Archive for January, 2012

Thabo Mbeki’s false knowledge

23 January, 2012

Students of HIV history may know that I have picked a number of public fights with our ex-President, Thabo Mbeki: chief among these was when two colleagues and I took him to task in Nature for being an unashamed AIDS denialist (see Retroid Raving link).

Now it appears that he has found more things to deny: it appears that as of six days ago, he does not believe in:

  •  the year 2000 (Y2K) scare
  • that Muammar Khaddafi was about to slaughter Libyan civilians
  • the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic

These disbeliefs are part of an argument he developed at a prestigious “Knowledge Management Conference” in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on January 16th 2012: he used them as examples of “false knowledge”, propagated by everyone from the Western Powers (Libya) to the pharmaceutical industry (flu pandemic),

“…which illustrate the grave challenge all humanity faces to confront the critical issues that are the subject of this important Conference, of the management of knowledge in the interests of genuine human advancement”.

His comment on the H1N1 pandemic was as follows:

The Council of Europe has asserted that false ‘knowledge’ was propagated during 2009, which resulted in billions of tax-payer dollars being spent in many countries to respond to a fictional ‘swine flu epidemic’, which benefited the globally dominant and highly profitable pharmaceutical companies.

How.  Breathtakingly.  STUPID!!  a comment.  Right up there with how he knew no-one who had died of AIDS, or how a virus could not cause a syndrome.  Amazing thing, that being ready for something can mean you can forestall it – like the Y2K problem, Crazy Muammar’s intended genocide – and flu pandemics.

As I have done before, then, an open letter to the ex-President.

Dear Mr Mbeki;

It appears that, once again, you rush in where angels fear to tread – and disbelieve the existence of a major human disease.  This time, it is not quite as serious as not believing in AIDS – however, calling into question the existence of a pandemic which killed a significant number of people, simply to further a laboured and rather contrived argument about “false knowledge”, not only betrays your profound ignorance about ANYTHING to do with viruses and disease, it also illustrates a profound and invincible antipathy to conventional medical and pharmaceutical science.

I refer, of course, to your disbelieving in the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic – which according to you, was a “fictional swine flu pandemic, which benefited the globally dominant and highly profitable pharmaceutical companies”.

Really?  A fictional pandemic?  So the WHO was completely incorrect in its repeated assessments of the global spread of a novel virus?  And the following statement from a reputable source must obviously be false?

“In the United States, there were 2,117 laboratory-confirmed deaths, yet the Centers for Disease Control estimate actual deaths in the US alone at between 8,870 and 18,300. Applying similar multiples to laboratory-confirmed cases around the world would yield 72,000 to 162,000 deaths. But that number, since it is still based on confirmed cases, still understates the deaths by a wide margin”

So are the folk who died not actually dead – or not dead of pandemic flu?  The fact is, Mr Mbeki, that we were lucky with that pandemic: it turns out the virus was actually reasonably similar to the one which was circulating prior to 1958, meaning anyone born prior to that who had that flu, was probably protected – meaning far fewer older people died than normally do in a flu pandemic.  Which, if you consider that more than 250 000 people die in any NORMAL year of influenza, means a disproportionately larger number of YOUNG people died.

From a flu pandemic which, according to you, did not happen.

You were probably lucky, Mr Mbeki: you were born prior to 1958, and so were probably immune.  You may well not be so lucky the next time – and there WILL be a next time; flu is like that.  It is not, and never has been, an invention of pharmaceutical companies – and in any case, the WHO raised the alarm, not Big Pharma.  They just made the vaccines they were asked to.

I am reminded of a famous graffito from London, sometime in the 1960s – that you may even have seen.  It went something like “God is dead – Nietzche.  Nietzche is dead – God”.

My version would be “Flu pandemic is fake – Mbeki”.

You can fill in the rest.


Ed Rybicki

Protection against Killer Flu! No, not H5N1…

17 January, 2012

Depiction of virus mixing in a pig

In an issue of Virus Research devoted to commemorating the career of Brian Mahy, who retired recently from the CDC and now as Editor-in-Chief of Virus Research, there is a paper by Taubenberger and Kash on the 1918 H1N1 flu – wherein they say the following:

“In a recent set of experiments, it was shown that mice vaccinated with the monovalent 2009 pandemic H1N1 vaccine were completely protected in a lethal challenge model with the 1918 influenza virus…”

Because the modern pandemic “swine flu” H1N1 HA protein descends directly from the 1918 virus, but in pigs rather than in humans. Remember all the hype around THAT work – resurrecting the legendary Spanish Flu, and how it would kill us all? And here we already have a vaccine, that will completely protect us.

