Signal to Noise Special Edition: Infectious Disease

Articles in this special edition:

Understanding Ebola Fears & Viral Mutations

Joseph Timpona

An Introduction to Infectious Disease

Tiffany Hsu

Plagues of the Past: Bubonic Plague

Fernanda Ferreira

Chikungunya Virus on the Move

Ann F. Durbin

Challenges in Neglected Tropical Diseases

Rachel Cotton

Regulatory Approval of Treatment for Ebola

Li Zha

Smallpox Inoculation in Boston, 1721

Matthew Niederhuber

The Arms Race Between Germs and Medicine

Vivian Chou

Challenges in Care for Dengue Fever

Mary Gearing

Interviews in this special edition:

Mosquito Hunters: An Interview with Dr. Dan Neafsy & Perrine Marcenac

Rachel Cotton


Words from the editors:

In the wake of the recent Ebola epidemic, the world has never been more acutely conscious of the threat of infectious disease. Our experiences with diseases as diverse as bubonic plague, smallpox, and HIV/AIDS has taught the world that infectious disease affects more than those who come into direct with the microbes in question; the mere nature of such epidemics and pandemics, spread reliably only through social interaction, direct interpersonal contact, and widespread travel between previously geographically isolated parts of the world, makes them not only a medical phenomenon, but also a cultural one.

In the past couple centuries, the popularization of vaccination and the advent of antibiotic discovery have endowed us with tools to combat many, but not all, diseases caused by microorganisms. However, the existence of drugs does not always guarantee treatment, particularly in countries lacking in medical and political resources. Alarmingly, most microorganisms can also use rapid evolution to their advantage, acquiring resistance to our drugs of choice and consistently thwarting the methods of modern medicine. Despite recent advances in microbiological research, the bugs always seem to be one step ahead.

Diseases are much easier spread than cured. But the development of tools to combat them necessitates increasing our knowledge of the microbes behind them, as well as the sociopolitical barriers we have yet to overcome.

Can we learn from our experiences with pandemics of the past, and apply our current knowledge to prevent future recurrences? Do we truly need to be worried about an airborne strain of Ebola? How have we managed to acquire diseases once only restricted to other mammalian species? What are the sociopolitical implications of a thus far incurable disease spread by human-to-human contact? How can we address the disparities in care for tropical diseases? Can heavily relied-upon treatments – antibiotics, antiviral drugs – have negative consequences for the “good” microbes that populate our bodies? And, for that matter, are the foreign microbes we encounter always “bad”? In our winter special edition of Signal to Noise, we address these questions and more.

January 1, 2015.

Happy reading,

Signal to Noise Editorial Staff


Special thanks to…

The editing team: Vivian Chou, Tyler Ford, Natasha Goss, Elizabeth Jaensch, Jamie Lahvic, Entela Nako, Katherine Rogers, Yutong Shan, Kevin Sitek, Kelsey Tyssowski, and Katherine Wu

The graphic editors: Kaitlyn Choi, Brian Chow, Anna Maurer, Shannon McArdel, Clarissa Scholes, and Kristen Seim