Explainer: what is viral load?

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to a raft of new terminology in the past two years, with important implications for the safety of our population. Now that the majority of Australians are fully vaccinated, it’s important to understand the concept of viral load. What is viral load? This term refers to the amount of … Continue reading Explainer: what is viral load?

Why are viruses considered non-living?

Viruses: living or non-living? Viruses are responsible for some of the world’s most dangerous and deadly diseases, including influenza, ebola, rabies, smallpox and COVID-19. Despite their potential to kill, these potent pathogens are in fact considered to be non-living, as alive as the screen that you are reading this article on. How is this possible? … Continue reading Why are viruses considered non-living?

Ebola resurfaced: some viruses are never really gone

Seven years after the last Ebola epidemic in Guinea, the virus has once again raised its ugly head, with 23 cases and 12 deaths in a new outbreak. They were caused not by a spillover of the virus from animals to humans, but by latent Ebola hiding inside surviving patients. What is Ebola? Ebola virus … Continue reading Ebola resurfaced: some viruses are never really gone

Even koalas need a virus PCR test

As if they weren’t struggling enough from predators and loss of habitat, koalas also suffer from a virus unique to their species. Koala retrovirus (KoRV) causes the immune system to become weak and makes its host susceptible to disease or cancers – particularly leukaemia and lympoma. The virus can be passed between koalas when they … Continue reading Even koalas need a virus PCR test

Super-fast Hendra test

Tests for the deadly Hendra virus, most often found in horses but transmissible to humans, can be quicker than ever thanks to a new diagnostic point-of-care testing kit that can detect the pathogen in less than an hour, according to its developers at the University of Queensland (UQ). Hendra was first detected in 1994, in … Continue reading Super-fast Hendra test

How far can SARS-CoV-2 travel into the airways?

SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted by aerosols – tiny particles delivered through coughing, sneezing and talking that remain suspended into the air. When we inhale, these aerosols are ingested into our airways, carrying COVID in with them. A team from the University of Technology (UTS) Sydney has for the first time applied a mathematical model to understand … Continue reading How far can SARS-CoV-2 travel into the airways?

COVID-19 news and trends

The numbers Rising COVID-19 numbers in the US and Europe are alarming national leaders (in most cases) and leading to new lockdowns and predictions of winter case peaks. In the US, cases are reported increasing in 41 states – the biggest surge since August – and insufficient testing may be contributing to under-reporting of new … Continue reading COVID-19 news and trends

Nobels start with a double triple

The start of Nobel Prize week in 2020 has been very much a shared experience. Last night, Australian time, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that three Laureates would share this year’s prize in Physics for their discoveries about one of the most exotic phenomena in the Universe, the black hole. This follows Monday’s … Continue reading Nobels start with a double triple

How COVID-19 can affect our sense of smell

US researchers think they have discovered why people with coronavirus sometimes lose their sense of smell, even when they have no other symptoms. If they are right, it could also mean a particular part of the nose is a prime area for providing a foothold for COVID-19 – and one to target with antiviral therapies. … Continue reading How COVID-19 can affect our sense of smell

Be alert but not alarmed

By Ian M Mackay, University of Queensland Researchers have found a new strain of flu virus with “pandemic potential” in China that can jump from pigs to humans, triggering a suite of worrying headlines. It’s excellent this virus has been found early, and raising the alarm quickly allows virologists to swing into action developing new specific … Continue reading Be alert but not alarmed

Measles may be much older than we assumed

Measles may have emerged as early as the sixth century BCE, according to a new study of some old samples. That is 1400 years or more earlier than current estimates, the researchers write in a paper in the journal Science, and would mean the virus likely developed alongside the rise of large urban centres throughout … Continue reading Measles may be much older than we assumed

Why are there so few antivirals?

As the end of the second world war neared, mass production of the newly developed antibiotic penicillin enabled life-saving treatment of bacterial infections in wounded soldiers. Since then, penicillin and many other antibiotics have successfully treated a wide variety of bacterial infections. But antibiotics don’t work against viruses; antivirals do. Since the outbreak of the … Continue reading Why are there so few antivirals?