A new genetic tool maps how deadly viruses spread around the world in real time

Source:  https://qz.com/920836/a-new-genetic-tool-maps-how-deadly-viruses-spread-around-the-world-in-real-time/

Summary:  Advances are continually being made to better deal with epidemics, such as Ebola and Zika, on a global scale. Researchers, Richard Neher and Trevor Bradford, developed a genetic tool that maps how viruses spread in real time. They termed their invention NextStrain. Although it can’t yet predict the outbreak of a virus, this tool is particularly useful in tracking the spread of a disease once it has begun its invasion.

Connections: With our recent lecture regarding viruses, I found this to be a perfect article to highlight the advances being made in the field of virology to monitor and potentially limit global epidemics.

Critical Analysis:  What was interesting to me about this article was that this project was founded during the peak of the Ebola epidemic. This makes me wonder how useful this form of technology would have been prior to the outbreak. Although this seems like it could be groundbreaking for the field of virology, I feel that there could potentially be issues with this genetic tool. One limitation to this technology is getting more scientists to support it and use it. Many are skeptical to using it because many scientific journals require that data not be shared with society until publication. Also, the Open Science Prize is currently funding this project. Once funds run out, they’re unsure if any public-health agency will take it over and keep it running it.

Questions:  Based on what these two researchers have been able to do with targeting the spread of viruses, is there any current research being performed that attempts to determine which mutation will give the virus the  potential to initiate  an epidemic?

A2: Microbes in the News Assignment

Microbes in the News !

Over the course of the semester, post 3 different stories involving microbes  from the popular media and then read and comment on 3  posts by other students.


Points: Total possible = 30 points. Earn up to 8 pts for making a post and 2 points for posting a comment. Create 3 posts and 3 comments over the course of the semester.

Deadline: All posts and comments must be made by April 24 to receive credit.


Learning Objectives:

– Increase your awareness of microbiology and its role in society

– Expand and apply your knowledge of microbiology

– Practice critical thinking by analyzing popular news media for scientific accuracy

– Develop questions about microbiology

– Help your peers and yourself understand microbiology by answering their questions



Over the course of the semester, create 3 separate Microbes in the News posts on the course website, and then read and comment on 3 Microbes in the News posts by other students. Be sure to follow the guidelines below in order to qualify for  full credit.


Guidelines for creating a post:

Article and link: Enter the title, source, and date of the article and create a link to it. Articles should be from any popular media source (newspaper, magazine, podcast, blog,  etc.) that others can access without hitting a paywall. Any relevant story is acceptable, but challenge yourself to find stories that are current (~within the last 3 months) and that haven’t yet been posted by your peers, whenever possible.

Summary: Write a short summary of the story (just a few sentences is sufficient).

Connections: Explain briefly how this connects to what we’ve covered in class.

Critical analysis: Explain what you found interesting about this story, and what (if anything) you learned. Comment on whether you think the story was scientifically accurate or not. If you noticed any factual inaccuracies or aspects of the story that might inadvertently confuse or misinform readers, identify those and provide a more accurate explanation. Also comment on how this was written. Do you think it did a good job of communicating science to the public? Why or why not?

Question: Write a question about microbiology that you had as a result of reading this story.

Categorize: Categorize your post as “A2: Microbes in the News’ using the categories menu on the right. This will ensure I can find it and give you credit.

Tag: Tag your post based on any relevant microbiological themes by choosing from the tag menu (below categories on the right). Use existing tags when possible, but you can add new ones if needed by clicking “+Add New Category’ link just below the list of tags. This will help us find stories on relevant themes. You can also use these tags to search for other students’ stories on themes that interest you.

Guidelines for commenting on a post:

– Read the news story and the students’ post about it

– Create a comment and write a response to their critical analysis. Do you agree, disagree, or have more to add?

– In your comment, answer their question to the best of your ability. This might require some independent research.