. From the data you and your colleagues are aware of, should we feel they (we) are still reasonably protected? Also, would it be prudent to wait longer for dose 2, as I understand 8 – 12 weeks spacing appears to be more effective in the long run? Would potential side effects be lessened by spacing out the vaccines?

    Thank You Very Much!
    Mickey

  39. Can you comment to this ?

    I posed a question to a friend of mine that is in the Biopharma business, she heads up a lab that assays vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. Her specialty is particle characterization. Her lab is part of Operation Warp Drive.

    I asked about the mRNA proteins and antigens and a whole lot of other stuff of concern. I’d like to know if she is anywhere near correct in her statement, she would like to know as well.

    Here is her reply.

    “Oh lord that is a good question. I just know from all the data we have collected over the years on them in our lab, typically an antigen is manufactured at commercial scale, purified and then injected. These RNA’s instead ‘manufacture’ the protein in the patient’s body. My many years of experience is that no lab anywhere has ever manufactured a 100% pure batch of product. So, not only would I expect that the RNA product itself isn’t 100% pure, but then you gotta think about that RNA now going into a body and then ‘manufacturing’ the real protein of need. In my mind this RNA product will likely have the same result as a manufacturing process in our tanks. It will use your body to manufacture the protein, but what does that protein look like once it is ‘expressed’ in your body. I guarantee you that all protein produced is not 100% pure or accurately folded, scares the beejeezus out of me. The company can make the RNA that ‘should’ express the right protein, but there is no way to 100% test what the protein that it makes in a patient’s body truly is. They can do experiments to ‘mimic’ what happens when injected, but at the end, there is no way to prove what really happens in a patient’s body post-injection. In my opinion.

    Thanks for reading
    Hollis

  40. I recognize that the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine is more robust than immunity gained “naturally” from Covid-19 infection, how do you clearly explain this to the anti-vaxers?

  41. This paragraph in an article relating to Ecohealth Alliance triggered in me great concern of biological material gathered for research in a locked down laboratory.  Might the gathering and subsequent centralized locations of collected material be a multuliplier event long before lockdown and purpose of research?
    Said paragraph (s);
    EcoHealth Alliance and Daszak have been working with Shi Zhengli, a virologist at the WIV, for more than 15 years. Since 2014, an NIH grant has funded EcoHealth’s research in China, which involves collecting faeces and other samples from bats, and blood samples from people at risk of infection from bat-origin viruses. Scientific studies suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus most likely originated in bats, and research on the topic could be crucial to identifying other viruses that might cause future pandemics. The WIV is a subrecipient on the grant.

  42. I need help!
    My 38 years old son started to feel weakness in his legs in the middle of September, he went to his NYU doctor and did send him to a neurologist and he asked him to go to NYU Hospital to have some test, after MRI, lumbar puncture and a lot of blood test was diagnosed with Guilliain Barre , he had 3 infusions of GAMUNEX . In his blood work they found the virus cytomegalovirus / CMV. Suggesting that this virus is associated with GBS, after 3 weeks , in his blood work the virus is still present, my question is if there is any antiviral for this virus that can help him recuperate faster?
    Thank you

  43. I have multiple autoimmune disease(Sjogrens with internal organ involvement, Hashimoto(graves, post radioactive iodine, Celiac and pernicious anemia). I also have been diagnosed with a mast cell disorder( from interstitial cystitis biopsy) and Fibromyalgia. My bloodwork shows active EBV since 2016. I have interstitial lung( never smoked), enlarged liver(never drank) and EPI. I am a 65 year old female who is 5’4” and weigh 94 lbs despite efforts to gain weight.
    I received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine 3/31/2021. I had what could be called a hyper reaction, I had a fever of 102, uncontrollable shakes, migraine, digestive problems, extreme fatigue and body aches. I was flat in bed for 4 days and afterwards had flares in Sjogrens and Fibromyalgia. My pulmonologist DR David Davin(Syracuse,NY) suggested I pose the following question)to you. Should I get the Johnson and Johnson booster or one of the mRNA boosters. My family DR suggested the possibility of a reduced(pediatric strength) vaccine because of my size.
    I would be very grateful for any insight you may have on what action I should take.
    Many Thanks
    Constance Heagerty

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