How viruses are treated

© Nicola Stonehouse and Oluwapelumi Adeyemi

How can we treat viruses?

There are a number of different methods that are available to treat certain viruses, for example, viruses such as measles and polio can be prevented using a vaccine. There are also a variety of other treatments such as antivirals used to treat patients with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitus C.

Despite this, the treatment of viral infections and the rise of antimicrobial resistance has proved a challenge, therefore the development of novel therapeutics and techniques to help prevent transmission and ease the risk of global outbreaks, has had a pivotal role in the world of microbiology.

Reducing the transmission of disease depends on which methods need to be engaged. Improving basic hygiene measures by washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean and using a tissue to sneeze into, can all help prevent the spread of disease. Other factors, such as ensuring that communities have adequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation can also improve the risk of an outbreak.

What role do microbiologists play in helping to treat viruses?

Microbiologists have been responsible for creating and implementing a variety of methods to help treat viruses, including antiviral therapies, exploring the benefits of herd immunity, genetic therapy and even creating models to help prevent virus outbreaks. 

Why does understanding how to treat viruses matter to microbiology?

The threat of new and emerging diseases is still prevalent, as we have seen with the recent SARS-Cov-2 outbreak, alongside zoonotic diseases and arboviruses. In order to treat viruses, we need to engage in ongoing research in order to develop a better understanding of them. That way we will be in a position to respond rapidly to new and re-emerging viral diseases.

Read more about why understanding how to treat viruses matters to our members and the wider microbiology community and access our resources, which detail what we currently understand about treating viral diseases.

  • Microbiologists working in this area

    To celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2020, we invited microbiologists to nominate the discovery or event that best showcases why microbiology matters and helps us demonstrate the impact of microbiologists past, present and future. Learn more about the microbiologists whose research focuses on how viruses are treated.

  • Resources and further reading

    Discover how viral vectors are produced and the development of viral gene therapy treatment, the accelerated clinical and technology trials in response to the Ebola virus epidemic, and how scientists are striving to improve the development and deployment of rapid diagnostic tests in low- and middle-income countries.

  • New frontiers in microbiology

    Microbiology research has been, and continues to be, central to meeting many of the current global aspirations and challenges, such as maintaining food, water and energy security for a healthy population on a habitable earth. Through research, microbiology helps answer big questions such as 'how diverse is life on Earth?', and 'does life exist elsewhere in the Universe'? We will explore three key areas: the ever-growing tree of life, synthetic biology and life on other planets.

Image credits: 

Polioviruses by negative stain TEM with 100 nm size bar. Nicola Stonehouse and Oluwapelumi Adeyemi
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute