Calling all virologists - important events in virology needed!
August 15, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm preparing a timeline of important virology-related events for work. We have some HIV-related and some bacteriophage-related material as well as some cancer-related stuff and some "greatest hits" (x-ray diffraction patterns, transduction, discovery of interferon). I'd like to expand our timeline to cover more diverse kinds of virology-related stuff.

So basically, tell me what you think of as the important events in virology - what's considered key in your area of study. What are key discoveries or events?

I'm also interested in the social side - international research, women virologists, virologists of color - and in the epidemiological/public health side of things. So it would be appropriate to include, for example, protests over access to treatment, or particular social concerns about the spread of a disease.

And we're a little bit short on "important things that have happened since 2002".

I made a timeline some years ago which is pretty hit-and-miss (and has a terrible, terrible selection of important non-virology events alongside it - I'm older and wiser now and will update this). I'd like to make a better one.

We use the timeline or parts of it on the web and on posters - it's not quite at the Formal Official Highly Serious level, but it needs to be as good as I can get it. There is space for fun stuff, if you can think of fun virology stuff.

I am not myself a virologist, so basically what I know about virology is almost entirely derived from researching version one of the timeline. Thus, it's really easy for me to miss out on whole important aspects.

Thanks very much for your help!
posted by Frowner to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is a very recent development, but it strikes me as being significant, given the increasing interest in the human microbiome. Thus far, research on the microbiome has tended to focus on bacteria. Perhaps viruses are just as important?
posted by alex1965 at 8:20 AM on August 15, 2014

Perhaps not exactly germane to virology, but I'd love to see the distant past of your timeline depicted as when giant viruses roamed the earth.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:39 AM on August 15, 2014

I happened to see this recently: The Virus That Changed My World

It is dated 2003. The name suggests it was written by probably an Asian woman. It is about SARS-related research ("...viral pandemic in southern China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Canada, and Singapore left the scientific community stunned.").
posted by Michele in California at 9:49 AM on August 15, 2014

I don't know if any database out there keeps a good list of when complete viral genomes were first sequenced, but they (the CDC and a group from Mt. Sinai) pieced the 1918 flu genome together in fall of 2005. If you can find a few more of those, you might have some interesting recent data points.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:24 AM on August 15, 2014

Oh, and for fun: perhaps something from the Wikipedia category Fictional Viruses?
posted by deludingmyself at 10:28 AM on August 15, 2014

The ability to generate viral plaques on a cell culture, pioneered by Renato Dulbecco and Marguerite Vogt in the early 1950s (important 1954 paper here), is pretty important. It allowed for strain purification, strain classification, virus concentration measurement, and proved that only a single virus particle is required to infect a cell.
posted by pjenks at 11:42 AM on August 15, 2014

I bet you could contact Vincent Racinello who runs the TWiV (This Week in Virology) podcast ( or one of the other hosts. IIRC, they do a best of at the end of each year and their podcast has been around a while (at least 4 years I think). Dr. R is a polio researcher. One of the hosts is female (Kathy Spindler) who does adnoviruses. Dr. Rich Condit does stuff with pox viruses. The other hosts are Alan Dove who studied with Dr. R and is now a science writer and Dixon Depomier (sp?) who was a parasitologist and an old friend of Dr. R.

They're constantly reviewing the literature and the guests they have on are great. Some of it might be above your head (it certainly is mine) but you can pick up on general themes quite quickly.

Two books I recently read are
Viruses, plagues, and history / Michael B.A. Oldstone. (there is a newer version with a slightly different title)
No time to lose : a life in pursuit of deadly viruses / Peter Piot with Ruth Marshall (about the first Ebola outbreak as well as HIV)

And the other book I can't recommend strongly enough is
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot.

Related to the last, HeLa cells. I'd start with the Wikipedia page (it's a pretty good overview) and I'm pretty sure there's a TWiV episode too.

Can you tell I like virology? Or maybe I'm just a nerd at heart.
posted by kathrynm at 7:32 AM on August 16, 2014

The eradication of rinderpest is an important, recent event in the history of humanity's relationship with the world of viruses.
posted by reren at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2014

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