A2: Microbes in the News – Scientists Discover Nearly 200,000 Kinds of Ocean Viruses




Researchers have assembled data from a global sampling expedition using genomic analysis and have increased the number of known oceanic viruses twelvefold.


This is a story of people using the tools which we have been using to study the viruses we have been studying and improve the body of knowledge we have in this field.

Critical Analysis:

While microbiology has been studied in some manner since the early days of science the changes in the accuracy or our tools and the price of using them can dramatically change what we are able to accomplish. This article is just one example of how much more there is to learn in this field.


With a single study able to make such a large impact on the amount known, the question becomes how much more is there to know? I would not be at all surprised to see another twelvefold increase with the next study and another after that. If there is one thing that I have learned from this class it is that the microscopic world holds a multitude of secrets yet to be discovered.

A2: Rockland County orders public space ban for those diagnosed with measles

NPR, 4/17/2019



In response to the New York City measles outbreak, Rockland County, NY has issued an order banning those diagnosed or exposed to measles from all places of public assembly. Over 550 confirmed national cases, including 186 in Rockland and 329 in NYC, have been reported this year. This marks the second largest outbreak since 2000, the first being in 2014 (667 cases) [1]. CDC officials report that the outbreaks have been associated with Orthodox Jewish communities and other travelers returning from Israel. The vaccination rate for children in Rockland is only 72%, much lower than the 90% recommended for herd immunity to be effective.


We have covered the importance of herd immunity in class, and the dangers of an unvaccinated populace exposed to a pathogen like the measles virus.

Critical Analysis:

Though many of the Health-tagged stories on NPR have an obvious political slant, this one’s information is surprisingly clear-cut. It explains the rising toll of the infection, the cause, and the societal consequences, maintaining all this within the context of the infection.


How can the public be better informed about the benefits of vaccination and the need to take protective measures against pathogens, without victim blaming, ad hominem intelligence insults, or appealing to the cult of scientism (which would further alienate those hesitant to get vaccinated)?

Additional Info:

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/04/15/713508519/measles-outbreak-accelerates-health-officials-warn

Civilization is Born – Matt Andrews


“Civilization is Born” by Matt Andrews

Artists Statement:

A virus is in some respects a pure expression of information made manifest. It is like a book, it exists and anything that happens because of what it contains is dependent on the life which reads it.

The only difference between humanity now and humanity a hundred thousand years ago is the information, be it science, culture, or other knowledge which we have accumulated and spread among ourselves.

In this piece I have drawn inspiration from viruses, to that end I havbe created a scene in a 3D program where I modeled the delivery protein structure of a virus bacteriophage including the icosohedral head, tail, base plate, and tail fibers, all of which I have scaled up to a size closer to that of a human, the DNA has been replaced with a book.


Some larger renders of this scene:

Civilization is Born

Art Project: Rise of Vilithrax

Dan Mulkey

To preface, I have been the Dungeon Master for my friends’ Dungeons & Dragons campaign this semester, which involves creating worlds and adventures, then playing them out with characters and dice within the rules of the system. While reviewing viral structure in class, I was struck by the polyhedral nature of the viral capsid, noticing that it was evocative of a D20, the most prolific die in the game and the most evocative of D&D as a concept. Using a bit of copper wire and a D20, I fashioned this small bacteriophage figure with literally $2 and 10 minutes of my time.

Of course, even I would consider this barely worth a C, so I also decided to take a bit of viral inspiration and fashion a Dungeons & Dragons encounter designed after a viral outbreak.


The problem I ran into was it being difficult to design a monster for D&D that you can’t hit with a sword, so I created a few variants on the bacteriophage design:

The first I dubbed a “crawler”, a bacteriophage without a tail, roughly the size of a small dog. These would hunt down nearby creatures (symbolizing cells) and attack with a small mouth on their underside. They would then inject “viral DNA” which, after a “lag phase”, would assemble itself into a new crawler using the host’s biomass, slowly making them sicker and more invalid. It would then burst out of the host’s chest in a spray of viscera, killing them instantly. This represented a lytic viral attack. Another variant, the “acolyte”, would have the viral DNA incorporated into their own biomass, evolving them into a sort of bacteriophage/humanoid hybrid, with their tail hidden under robes and manifesting tail fibers like a viral centaur. This was intended to be representative of a lysogenic cycle, though in this case the host is empowered by the incorporation of viral DNA.

Over the course of a 6 hour session, the heroes successfully quarantined the city, isolated healthy survivors, and detained Vilithrax, the mad priest who initiated ground zero of the infection in a crowded church. Time will tell if some phages escape the city and wreak mayhem in the rest of the world.

Art Project

The diversity of the microbial world is not only astounding, but awe inspiring. Life as we know it would not be possible without this vast microbial community and oxygenating our atmosphere, cycling our nitrogen, and fixing our carbon. These and so many other processes, allow us to inhabit this Earth and continue to thrive. However, there is still the <1% of microbes which are classified as pathogenic to humans. These microbes, do not help our quality of life but rather, can cause disease and death in our populations.


