Biology 409

BIOL 409

Catalog Entry

BIOL 409
Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory(4).

Prerequisites:  A grade of "C" or better in BIOL 131, BIOL 132, BIOL 231, and BIOL 232

An introduction to viruses, with emphasis on pathogens of humans. Topics include viral replication cycles, host-virus interactions, evolution, transmission, non-viral agents, and medically and agriculturally important viruses. Emphasis will be placed on reading, presenting, and discussing primary literature. The laboratory will demonstrate handling, propagation, diagnosis, and evolution of viruses.

Detailed Description of Course

Lecture topics may include, but are not limited to:
•    Impact and history of viruses
        o    Discovery
        o    Influence on the human population
•    Classification and structure
        o    Baltimore classification (based on mode of replication)
        o    Genome structure (RNA/DNA, single- or double-stranded, etc.)
        o    Virion structure (i.e. structure of the virus particle)
•    Replication
        o    DNA virus replication
        o    RNA virus replication
        o    Special instances (e.g. RNA virus replication in the nucleus)
•    Transmission
        o    Mechanisms of entry into the host
        o    Mechanisms of transmission from the host
•    Immunity to viruses
        o    Interferons
        o    Innate, nonspecific responses
        o    Adaptive responses
        o    Vaccination
        o    Reactivation of latent virus infections
•    Viruses and cancer
        o    Normal cell cycle and perturbations by viruses
        o    Retroviruses
        o    Hepatitis viruses
        o    Papillomaviruses
•    Prions and viroids (subviral infectious agents)
        o    Prion replication and disease induction (e.g. mad cow disease)
        o    Alternate hypotheses to the prion hypothesis
        o    Viroid replication and plant disease
•    Specific viral infections (examples given, but these may change depending on current and recent outbreaks)
        o    Orthomyxoviruses
        o    Influenza viruses
        o    Reverse-transcribing viruses
        o    Human immunodeficiency virus
        o    Hepatitis B virus
        o    Orthobunyaviruses
        o    La Crosse virus--a mosquito-borne virus
        o    Sin Nombre virus--a rodent-borne virus
        o   Tomato spotted wilt virus--a thrips-borne virus of plants
        o    Herpesviruses
        o    Herpes simplex types 1 and 2
        o    Varicella zoster virus
        o    Emerging or reemerging viral infections
        o    Chikungunya virus
        o    West Nile virus
        o    Nipah and Hendra viruses
•    Emerging topics in Virology (recent advances/discoveries in the field)
Laboratory topics may include, but are not limited to:
•    Cell culture
•    Proper handling, propagation, and manipulation of viruses
•    Diagnosis of viral infections by:
        o    Serology
        o    Polymerase Chain Reaction
•    Evolution
        o    Development of antibody-escape mutants
•    Complementation (the ability of two mutant viruses to generate normal virus characteristics)
•    Neutralization (prevention of infection by antibodies)
•    Isolation of human enteric viruses from environmental sources
•    Isolation of mosquito-borne viruses from wild-caught mosquitoes
•    Simulated epidemic transmission of viruses and effects of vaccination

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

In addition to attending lectures, students may be expected to present primary literature for discussion and give a mini-lecture to the class on a specific virus. Specific topics may vary depending on “current virology events;” examples from the past several years would include SARS, West Nile, or pandemic influenza. In the laboratory, students may perform experiments that demonstrate important concepts in virology and report their results in the style of scientific publications. These experiments may use viruses that infect bacteria as models for human and animal viruses; these do not present a safety risk to students. However, several labs would use potential human pathogens (possibly including influenza viruses, La Crosse virus, or others) that are listed as BioSafety Level (BSL) 2 agents. Several BSL2 bacteria are currently used safely in the microbiology course. Our current microbiology lab meets the minimal qualifications of BSL2, and the proposed agents would not pose a significant threat to infection via aerosol or cutaneous infection from lab manipulation, and simple personal protection measures are adequate safety measures. Detailed guidelines for BioSafety may be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webiste (

Goals and Objectives of the Course
Having successfully completed this course, the student will be able to:
•    Describe the various classes of viruses based on genome and virion structure
•    Explain the virus replication cycle in terms of what the virus needs from the host
•    Describe mechanisms by which viruses cause disease and the body’s response
•    Manipulate and identify viruses using several laboratory techniques
•    Read and evaluate primary scientific literature

Assessment Measures
Depending on the topics covered and the instructor, students may be assessed through quizzes and exams on lecture material, student presentations of primary literature and specific viruses, and discussion of literature. Laboratories may be evaluated through formal and/or informal laboratory reports, quizzes, or practical exams.

Other Course Information

Review and Approval

January, 2010

July, 2010