PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Valencia since 1995, Santiago F. Elena knows viruses up close. His research focuses on the study of the mechanisms that generate and maintain the enormous genetic diversity of microorganisms and, particularly, RNA viruses. He is currently a research professor at the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology, joint center of the UPV and CSIC, where he leads the research group for virology and evolutionary systems. He welcomes us to his office in the lab to tell us about viral diseases, but a particularly lethal one captures the conversation: the Ebola virus. «Because it interferes with the antiviral response of our cells, there is a period during which all our defences are not enough to control the virus, which will continue replicating and colonising. Moreover, the virus is not adapted to humans, so it causes a generalised infection. It infects any cell that is susceptible to the virus. Then kills it. This virus infects many different tissues and keeps on destroying them.» Nevertheless, Santiago F. Elena hopes there will soon be an effective vaccine against Ebola.
What is a virus?
What factors favour the emergence of new viral diseases?
Why is it so difficult to control some infections, or to find vaccines for diseases caused by viruses like Ebola or HIV?
The Ebola virus was identified around forty years ago. However, it is now that is experiencing the most virulent outbreak. Why?
So from now on the epidemic could spread through Europe?
«It is much easier to move now and this favours the emergence of more diseases, and makes it easier for them to spread»
«The danger lies not with immigrants jumping the fence in Melilla or coming by boat. The problem is carrying the virus by plane, and we have imported it here with full honours»
Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness
«The Spanish government failed to assess the risk of carrying the sick missionaries Madrid Ebola»
You seem critical with the procedures followed by the Spanish Government. Is that so?
To sacrifice or not to sacrifice Excalibur. Did the infected nurse Teresa Romero’s dog pose a threat or an opportunity?
Are the media are being sensationalist?
Laying on of hands, sea water, essential oils of cinnamon and oregano, silver ions or rectal ozone therapy. These are some of the alleged cures for the Ebola virus being advertised already. How does one react to these claims?
Are we nearing total eradication of viral diseases or is there a long way to go?
Íngrid Lafita. Journalist. Mètode, University of Valencia.
«Right now there is another epidemic in Spain, Legionella, which has killed a dozen people. But it is not interesting, it is not commented upon»