2021-04-06

New viruses, new challenges

HZI researchers Luka Cicin-Sain and Carlos Guzmán on future approaches to stop new pathogens more quickly

Newly emerging viruses, which have previously only spread in the animal kingdom, have been able to cross the species barrier and adapt to humans as new hosts. Since the end of 2019, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2) has shown that nowadays such a virus can take over the whole world in a very short time.

Illustration of SARS-CoV-2 virus binding (in red) to a human cell.SARS-CoV-2 virus particles bind to ACE2 receptors on the surface of a human cell. © Kateryna Kon / shutterstockViruses are small particles - about 1000x smaller than human cells - that exploit their host's metabolism to replicate. There are many thousands of viruses circulating in the animal world that could spread to humans. SARS-CoV-2 has shown how quickly new viruses can spread worldwide. However, viruses also have to meet some requirements to be able to replicate in a new host.

In the cover story of the current issue of the HZI magazine InFact, HZI researchers Prof Luka Cicin-Sain, head of the research group "Immune Aging and Chronic Infections", and Prof Carlos Guzmán, head of the department "Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology", talk about the challenges new viruses present to us and how science is trying to keep up with them in vaccine development.

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