We have vaccine candidates against H5 as well. Time for a universal flu vaccination campaign and pre-emptive strike, people!

Killer Flu hype grinds on

16 January, 2012

The Independent today has a story entitled”Killer flu doctors: US censorship is a danger to science” – thanks, AJ Cann! – which details how the folk in the Netherlands who did the work do not think the USA should not be “…be allowed to dominate the debate over who controls sensitive scientific information that could be misused in biowarfare terrorism”.

Influenza A viruses mixing in susceptible hosts


Well, yes, join the club, guys!  The article is quite reasonable – apart from a couple of points, noted below – but it ends on a suitably alarmist note “…the chances of a laboratory strain of H5N1 escaping into the wild remain high if it is stored in conventional flu-virus labs”, and “Regulators should not be sitting idly by, while the threat of a man-made pandemic looms”.  Really?  The undoubtedly very small amount of mutated flu that exists, relative to any engineered bioweapon in US or Russian labs, represents a clear and present threat to world health?

What dismayed me most, however, was how horrifyingly uninformed most of the commenters are – about H5N1 in particular, and science and science funding in general….!  As I could not comment there – Disqus broke, apparently – I will do so here.

As for labelling the article “Killer Flu Doctors” – really!  A little sensationalism, anyone??  Concerning the comment “…the details could be misused by rogue states or by biowarfare terrorists with access to rudimentary scientific knowledge and fairly standard laboratory equipment”: as a practicing molecular virologist, I can tell you that you would need a lot more than “rudimentary scientific knowledge” – you’d need skill in molecular biology, and especially in reverse genetics of (-)strand RNA viruses, as well as more than “fairly standard equipment” to even BEGIN to hope to make anything like a “killer” H5N1 from published details.

Additionally, a H5 N1 flu virus that is  aerosol transmitted in ferrets – and how efficient was that, I ask? – may NOT be similarly transmissible or as easily (if it was easy) between humans.  I will point out that people thought the SARS CoV outbreak was the “Big One” flu pandemic – but although it was aerosol transmissible, it wasn’t nearly as efficiently transmitted as the common flu, so did not spread as fast.

Thus, most of what the doomsayers are predicting could be simply hype – meanwhile, in countries far away from the US which seeks to regulate such work, the virus is already endemic, and mutating freely – and it would be VERY useful indeed to know what to look for!

When dinner could kill you: smoked chimpanzee, anyone?

14 January, 2012

ProMED Mail this morning had a rather alarming item: “BUSHMEAT TRADE, DISEASE TRANSMISSION RISK”.  They reported on a study, highlighted in a BBC report, of possible pathogens imported into the USA via bushmeat from Africa, confiscated at airports.  This in turn derived from a PLoS One paper – “Zoonotic Viruses Associated with Illegally Imported Wildlife Products“, by Kristine Smith et al., published on January 10th 2012.  Their abstract:

The global trade in wildlife has historically contributed to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. The United States is the world’s largest importer of wildlife and wildlife products, yet minimal pathogen surveillance has precluded assessment of the health risks posed by this practice. This report details the findings of a pilot project to establish surveillance methodology for zoonotic agents in confiscated wildlife products. Initial findings from samples collected at several international airports identified parts originating from nonhuman primate (NHP) and rodent species, including baboon, chimpanzee, mangabey, guenon, green monkey, cane rat and rat. Pathogen screening identified retroviruses (simian foamy virus) and/or herpesviruses (cytomegalovirus and lymphocryptovirus) in the NHP samples. These results are the first demonstration that illegal bushmeat importation into the United States could act as a conduit for pathogen spread, and suggest that implementation of disease surveillance of the wildlife trade will help facilitate prevention of disease emergence.

What was even more horrifying were the pictures of confiscated items – herewith their Figure 1.


It boggles my mind how anyone could even consider smuggling this sort of thing into anywhere – and I am hoping that the US Customs has the same sorts of detection mechanism – as in, well-trained beagles – as they used to have in Miami Airport to detect biltong [dried spiced meat] smuggled in from South Africa.  Those dogs were seriously good – trouble is, they really loved the biltong they got as a reward, too, and it makes my skin crawl rather to imagine a beagle salivating over smoked vervet monkey.

