Photo depicting a close up of the coronavirus that is round in shape with spikes coming out of it.

Videos: COVID-19 Why it Matters Series, Part 1 & 2

This video series features UW-Green Bay’s Immunologist Brian Merkel on COVID-19 and Why it Matters. This series empowers viewers with knowledge to help them navigate through the pandemic. Merkel has a Ph.D. in Microbiology & Immunology from the Medical College of Virginia. He is an associate professor in UW-Green Bay’s Human Biology & Biology programs and has an appointment at the Medical College of Wisconsin Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He will be responding to a number of questions related to COVID19, and try to get behind the “why” it’s important to be educated in your decision-making as we navigate the pandemic together.

Photo of UW-Green Bay Assistant Professor Brian Merkel.
UW-Green Bay Assistant Professor Brian Merkel.

COVID-19 Why it Matters Series, Part 1: What are viruses and where did this one come from?

Video Transcript – What are viruses and where did this one come from:

Hi Brian Merkel, Immunologist at UW-Green Bay and Why does COVID-19: Why it Matters. Why this is important and ultimately what you can do about it. Right we want to empower you and the only way that we can empower you is to help you understand why this matters behind all of this. So, the first thing that I think we should talk about is what viruses are. Viruses are infectious agents and they are atypical in the sense that they are what we call incomplete life forms. And the reason why that’s significant is that when you get exposed to them in order for them to replicate, they actually have to once they get inside your body infect cells because cells have machinery that viruses lack and that plays a role in terms of what kind of disease and disease picture along with how our immune systems respond to that infection. And it is because of that dynamic that you get a characteristic disease when you get exposed to a particular type of virus. When we talk about viruses like this one, there are certain types of viruses that are animal born and this is the case here. So, when viruses jump from animals to humans there’s an adjustment period and it usually doesn’t go very well especially for the human because the virus is not adjusted to this new home and so there can be a lot of severe clinical features that are associated with that adjustment period. It can involve a very aggressive immune response, which seems to be a part of what’s happening in some of the severe cases of COVID-19. So, it does become important to think about where viruses like COVID-19 come from because it begins to give us some sense of a picture for how severe infectious agents can be and what we can begin to do to try to manage it. And we don’t understand where the disease comes from it becomes very difficult to manage from a public health perspective.

COVID-19 Why it Matters Series, Part 2: Two main types of viruses

Video Transcript – Two main types of viruses:

Hi Brian Merkel, Immunologist at UW-Green Bay and Why does COVID-19 Matter to You. There are two main types of viruses and this becomes critically important here. There are DNA viruses and there are RNA viruses. DNA viruses include viruses like the chickenpox virus and smallpox virus. DNA viruses tend to be very stable genetically and often times what that means that what that translates into, clinically handling the virus in terms of public health they tend to be a little bit easier to manage.

RNA viruses are genetically unstable. A couple of examples the HIV virus, influenza virus and of course, the coronavirus that’s causing COVID-19 is an RNA virus. And the reason why we need to care about that and understand that is because that begins to help us understand why developing vaccines can be a challenge and why developing therapeutics, drugs in other words can be difficult as well.