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As this is my last blog entry I will be discussing a very dangerous issue. This issue deals with viral drug resistance. As dangerous as the threat of the increased bacterial drug resistance is, the viral drug resistance is just as dangerous. There are several reasons to why viral drug resistance is dangerous, but one of the main reasons would be the fact that viruses have a very high mutation rate. This issue has been one of the main reasons to why it is very problematic to find a treatment for HIV. Since HIV has an unbelievably rapid mutation rate. In addition to HIV, several influenza strains have been proven to be to several of the agents that are being used to treat it. This poses several questions, including whether we are producing drugs as fast as the viruses are developing the resistance against them. This issue seems to be like an on-going war where the viruses, even though hindered, are always a step ahead of us.

Their extremely rapid mutation rate is, however, not the only reason. Another major reason would be how the drugs themselves are being administered. The more the viruses are exposed to the antiviral agents, the more likely they will adapt and become resistant, therefore becoming even more virulent to us humans. As was mentioned earlier several unanswered questions arise. Including should antiviral agents be administered without the physician being a hundred percent positive that a certain disease is absolutely caused by a certain virus? Should pharmaceutical companies continuously work on new drugs since their production is both an expensive and long process? Should we humans be scared? Should we be threatened?

There is only way that these questions could be answered and that is through continuous research that involve both the viruses (it seems like we know too little about them) and drugs that could be developed. In addition to that the drugs themselves should be administered safely. That means that their administration should be both safe and controlled (only administered when required). Otherwise we could be safe practicing hygienic and preventive techniques to avoid contracting a viral disease.

In this blog I will be covering a disease that almost everybody had at least once in their lives. This disease is known as conjunctivitis, or more commonly known as “pink eye”. There are several pathogens that cause disease; these include both bacteria and viruses. However in this entry three of the main of the viruses that cause this disease will be discussed which are measles virus, adenovirus, and Herpes simplex virus (HSV).  These viruses when dealing with conjunctivitis have the same modes of transmission, effect on body and complication. Initially to contract this virus there has to be direct contact, an example would be rubbing the infected the eye of the person that has the disease and then touching the hand of another person who will, in turn, accidently touch their eye and get it infected. The reaction to this would be a cytopathic effect (is damage that virus causes when it invades the cells of the host), which results in the inflammation of the eye. This could evolve to keratitis, which in its superficial state heals and doesn’t leave scars, but in its deeper states in effects layers of the cornea, which causes scars and damage to the vision. There is no known vaccine for conjunctivitis but it usually heals rapidly and without any complications if the patient is using the eye drops that are prescribed by the physician or any other method.  Since not being careful could lead to keratitis, as was mentioned earlier, and could lead to scarring that is quite evident if it reaches the deeper levels of the cornea.

When I was just four years old, I was fooling around at a zoo, which was typical behavior for me. I was trying to feed a monkey and the monkey reacted by almost biting off my index finger. I wasn’t sure what had happened but I definitely had a big smile on my face, even though my parents were screaming and shouting several words. The only word that stuck in my head was “rabies” because they were saying it repeatedly with urgency. The other reason I remembered that word was because I had to go get another shot (vaccination) to make sure I didn’t contract rabies. At that time I had no idea what rabies was, but after taking medical microbiology and going more in depth into the topic I realized that rabies is indeed a very dangerous disease, where if contracted and no vaccination is obtained the person who acquired it will eventually die. Rabies is a viral disease that is caused by a virus known as Lyssavirus, which comes from the virus family of Rhabdovirus. This virus is transmitted through direct contact with the infected animal, so me getting beaten by a monkey would have done the trick if the monkey was actually infected with the virus. This virus works by infecting the muscles at site of the bite and then the typical symptoms of a viral infection (fever, malaise, headache). However there is another factor to this disease. The virus is transported to the CNS causing neurological symptoms to develop, the main one being hydrophobia, while other symptoms include hallucinations, seizures, and the patient going into a coma. As the symptoms show, contracting this disease can be extremely dangerous and precautionary measures must be taken immediately otherwise the patient might face the risk of death.

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.

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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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