In 2003 a strange new disease called SARS traveled the globe, killing hundreds. It looked unstoppable. But an unprecedented international public health response broke the chains of transmission within months. SARS was a primer for the future’s lurking viral threats: basic research combined with surveillance, rapid communication and intervention are key to “defusing” the next pandemic.  read article

Master of microevolution

HIV so far has evaded every attempt to subdue it, but it’s not without its weak points. Scientists are making steady progress in their understanding of the virus’ life cycle and how it disarms the immune system. The result: a plethora of potential new drugs, brightening prospects for a vaccine and even the creation of a “good” HIV.  read article

Anthony Fauci: Unfinished business

For more than 20 years, Anthony Fauci, M.D., has been leading much of the government's fight against AIDS. Although he qualifies for Medicare, this intellectually tough physician-scientist isn't ready to retire. There's too much to do -- help find an AIDS vaccine, build defenses against a potential bioterrorist attack, and prepare for the next big emerging infection.  read article

Retroviruses, engineering and the future of science

Two of the nation’s most prominent Nobel laureates—David Baltimore and Harold Varmus—iscuss recent scientific advances, including the potential to “engineer” the immune system to prevent viral infections, as well as the changing roles of government and the private sector in advancing the research enterprise, and the need to improve the public’s “science literacy.”  read article

“It’s not impossible at all”

Beset by frequent political turmoil and gaping poverty, Haiti has the highest HIV infection rate in the Western Hemisphere. Yet thanks to intensive public health and research efforts, the nation’s AIDS burden appears to be declining. If progress can be made “in this chaos, we know it can be done everywhere,” says pioneering Haitian physician Jean Pape.  read article

Like everyone else

Reggie Bragg is a 17-year-old high school student who likes to work on cars and go skateboarding in the afternoons. Most days he would rather play Tony Hawk games on his X-box than do his homework, but school is “alright” for Reggie, and he has some serious plans for his future.  read article

The infection connection

What lights the fires of chronic inflammation? Persistent infection is the culprit in some conditions, including ulcers. There is evidence that it may play a role in multiple sclerosis and premature labor as well.  read article

Secrets of a deadly virus: seven potential ways to stop HIV

Step 1:
The viral envelope protein, gp120, which is highly coated in sugars, docks to the CD4 receptor and a co-receptor on the surface of the T cell. This causes the envelope protein to change shape, allowing a previously hidden part of it, gp41, to “spring open” and seize the cell membrane like a grappling hook.  read article

Guest editorial – Bill Frist, M.D.

The AIDS epidemic is the world’s most urgent public health need. It is also the greatest humanitarian and moral crisis we confront. More than 40 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, a disease that kills more than 8,000 people every day according to the World Health Organization.  read article

A vaccine primer

Vaccines are designed to “teach” the body’s immune system to recognize and fight off invading pathogens. They do this by mimicking a natural infection, because they look like disease-causing agents, either in whole or in part. Types of vaccines include:

Live, attenuated vaccines
Viruses aren’t “alive” in the sense that they can reproduce by themselves; they must hijack the machinery of the cells they infect in order to make copies of themselves. By “live,” scientists mean that the viruses used in these vaccines are still capable of infecting cells, but the viruses have been “attenuated,” or weakened, so they cannot cause disease.  read article

Promise and hope

Twelve years in the life of Reggie Bragg, who was infected with HIV at birth. The story continues with “Like everyone else.”  read article

A Cautionary Tale

While the global press has latched on to potential bioterrorism agents like smallpox and anthrax, experts in virology have warned that the next great pandemic, or worldwide outbreak, most likely will be a form of the flu. The recent outbreak and continuing persistence of avian influenza reinforce the need for constant vigilance and support of vaccine development.  read article

Polio: The Fight Continues

The near-eradication of polio is one of the most remarkable public health achievements in the history of the world. Yet, ironically, 50 years after an effective polio vaccine was first introduced, public health officials are now faced with re-fighting a battle they thought they’d already won.  read article

Ernest Goodpasture and the Mass Production of Vaccines

In 1796, the English doctor Edward Jenner inoculated the 8-year old son of an itinerant farm hand with the cowpox virus. Two months later, and on several subsequent occasions, he deliberately exposed the boy to fresh smallpox sores. Just as Jenner suspected, the boy never developed smallpox because his early exposure to cowpox—a related virus that does not cause disease in humans—provided lifetime protection against its more dangerous relative. Questionable ethics aside, Jenner is generally considered a medical pioneer—proving that vaccination could protect against a lethal disease.  read article

A beautiful problem to study

The battle against HIV actually had its beginnings during the “war on cancer”—years before the first AIDS case was reported.

In the 1960s, scientists were trying to figure out how certain viruses could cause tumors. One result of that research was the discovery of reverse transcriptase, the enzyme that allows RNA viruses to make DNA copies of themselves inside the cells they infect. Viruses that do this are called “retroviruses.”

By the time AIDS came along in the early 1980s, scientists were able to test tissues and blood for the presence of reverse transcriptase. The detection of the enzyme was an important clue that the disease was caused by a retrovirus. It led—in 1984—to the simultaneous discovery of HIV in the laboratories of Drs. Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier.  read article