Since 2015 the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) publishes a yearly list of pathogens. These pathogens are those which have been identified to pose the greatest public health risk due to their “epidemic potential and for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures.’ (World Health Organization, 2018). The pathogens which are the subjects of my portrait collage are those of the 2018 R&D Blueprint List of priority pathogens. (https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/en/)

For my art project I have done small portraits of the pathogens listed by the W.H.O.. It should be noted that these are in no particular order. All of these pathogens are in need of further analysis as well as analysis for treatment methods which would be imperative for stalling an outbreak. One should also note that there is a “Disease X’ within this collage. There is no true disease called Disease X, but rather the potential that an as of yet unknown pathogen that could cause widespread disease epidemics is out there. It is my hope that even though my artistic abilities and nudges to 70’s rock bands may not be the best, they can introduce this information to a broader audience. Since not everyone spends their free time looking at the W.H.O. website.

-Samantha Smith

A2: Microbes in the News 3

Cold Plasma can Kill 99.9% of Airborne Viruses

Science Daily

April 8, 2019


Summary: Non-thermal plasma such as sparks from electrical discharges has proved highly effective in killing viruses in the air in just seconds. This is achieved by forcing air through a space in which electric sparks are being made.

Connections: From the classroom we have learned how viruses in many ways are a unique “lifeform” requiring sometimes unique solutions to deal with.

Critical analysis: This article is fascinating from a medical technologies standpoint. Air transmission of viruses had always been a concern as it is uniquely difficult to stop. This has a variety of potential applications, but the primary area of interest is hospitals.

Question: Do you think that this can be practically implemented in hospitals and other medical facilities.

3rd Microbes in the News: Bacteria partners with virus to cause chronic wounds

Bacteria partners with  virus to cause chronic wounds

Summary:  The common bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa,  is a  drug-resistant pathogen that causes bacterial infections of those who are immunocompromised. It commonly harbors a bacteriophage, Pf, that occupies the immune response and allows the bacteria to grow at an exponential rate. A vaccine generated by the scientists for the bacteriophage caused a significant decrease in the ability for the bacteria to grow, showing a direct correlation between the bacteriophage/bacteria and how infection can spread because of how Pf and the bacterium working together.

Connections: We have discussed bacteriophages and bacterial infections amongst humans. We have also discussed how bacteria can grow at an exponential rate.

Critical analysis: It is incredible that this was discovered. Amputations are very common amongst diabetic patients with an infected foot ulcer and a vaccine preventing the bacteriophage from infecting the immune cells could help prevent this from being so common in the future. I believe this article is easy to understand and would be easily digestible by the common public.

Question:  Do you think the vaccine could prevent amputations and severe infections in diabetics? Please explain your logic.

Lab 6 WAR -Micro to Macro

Jimmy Maynard F03


War is my artistic intent with these two painting. The first one is of a bacteriophage which represents the on going war between bacteria and viruses that is going on all around us but cant be seen by our naked eyes. The second is the type of war we hope to never see such as Pakistan and India who both have nuclear weapons and seen to always engaging in conflicts like the downing of two of Indias Air Force fighters just a few days ago.

As far as the materials used, most of the materials did not work. The inside capsid head of the bacteriophage I used my own bacterial isolate that despite being gram negative will not grow EMB plate or the MAC plate. I used E. coli because it has that nice black outline effect.

A2: Microbes in the news. Measles Outbreak.

Washington measles outbreak climbs while other states grapple with the disease -CNN


As of the new year, Clark County has confirmed 49 cases of measles. Of those diagnosed with the virus, 41 were not vaccinated with the MMR vaccination. Washington has recently declared a state emergency due to the rise of Measles cases throughout the state.

Washington isn’t the only state that has been affected by measles. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Texas have also reported outbreaks as of 2019. A total of about 80 cases this year, with children being the main attributor.

Measles used to be devastating before the vaccination was released in the 1960s, with diagnoses  being in the hundreds of thousands in the US alone. The MMR (Measles,  Mumps, Rubella) vaccination has been about 93% effective in preventing the disease and with a booster that percentage goes up to 97%. It is noted that the sudden rise in the measles outbreak is due to children going unvaccinated.

This relates to what we have discussed in class because we have talked about epidemics, such as the plague. As mentioned above, in the US alone the diagnosed measles counts in a given year were as high as 800,000 in the 60s before the vaccination.

I find this very interesting because I am curious if this will encourage more parents to vaccinate their children more since there has been a debate that vaccines are not necessary, although they have proven to be effective. I didn’t know that the measles  vaccination was so reliable at preventing this virus. It makes me really happy my parents have vaccinated me during my childhood.

I believe that this story is scientifically factual because I did my research on other websites and found the data to be consistent. I also think they did a good job of making their message concise and understandable for the general public to be able to understand.  By using common language, this important message of an outbreak in the US is able to be delivered to US citizens.

Question: How much further will the measles  outbreak progress due to the decline of parents vaccinating their children?