The ProMED post comments further:

No one really knows the scale of the illegal trade in wildlife meat, or bushmeat as it is often called, but a 2010 study estimated that 5 tonnes of the material per week was being smuggled in personal baggage through Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. And in addition to the meat products, there is a big trade in live wild animals. Much of this is perfectly legal and supplies the pet industry. Nonetheless, these animals also require improved pathogen surveillance, say the researchers.

One has only to remember that the monkeypox outbreak in the USA in recent times originated in an African animal imported live – see Viroblogy here – to realise the potential danger posed by international movement of wild-caught animals – or even of laboratory animals, as happened in the Ebola Reston incident.

The list of animals from whom parts were found is also rather disturbing: this included chimpanzee, sooty mangabey, and “green monkey” or vervet.  Virologists will not need reminding, but others may, that HIV-1 originated in chimpanzees and HIV-2 in mangabeys – and that although these viruses were not found this time, the PLoS One paper notes:

“Although we did not find SIV or STLV in the limited number of specimens in this study, these viruses have been found in high prevalences in NHP specimens at bushmeat markets and in hunted NHPs [8], [32], [33]. HIV-1 and HIV-2 emerged as a result of several spillover events of SIV from chimpanzees and mangabeys, respectively, that were likely hunted for bushmeat in central and western Africa [30]. Serosurveillance studies have shown thirty-five different species of African NHPs harbor lentivirus infections, with a prevalence of SIV in up to 35% of free-ranging chimpanzees, and 30–60% of free-ranging sooty mangabeys and green monkeys [30], [31], [33], [34].”

So really, it is just a matter of time before meat that contains SIVs or STLVs gets through into the USA and other world centres – and a whole new wave of zoonotic infection could start.  It really is inexcusable that people living in developed countries should be importing meat derived from endangered species in the first place.  It is made worse that developed countries like the USA find it necessary to import LIVE animals as pets – and while the monkeypox outbreak was caught early, the next one may not be.

So forget the “engineered” H5N1 paranoia, folks – be a LOT more scared of the cute rodent in a cage near you, or what your neighbour may be eating….

Influenza virus migrations – a lesson from 1961

13 January, 2012

Influenza A viruses carried by birds

I have been doing quite a lot of digging into virus history recently, and it was interesting to pick up – while checking on who had published what from our University on viruses – a paper from 1966 describing “The isolation and classification of Tern virus: Influenza Virus A/Tern/South Africa/1961″ by WB Becker of the Virus Research Unit here at UCT.  It is interesting because it was isolated from sick migratory Common Terns along the south coast of South Africa, which were infected as part of an “explosive epizootic” which resulted in many deaths.  It became more interesting when it was shown in 1967 to cause few or no symptoms in Swift Terns but was shed in large amounts, to be highly pathogenic in chickens, and was subsequently typed as H5N3.

The discussion of the original paper was not only highly prescient, but may be completely valid today: a significant quote follows.

The isolation of Tern virus raises interesting epidemiological possibilities. The outbreak in chickens in Scotland caused by Chicken/Scot. virus preceded the Tern epizootic by about 17 months and occurred during stormy weather which drove sea-birds a little inland to take shelter. Large numbers ofHerring Gulls (Larus argentatus) were at that time working thef arm at which the out break in chickens occurred in November 1959 (J. E. Wilson, personal communication). The chickens might have contracted the infection from sea-birds, a viewpoint possibly supported by the preceding mass mortality in Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) and Fulmars (Fulmaris glacialis) from February to August 1959 (Joensen, 1959) off the coast of Britain and Scandinavia. Unfortunately the aetiology of the last-mentioned outbreak was not investigated, but it is tempting to think it was caused by the Tern virus which was isolated at Cape Town some 18 months later in 1961, from migrant European Common Terns.

One might postulate: that certain sea-birds suffer latent or sporadic infection with avian influenza; that epizootics may be precipitated in them by conditions of stress, e.g. poor feeding under unfavourable weather conditions such as pre- ceded the Tern epizootic; and that spread to other sea-birds or domestic poultry may occur. [my emphases – Ed]

The 1967 tern infection paper continues this theme:

The outbreak in chickens in Scotland in 1959 (Dr J. E. Wilson, personal communication) and the Tern epizootic in 1961 were caused by influenza A viruses with closely related strain specific antigens which were unrelated to those of any previously known influenza A viruses. Recently strains of influenza A related to the Tern and Scottish viruses were isolated from turkeys in Canada (Dr G.Lang, personal communication). This lends further support to the hypothesis that migrating sea-birds such as the Common Tern may transmit avian influenza A viruses to domestic poultry.

