Colin Russell, Royal Society University Research Fellow at Cambridge University in England, studies how viruses develop and spread, in the hope of finding new ways to prevent disease.
In this lecture entitled ‘Viruses travel tricky routes’, recorded as part of the Science-Inspired Tales series, Dr Russell says understanding how “clever” viruses are can help us to outsmart them. Each virus has its own unique ways of spreading to new victims, he says.
“For example, rabies makes animals paranoid and thus more likely to bite other animals and spread the disease to new hosts,” says Dr Russell, adding that rabies-infected animals also avoid water which increases the concentration of viruses in their saliva.
Influenza has a different strategy, according to the renowned Cambridge scientist. He explains how seasonal influenza viruses survive and change, and why it is necessary to have a new flu vaccine every year.
“Unlike many other viruses to which we develop immunity after infection, influenza has the capability to infect us many times in our lives. After a year or a few years our bodies won’t recognise the virus as something we’ve been infected against before. That’s why we have to be vaccinated every year to keep pace with the virus.”
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