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Episode 37: Pandemics: Can Viruses Ever Be Good For The Microbiome?

Life has changed drastically since our last episode and COVID-19 has everyone’s full attention. We’re all hunkered down, social distancing, washing our hands until they’re raw and boosting our immune systems in every way we know how. 


Of course, as news of the virus has spread around the globe, we’ve also wondered: how do viruses impact the microbiome? Can viruses – just like bacteria and fungi – ever be good for our health?


To find out, we called on Dr. Dennis Carroll, the former Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Emerging Threats Division. In this role, he was responsible for leading the U.S. response to the avian flu, in addition to overseeing the agency’s “Emerging Threats” program spanning more than 30 countries across Africa and Asia between 2009 – 2019.


Currently, Dennis heads The Global Virome Project, an international partnership to detect and characterize future viral threats while they are still circulating in wildlife – enabling the world to better prepare before they spill over into us.


On this episode, Andrea talks to Dennis about how zoonotic spillover – the transfer of viruses from animals into humans – is more common than ever before, the types of animals that are most dangerous to humans and why viruses like SARS and Ebola didn’t spread as rapidly or widely as COVID-19. 


They also discuss how some unknown viruses may actually be beneficial for us and what the future could potentially look like in the months and years to come.  


To learn more about the Global Virome Project, visit http://www.globalviromeproject.org/


Resources mentioned on the show: 



On this show, you’ll learn: 

  • What is zoonotic spillover? (2:28)
  • The types of animals that are most worrisome (4:50)
  • Why SARS and Ebola didn’t reach the scale of COVID-19 (11:04)
  • Helpful viruses (15:30)
  • Concerns over the rush to find a vaccine (19:34)
  • Potential future paths in regard to COVID-19 (26:48)
  • Immediate and future ways of boosting immunity (30:26)
  • How different animal production techniques bring different land use dynamics (34:34) 
  • Do spillover viruses come from healthy or unhealthy animals? (35:52)
  • Dr. Carroll’s current project (37:38)


Tune in on iTunes here:



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