Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Tools to Hunt New Viruses

Fiona Staunton                                                                                                            May 2013
Current Event # 2                                                                                            Biology 10H

            Within the last year, two new, rapidly evolving diseases have hit both Asia and the Arabian peninsula. These disease have killed nearly 60 people, combined. More than 15 new strains of diseases have hit the globe in the last 20 years. However, many people are not worrying about these new diseases. Scientists are now taking a stand and working to stop the spread and creation of these new diseases. As the new diseases crop up, people are left with no prevention. Scientists are now using rapid gene sequencing to try and find a cure and cause of these new disease strains. Also, people re now posting their symptoms on many online websites, such as WebMD and ProMED so that if people are suspicious, they can compare their symptoms and catch the diseases quicker. These new tools could potentially save many, many lives.
            These new technologies are extremely important to not only the field of science, but to humans everywhere. Many people know of the Spanish Flu in 1918, that killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide. Many people have heard about the deadly Black Plague in Europe which killed between 75-200 million people. Imagine if we had a serious outbreak of disease that wiped out people in such numbers? There are new diseases that are now spreading in the world, all of them extremely dangerous. The fact that scientists are spending more and more time trying to contain these diseases and find causes and cures, it extremely important in saving many people’s lives. It is also very important that countries are now working together to aid each other with new diseases, as the article wrote. The World Health Organization now considers covering up an outbreak of a disease a violation. This article is also relevant to our biology class, as we are studying genes.
            I found this article to be extremely interesting and important, however there were some key parts missing. The article only mentioned rapid gene sequencing once – which was not enough. I found that I had to Google myself what this new technology was in order to better understand it. Because rapid gene sequencing is so important to hunting new viruses, I feel that it should have been better explained. Also, in general, I felt the article did not go into depth about what scientist were actually doing to stop these new disease, which is the main point of the article. I found that too much of it was spent explaining the diseases rather than what was going on to stop them. However, overall I found this article to be interesting and extremely relevant to humans everywhere.


  1. One positive thing dealing with Fiona's response is her ability to keep the reader "turning the pages" with seamless grammer and excellent use of vocabulary. The way she interwove the data and factual information from her article in formulating a magnificent response was well done as well. For example, Fiona states "15 new strains of diseases have hit the globe", rather than saying a lot of new diseases have come about. Lastly, Fiona's critical response to the article in her final paragraph displayed that while reading her article she actually used thought and intuition.
    I was very surprised at the spread and growth of new deadly diseases throughout the world. Also, I was aware of the tragedy of the black plague, but I can't say I was informed that the disease killed up to two hundred million human beings. That number is catastrophic and explains why that plague in particular is so heavily discussed.
    The response was very well written except for one aspect. I felt that the information from the article was almost used too often throughout the response. An easy tweak, but more personal feedback would have improved the response.

  2. Fiona's analysis of the article was very sound, pointing out that it didn't particularly explain in depth the tools to hunt for these viruses which is what I suppose it was supposed to be about considering the title. She did a good job of talking about how every day people are reacting to this, (referring to the fact people are posting symptoms to popular medical websites like WebMD) and reiterating the importance of finding ways to stop all these new strains by reminding us of two very prominent events in history where a mass amount of people were killed (Spanish Influenza and Black Plague).
    I do wish she had explained more of the stuff she did read in the article, such as the description of the diseases that were mentioned in the article. She also mentioned that she decided to look up rapid gene sequencing which sounds fascinating. I would have loved to learn what it was exactly, and how they can actually find a cure to these virus from knowing their DNA sequence. Not particularly necessary since she did cover her article in its entirety, but some more would've made it even more interesting.

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  4. in this post fiona was able to summarize the passage well but also had its flaws, but knew what she was explaining, and made the article seem interesting.
    For example in an area where she made the article seem very interesting was the statistics of past diseases, and being able to gene sequence rapidly and be able to post DNA strands online for many people to see. things within this article and review that fascinated me was the plagues how it had an impact and about the new diseases spreading. things that could've made this review potentially better would be to elaborate on the tools WebMD and PROMED, or summarize more of the tools used instead of focusing a lot on the diseases that occurred long ago, as the passage is about "new tools to hunt new viruses".
    She also could've tried to explain more about rapid gene sequencing as one may be clueless to what it would mean. overall the review Fiona posted made it seem interesting to learn more about it.