This was followed up more recently (2002) by a paper describing transmission of the tern virus to laughing gulls:

This investigation detailed the clinical disease, gross and histologic lesions, and distribution of viral antigen in juvenile laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) intranasally inoculated with either the A/tern/South Africa/61 (H5N3) (tern/SA) influenza virus or the A/chicken/Hong Kong/220/97 (H5N1) (chicken/HK) influenza virus, which are both highly pathogenic for chickens. Neither morbidity nor mortality was observed in gulls inoculated with either virus within the 14-day investigative period. Gross lesions resultant from infection with either virus were only mild…. Antibodies to influenza viruses …at 14 DPI were detected only in the two tern/SA-inoculated gulls and not in the two chicken/HK-inoculated gulls.

Their conclusions, too, were rather disturbing:

The positive isolation of the tern/SA and chicken/HK viruses from the OP and cloacal swabs suggests that, with adequate exposure, gulls could serve as hosts for these and possibly other HPAI viruses. Isolation of the A/gull/Germany/79 (H7N7) virus during a HPAI outbreak in Eastern Europe provides further evidence to support the potential for pelagic birds to serve as biological vectors for (HP)AI viruses (D. J. Alexander, pers. comm., originally referenced in 29). This is a significant finding in terms of the epidemiology of AI viruses, especially considering the fact that the chicken/HK virus was a zoonosis (26,27). Moreover, pelagic birds have been implicated as the source for other AI viruses that transmitted to and may have caused disease in mammals (8,13).

Everybody is obsessed with H5N1: maybe we should be a little more concerned with what may be raining down from above, as seabirds carry recombinant / reassortant viruses from areas of high H5N1 endemicity around the world.


The REAL Top 10 for Plant Viruses

12 January, 2012

NOTE: this has now been published, and is citable, at:

Rybicki, EP (2014).  A Top Ten list for economically important plant viruses.  Archives of Virology January 2015, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 17-20

The new version can also be downloaded here

This blog post has been read over 9 000 times since it was written (in 2012).  One of my most popular B-)

A recent MicrobiologyBytes post reported a slightly older Molecular Plant Pathology paper as giving a “Top Ten” ranking for plant viruses – at least, those of “…perceived importance, scientifically or economically, from the views of the contributors to the journal”.  Specifically, the article authors “…survey[ed] all plant virologists with an association with Molecular Plant Pathology and ask[ed] them to nominate which plant viruses they would place in a ‘Top 10’ based on scientific/economic importance”.  They got “…more than 250 votes from the international community”, and came up with the following list:

(1) Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV),
(2) Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV),
(3) Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV),
(4) Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV),
(5) Potato virus Y (PVY),
(6) Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV),
(7) African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV),
(8) Plum pox virus (PPV),
(9) Brome mosaic virus (BMV) and
(10) Potato virus X (PVX),
with honourable mentions for viruses just missing out on the Top 10, including Citrus tristeza virus (CTV), Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV), Potato leafroll virus (PLRV) and Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV).

Yes, well.  Um.  Now I have an acquaintance with Molecular Plant Pathology – a recent review and an Editorship on the short-lived MPP Online – as well as knowing 6 of the 12 authors personally and being electronically acquainted with another two, and I was never asked….  And Brome mosaic??  Sweet little virus, and I spent some 7 years working on it (a major part of my Hons, MSc and PhD theses, since you ask), but important??  Cauliflower mosaic, too: great virus; tough as an old boot, supplied one of the most used promoters (35S) for plant expression – but economically important??

Now I am in the position of having worked quite a lot with four of the Top Ten plus alternates (namely, TMV, CMV, BMV and BYDV), and maintain an affection borne of long acquaintance – yet I have a problem with this list, and it is rather fundamental.  You see, I see only ONE virus in the major list – African cassava mosaic begomovirus (ACMV) – that infects and causes severe losses in one of the four major food crops grown on this planet: all the rest, excepting viruses infecting the also-ran potato, are pathogens of fruits, vegetables or horticulturally-important plants.  Or hardly pathogenic at all, as in the case of BMV – and before anyone argues, I probably have the best collection of African (and other) isolates of the virus in the world, and a lot of experience of it in the field.

