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Paul Offit has been working in vaccine research for about forty years and listeners are lucky to hear a sampling of his knowledge of infectious viruses in this podcast. He offers another unique perspective of virus interactions from his vaccine research history.

With humor and clarity, he discusses

  • How a host’s immune response to viral infection and determine latency more than the virus in some cases,
  • What the viral load and inoculum effect determine regarding degrees of virulence, and
  • What are some viral cell-entry traits that merit important consideration in vaccine development, such as COVID-19’s fusing protein.

Author, researcher, and pediatrician Paul Offit is the director of The Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician with the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s hospital of Philadelphia. Most recently, he authored Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far.

He’s currently working on a biography of vaccinology specialist Maurice Hilleman and an article on the process for COVID-19 vaccine pros and cons and the prospects for a path to a safe vaccination. He offers answers to Richard’s questions on virology from a different vantage point, often emphasizing the role the immune response process plays in determining virus behavior.

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Yet he still is intrigued by virus activity, noting the fascination he has with bacteriophages and their therapeutic potential.

His take on latency in different viruses is especially enlightening, and he discusses how herpes simplex is latent until some sort of stress weakens the immune system.

He comments that its latent phase is fascinating as it has the ability to express some but not all proteins during the latent phase. He adds that it comes out of latency because of the host’s immunological surveillance condition: the immune system keeps it from activating until the host’s immunity decreases or is weak and the virus is able to cause symptom expression.

He also explains virus behavior by articulating how the immunodeficiency virus evolved, mutating enough in the first infection to transmit to someone else and so on, all the while learning how to bind to that certain receptor and suppress the immune system and evade it by constantly changing the code protein, Therefore, HIV infection can mimic infection by a several different viruses at once, and in some ways exhibits the “perfect virus” process for survival.

He also shares great insights into vaccination research, viral entry methods, and virulence factors in virus evolution. Listen in for an entertaining description of how our immune system handles viruses.

For more about Dr. Offit, see his website:

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