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Budding Virologist

Anton Scott Goustin asg at cmb.biosci.wayne.edu
Thu Mar 7 21:19:12 EST 1996

mtbike15 at aol.com (MtBike15) wrote:
>   I am a high-school student seriously interested in a carrear in
>virology or epidemiology.   Are there any courses of study that I might
>pursue in the future that would better enable me to pursue this.   Also
>are there any books that would prove useful to me.   And I don't mean
>stuff like the hot zone.   Any ideas or thoughts would be greatly
>appreciated.  Thanks!!!!
>Rick Coelho
>MtBike15 at AOL.COM
Here are two inspirational books, but easy reading, well-written and
found in all libraries (and even garage sales for $0.10):

The Microbe Hunters, by Paul de Kruif
(it starts with Pasteur and ends with Jonas Salk, who just died last

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis (1928?)
It's about Martin Arrowsmith, kid from midwestern town who aspires to
be a doctor and ends up being torn between medicine and great science.
Sinclair Lewis invents a scientist named Max Gottlieb, who discovers
"in vitro synthesis of antibodies" and then buries his research out of
dismay for the state of science.  This is 1928, more than 50 years
before B-cell hybridomas and monoclonal antibodies.  It has nothing to
do with Aerosmith.

A third neat book is Rats, Lice and History by Hans Zinsser.
It's about bubonic plague: the bacterium, the role of rats and lice,
and about the Great Plague that devastated Europe in the 1450s.

For newer stuff, try the little book called VIRUSES put out by W. H.
Freeman, the people who put out Scientific American.  Easy reading,
accurate facts, like Scientific American.

One last piece of advice.  You won't understand virology unless you
understand immunology.  There is a symbiosis, a co-evolution of host
and pathogen.  This is obvious in the case of AIDS, because the patho-
gen directly attacks the central cell in the immune response (the
T helper cell).  But it is true of all pathogens:  they evolve neat
strategies to defeat the host's immune system, like forcing the cell
they infect to hide from attack by the host's immune system.  For
example, some viruses have specific genes which force the cell to stop
making Class I major histocompatibility (MHC) proteins.  MHC proteins
allow the immune system to recognize that a cell is harboring a
pathogen; by stopping the cell from making MHC, the virus can hide
in a cell that is not recognized by the immune system.  Thus, plan
to study immunology, even though it's daunting.

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