I wrote this as a response to the MicrobiologyBytes blog post:

Interesting list – but wrong, as many of these things often are. TYLCV more important than the various African cassava geminiviruses?? Nonsense! And where is Maize streak virus – the most important viral pathogen of the most important crop plant in Africa? Where too the rice viruses?? The world’s top food crops are rice, maize, wheat, cassava and bananas – so what about Maize rayado fino virus, Rice dwarf…? Banana bunchy top or banana streak? I can bet the majority of the plant virologists polled (I was not, nor was anyone I know from around these parts) were from the developed world, and the northern hemisphere.

Gary Foster – the last and communicating author – replied:

Not a case of ‘wrong’, more a case of many forms of ‘right’.

in the review we state….’we are very much aware that importance and priorities can vary locally across continents and disciplines.’ But in the review we took a global snapshot.

The idea was to promote discussion, and I knew you would take up the challenge 😉

And again:

“People could vote on either scientific or economic importance. BMV is in Top 10 because of scientific importance as it states in the article….NOT economic.”

So here we go in taking up the challenge…!  First off, I think having a list of viruses where the economic importance ranges from “Major” through “Minor” to “Beneath Notice” is a cop-out, because it elevates scientific curiosities and sentimental favourites to equal or greater perceived importance to plant viruses that can actually lead to people dying.  I wrote in 1999, with my friend and colleague Gerhard Pietersen, a paper entitled “Plant virus disease problems in the developing world” (Rybicki EP, Pietersen, G; Adv Virus Res. 1999;53:127-75).  We took the view that the most important plant viruses in the world were those affecting the major food crops in the developing world specifically, seeing as these would affect the greatest number of people, and would probably be the least well controlled.  Our list, therefore, looks nothing like the one above.

Mrs Pauline Ruiru, on her farm near Githungiri, Kenya, in 1997 – note the devastated maize infected with MSV

In 1999, we wrote the following:

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has defined the major primary food crops (in order of volume grown ) in the developing world to be: (1) rice, (2) wheat, (3) maize, (4) cassava, (5) fresh vegetables, and (6) sweet potatoes. Other crops of major importance are sugarcane, oil palm fruit and soybeans.  The most important crops in the developing world as far as local populations are concerned, however, are bulk foods such as rice, maize, cassava, bananas, and sweet potatoes; vegetables such as beans and pumpkins; and fruits such as mangoes and coconuts”.

So: no tobacco, precious few tomatoes or potatoes, definitely no wheat, precious few things that could be affected by PPV…and 8 of the Top Ten gone, at a stroke.  I’ll allow the ACMD (African cassava mosaic disease) complex [note: NOT ACMV], and CMV, seeing as it infects damn nearly anything, including maize and most vegetables.

Another problem with the list as given above is that “TYLCV” is in fact better represented by a complex of reasonably distantly related geminiviruses which do similar things to tomatoes, in very different geographic areas: thus, we have the original TYLCV, as well as TYLC Sardinia V, and TYLCCNV and TYLCTHV – all separate species.  The supposed “ACMV” is probably neither the best studied nor even the most interesting of the ACMD agents: the East African CMV – ACMV recombinant virus which caused an epiphytotic in Uganda was far more economically important than ACMV, and has been followed in the literature (and in the field) by a host of brethren, all distantly enough related to be separate species (eg: SACMV), but all causing what looks like ACMD.

So what is my Top Ten?  I would not go as far – without researching and writing another review – as ranking them; however, from the basis of considering only viruses with sufficient economic impact to kill people if crops are affected, it would be these – ordered by crop importance.

Rice: the rice tungro disease agents RTBV, a dsDNA badnavirus, and rice tungro spherical virus RTSV, an ssRNA waikavirus, in Asia.  Rice yellow mottle (RYMV) ssRNA sobemovirus in Africa.  Rice hoja blanca virus (RHBV, ssRNA(-) Tenuivirus) in South America.

Wheat: Barley yellow dwarf luteoviruses (BYDV) – again, actually a complex of ssRNA viruses which in fact belong in different species – is almost certainly the worst viral pathogen of wheat worldwide.

