Archive for November 3rd, 2022

Cann’s Principles of Molecular Virology, 7th Edition – revised by Ed Rybicki

3 November, 2022

In August 2019, Kattie Washington of Elsevier’s Cambridge MA office wrote to me to inform me that Alan J Cann had declined to develop the 7th Edition of his long-running franchise, and had suggested that I revise it instead. This was most unexpected and a signal honour, as I was of the opinion since the 1st Edition (in 1993) that this was the first Virology textbook that organised things they way I had in my lectures since the early 1980s – that is, he described viruses and how they work in a comparative way, from first encountering a host cell, through replication and expression, to exiting the cell – and I had avidly subscribed to subsequent editions and recommended it to my Virology classes.

I was getting along quite well by early 2020, and I see Elsevier had even put up a pre-order page promising publication by June 2021: this of course did not happen, for a number of reasons – chief among which were that The Good Wife and I were running the Virology Africa Conference in February 2020 in Cape Town, that the COVID-19 pandemic was declared shortly thereafter, and that I unexpectedly became Head of our Molecular and Cell Biology Department in mid-2020. Accordingly, I ended up during a hard lockdown in South Africa not only trying to remotely manage a biggish Department, but also trying to convert 40+ undergraduate lectures into narrated Powerpoint AND video AND PDF presentations to fulfill my teaching obligations, that I had stupidly not minimised when I became HoD.

Oh, I battled on when I had time, but that was in short supply until I thankfully reached the end of my sentence – pardon, HoD tenure – in December 2021, at which point I dived back in.

It turns out that adapting a textbook, however much you liked it, is no trivial thing. I had to marry Alan’s well-established vision with my own equally well-established thinking about teaching Virology, and update what was by then a 6 year-old book – in the middle of a pandemic that was and still is rewriting our understanding of viruses and immunology to a pretty significant extent. Thanks to COVID, and to my weakness for Ebola and other viruses that kill people in messy ways, I added a new Chapter on Panics & Pandemics:

New pathogenic viruses are being discovered all the time, and changes in human activities result in the re-emergence of known viruses, or the emergence of new or previously unrecognized diseases. Most of the viruses of concern are either arboviruses – transmitted by arthropods, in which they also multiply – or are derived from zoonotic infections, entering the human population from direct or indirect contact with wild animals. The potential of certain groups of viruses such as arbo-, hanta-, influenza A, filo-, paramyxo- and coronaviruses to cause serious and unexpected outbreaks of disease is explored, together with the potential of viruses to be used as bioweapons.

I also got halfway through another new Chapter on Viruses in Biotechnology, sparked by all of the frantic vaccine development for SARS-CoV-2, but reluctantly decided that it was stretching the revision out just a bit too far, so I culled it – until the next Edition.

Right now, I have finished all the proofreading, and Elsevier published the book on February 24th 2023.

I like this as a cover: SARS-CoV-2 against the background of a cell in which the virus is replicating, from Russell Kightley Media.

Links to buy the book:

Elsevier’s home site

Amazon Kindle site

So thanks, Andreas Schiermeyer, for pre-ordering a copy AND providing some names for Chapter 1; thanks Mart Krupovic for critting Chapter 3 and providing some Figures; thanks Aris Katzourakis for Figures and thanks Guru Alan J Cann for passing on the baton!