Viruses have a big impact on our lives, and this podcast gives them their due

From The Washington Post
January 7, 2018

Ever ask yourself what’s the latest on viruses?

Don’t blame yourself if you haven’t. It’s easy to forget that the tiny particles, which hijack host organisms and use them to replicate, even exist. If you are sick, you are more likely to pay attention: Viruses are responsible for infections including the common cold, pneumonia and hepatitis.

Enter This Week in Virology, a podcast that makes it worth considering viruses more often. It’s hosted by Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia University professor, along with other virology experts.

Together, the team picks apart the latest news in virology and discusses big-name viruses, such as Zika, HIV and influenza. The show sheds light on a field that’s expanding all the time and that presents difficult questions to scientists.

One recent episode, “Call me fish meal,” tackles Bodo saltans. This giant virus — the largest ever seen — was first found in a freshwater pond in British Columbia. It infects a flagellated eukaryote, a hairy-looking microorganism that is common in water. One of just a handful of known giant viruses, Bodo saltans is challenging what scientists think they know about the infectious agents. The podcast gets into why, offering a fascinating look into the leviathan and the outsize mysteries it presents.

Read more