A cryoEM image reconstruction of an MSV particle (Kyle Dent, EM Unit, UCT)

Maize: the ssDNA geminiviral pathogen Maize streak mastrevirus (MSV) is the worst viral pathogen of maize in the whole of Africa, where maize is the the most common staple food.  A recent review from our group – in Molecular Plant Pathology, I will note – details the very significant economic impact of the virus, as well as the considerable body of molecular virological research on it.  We wrote in 2009:

“Maize streak disease (MSD) was first recorded in South Africa by Claude Fuller (1901), the Government Entomologist of Natal. Fuller also quoted personal sources who noticed the disease of ‘mealie variegation’, as it was then described, as early as the 1870s. …Over 100 years later, MSD remains the most significant viral disease of Africa’s most important food crop (Bosque-Pérez, 2000), costing between US$120M and US$480M per year according to one conservative estimate based on average annual yield losses of only 6%–10%”.  As losses can be up to 100%, this is almost certainly an underestimate – Ed.

Staying with maize, Maize rayado fino virus (MRFV, ssRNA Marafivirus) is possibly the most important virus in North and especially South America.   The ssRNA potyviruses Maize dwarf mosaic and Sugarcane mosaic viruses are probably the most widespread viruses of maize, having essentially a worldwide distribution, and often being associated with severe disease.

Sweet potato: Sweet potato feathery mottle potyvirus (SPFMV) is probably the worst pathogen affecting this increasingly used crop worldwide, but pathology is exacerbated by co-infection with Sweet potato sunken vein closterovirus (SPSVV).

Main picture: cassava plant showing the effects of severe ACMD. Note lack of leaves, and of neighbouring plants. Insets, top: healthy leaves; middle, mild infection; bottom, severe infection. All photographs by EP Rybicki, taken in western Kenya, June, 1997

Cassava: the Africa-limited ACMD complex of ACMV, EACMV, SACMV and others together constitute a major threat to food security in the continent, especially given an increased use of cassava continent-wide.  As an object example of why I choose to go with the viruses mentioned, it is worth revisiting something I wrote in 1999:

“It is quite remarkable to pass within a few kilometers from areas with mild ACMD to areas where there are almost no cassava plants left growing. The inevitable lag in replacement of the crop by sweet potato, for example, results in severe hardship for farming families accustomed to using it as a staple in their diet. The wave of ACMD across Uganda may be a good example of the devastating effect of a plant virus on the human population.”

Twelve years on, I see no reason to revise the statement.

Bananas: the worst virus affecting bananas worldwide has to Banana bunchy top nanovirus (BBTV): this ssDNA pathogen has been identified in numerous developing countries in Oceania, Africa, and Asia and has caused devastating epidemics.  Also-rans include the dsDNA Banana streak badnavirus (BSV) – also found integrated into the genome of many Musa spp. – and the ssRNA Cucumber mosaic cucumovirus (CMV).

So, the Rybicki Top Ten (in alphabetical order):

  • African cassava mosaic disease begomovirus complex
  • Banana bunchy top nanovirus (BBTV)
  • Banana streak badnavirus (BSV)
  • Barley yellow dwarf disease luteovirus complex
  • Cucumber mosaic cucumovirus (CMV: OK, reluctantly, because it DOES infect damn nearly anything)
  • Maize streak mastrevirus (MSV)
  • Maize dwarf mosaic / Sugarcane mosaic potyviruses
  • Rice tungro disease complex
  • Rice yellow mottle sobemovirus (RYMV)
  • Sweet potato feathery mottle potyvirus (SPFMV)


  • The legion of tomato begomoviruses worldwide, but especially in Asia
  • Tomato spotted wilt tospovirus, because it IS still an emerging virus
  • Various South American (mainly Brazilian) vegetable begomoviruses
  • Various potyviruses, mainly in vegetables, in Asia

So there it is – viruses causing severe hardship, affecting real people.  And my affectionate favourite would also be BMV…B-)

Worst virus EVER!!

3 January, 2012

Sigh…looks like we’re still all going to die…Science’s comment section has the following article from November 23:

Scientists Brace for Media Storm Around Controversial Flu Studies

My comment to the article:

“”This work should never have been done,” says Richard Ebright.”

Really? We shouldn’t know just what makes H5N1 flu aerosol-transmissible in ferrets, and potentially also in humans? And more to the point, people in countries where the virus is now endemic, and busy evolving without the permission of the NSABB or any other agency, shouldn’t know what to look for?

I am also concerned over the scare factor that keeps getting invoked: the same thing was said about reviving the 1918 H1N1, and the same counter can be made.