Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Since I came to the United States many people have been telling me to get get the Gardasil vaccine against the virus HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, a member of the  Papovavirus family).This disease is considered as a STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease), since it requires direct contact to be transmitted so using a condom should also reduce the risk of transmission. This virus causes Genital warts, however that is not why it is considered to be so dangerous. This virus causes genital warts by infecting the squamous epithelial tissue that is exposed due to tears in the skin that leaves the skin extremely vulnerable. When the HPV infects those layers it causes increases the cell growth by stopping the suppressor proteins (that have the job of inhibiting cell growth at that layer of the skin), this leads to the growth of the skin outwards which leads to the formation of warts. For the warts the only way to treat them is to remove them. However this is not the worst thing that could happen as the virus can cause cancer when it integrates into the cell’s DNA. The formation of the cancer happens primarily in women whre the most common type is cervical cancer.The best solution for this infection is prevention, since the complications can cause problems and increased cancer risk in the future. The prevention methods as was mentioned earlier include acquiring the vaccine Gardasil, and the use of a condom during intercourse.

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Even though I come from the Middle East I am extremely surprised that I did not know about a disease that is named after the Middle East since it actually started there. This disease is  MERS (which is the abbreviation of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). This disease was first diagnosed in the Middle East as the name suggests, but more specifically in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The causative agent of this is a virus known as the coronavirus,  MERS-CoV. This disease has a very high mortality rate that could reach all the way up to 50%. The symptoms of this disease are like any other respiratory disease however more severe as the mortality rate entails. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The virus was named coronavirus because its shape was compared to that of a crown, and that is evident in the picture where it is circular and has round spikes around it

(Photo credit: Cynthia Goldsmith, Maureen Metcalfe, Azaibi Tamin).Image

Even though MERS-CoV is extremely virulent and causes a high mortality rate, the rest of the coronaviruses are not as virulent and are common and will infect a person throughout their life time. One important exception is the SARS-CoV (initial outbreak in Asia in 2003) that is extremely similar to MERS-CoV and just as virulent. For the infections that are caused by the Coronavirus there is no treatment, but you can reduce the risk of getting infected by being hygienic and following the protocol if you are in contact with sick people. This virus is extremely interesting and the virulent types are recent, therefore still require a lot of research, however it is one of the extremely interesting viruses, since not only does it look like a crown but it can cause diseases that range from mild symptoms to severe respiratory symptoms.


When I first went to Microbiology class I was given a book called “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston. I thought it was a funny thing to do for a microbiology class, like why would we get a non-fiction book to read. When I started reading I directly fell in love with some of the viruses that it was talking about, as weird as that sounds. The description of what these small viruses were able to do was epic it seemed so vivid that I could clearly visualize it. The two viruses both cause hemorrhagic fever, and they are related since they belong to the same family of viruses that are known as Filoviridae. Those two viruses are Ebola (the red structure in the picture) and Marburg (The green structure in the picture). As is evident in the picture I drew those viruses have two very similar structures, filamentous to be exact, the only difference is that  is that Ebola tends to take the fish hook structure at the top, while the Marburg virus tends to loop into an almost six figure. Another difference between these two viruses is that they trigger different antibodies. When they infect the body they both act rapidly, causing initially the normal symptoms of a viral infection which include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, the feeling of weakness, headache and some other symptoms. However in later stages the patient starts vomiting black blood, in addition to internal and external hemorrhage, which in most cases is fatal. The fatality rate for these diseases are usually ranging from 50-90%, since the only treatment is supportive care and there is no known treatment or vaccine. These viruses come from Africa are suspected to have an animal host, and most likely originated in caves. The only way these viruses spread is by contact with blood and body fluids, which is basically why the patient bleeds out until he dies. As horrible as that sounds these two viruses had me bewildered, I heard of hemorrhagic fever, but I have never actually heard of the extent to what it can do, or the damage that can be done to the patient. There is work being done to figure out a cure or even a vaccine, but it is extremely hard (mutation rate just like other viruses) and not just that it is extremely dangerous to deal with Ebola and Marburg. Those two are the reason I fell in love with microbiology and research, viruses, and bacteria are extremely small but have the power to cause a lot of damage but not only to us humans but to other primates as well. They are simply fascinating organisms.


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