Fall 2017 - MBB 839 G100

Special Topics in Molecular Biology (3)

Human Viral Pathogenesis

Class Number: 3763

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We, Fr 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby



Consideration of recent literature concerning selected contemporary research topics. Can be taken more than once with permission of instructor.


Viral infections are associated with many human diseases. Viral “outbreaks”, "epidemics" and "pandemics" - from HIV/AIDS to Ebola - are frequently highlighted in today’s news.  While most viral infections result in relatively mild and transient illness, some can be severe and persist life-long, and others may be feared as potential biological weapons.

This course will present the biology of viruses, outline their diverse mechanisms of pathogenesis in humans, and discuss how the body responds to infection. Molecular and cellular aspects of viral infection and clinical pathology will be examined, including mechanisms by which viruses hijack host cell machinery to support replication and transmission to new hosts.

Students will gain specialized knowledge of the molecular and cellular biology of viruses, including mechanisms of pathogenesis. Students will learn how viral epidemics originate and what biomedical or public health strategies currently exist to control outbreaks. A strong emphasis will be placed on reading and discussion of research publications taken from the primary literature.  Individual research and presentation skills will be enhanced through semester-long independent and group projects.

By the end of this course, graduate students should be able to provide a critical analysis of primary research articles, present complex scientific concepts to a knowledgeable audience in written and oral formats, and understand and explain the following topics:

  • the viral replication cycle, including essential interactions with host cell proteins and mechanisms by which viruses can cause human disease.
  • how viruses are transmitted to and among humans, including the role of animal vectors and animal reservoirs.
  • how the human body responds to viral infections, including how the host immune response modulates disease pathogenesis.
  • laboratory methods that contribute to the study of viruses and viral pathogenesis.
  • how information on viral/host protein interactions can be incorporated into the design of intervention strategies (e.g. vaccines, novel therapeutics).


  • Two Midterm Exams 20%
  • Two Individual Projects/Presentations 40%
  • One Written Report 30%
  • Class Participation 10%



Reading materials will be in the form of primary research articles or reviews chosen from scientific journals.  These will be listed in the course syllabus on Canvas (https://www.sfu.ca/canvas.html). Students should download articles from the SFU Library web site. The Canvas site will also house PDF versions of the lecture slides, links to online materials, course announcements, and other relevant information. Students should check the Canvas site periodically to ensure that they have the most up-to-date course materials.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html