Viral Fossil Records: A Look into the Past! (and the Future?)

by Misha Guptafigures by Xiaomeng Han For close to two centuries, humans have been studying the biological past using fossil records. In recent history, we have added the ability to reconstruct the sequence of our DNA to our arsenal. Furthermore, phylogenetic trees (structures that define the evolutionary relationships in the line of descent from a common ancestor) have been created for all manners of organisms, … Continue reading Viral Fossil Records: A Look into the Past! (and the Future?)

The Human-Tuberculosis Arms Race

by Sanjana Kulkarnifigures by Corena Loeb The bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) has been infecting humans for thousands of years. Today, TB, which is thought to have originated in Africa and evolved alongside human hosts, is found across the globe and causes 1-2 million deaths annually, making it the second leading infectious disease killer after COVID-19. As new COVID-19 variants keep emerging, we can observe the … Continue reading The Human-Tuberculosis Arms Race

Vaccine hesitancy: More than a pandemic

by Edward Chen Historical evidence shows that developing safe vaccines is necessary to protect the world from deadly diseases. But that’s only one part of the solution. After all, what’s the benefit of having vaccines that people don’t want to use? Enter vaccine hesitancy. Defined by a World Health Organization (WHO) working group as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of … Continue reading Vaccine hesitancy: More than a pandemic

How do COVID-19 vaccines work? Hear from a researcher who helped develop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

by Edward Chen The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed rapid technological advancements as scientists and engineers mobilize to combat its toll on human lives. Time is of the essence, and after rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, there are now 3 vaccines with emergency approval in the United States that are all based on relatively new concepts. Two of the vaccines are based on messenger RNA … Continue reading How do COVID-19 vaccines work? Hear from a researcher who helped develop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

It’s Not All about Microbes: Genetics and susceptibility to infections

by Aleks Procherafigures by Shreya Mantri  The past year and a half have been a time of profound uncertainty. We all wish we could gaze into a COVID crystal ball and get answers to our burning questions. Some of us would want to know how long the pandemic will last. Others, however, especially those who have never received a positive result, would likely seek an … Continue reading It’s Not All about Microbes: Genetics and susceptibility to infections

Mutation Madness: How and why SARS-CoV-2 keeps changing

by Sophia Swartzfigures by Shreya Mantri The first reports of a mysterious, pneumonia-like illness surfaced in early December 2019. Fast-forward to 2021, and the culprit—SARS-CoV-2, a virus a thousand times smaller than a speck of dust—has sickened more than 111 million people, infected all seven continents, and killed approximately 2.5 million.  The toll of COVID-19 is heart-wrenching and borders on dystopian. Our pandemic present is … Continue reading Mutation Madness: How and why SARS-CoV-2 keeps changing

The “Covidization” of Science: Short-Term Necessity or Problematic Over-Reaction?

by Christopher Rotafigures by Daniel Utter The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of American society, including the lives of scientists. The past year has seen many researchers dramatically shift the focus of their work, as experts from across different disciplines came together to study this novel disease and develop potential therapies. The National Institutes of Health, the United States’ foremost public biomedical research agency, … Continue reading The “Covidization” of Science: Short-Term Necessity or Problematic Over-Reaction?

The Challenges of Large-Scale COVID-19 Testing

by Jaclyn Long figures by Tal Scully A year into the pandemic, many people still struggle to get tested for COVID-19. By some estimates, asymptomatic transmission can account for up to 50% of all new cases, making regular testing of people who don’t yet (or might never) show symptoms a key part of a public health strategy to control the virus. Despite the effectiveness of mass … Continue reading The Challenges of Large-Scale COVID-19 Testing