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Molecular Biology of Pandemic Influenza

Course Status

East Baltimore
2nd Term
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Academic Year
2023 - 2024
Instruction Method
Class Time(s)
Tu, Th, 2:00 - 2:50pm
Auditors Allowed
Yes, with instructor consent
Available to Undergraduate
Grading Restriction
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor(s)
Contact Name
Frequency Schedule
Every Year

Undergraduates need instructor permission to enroll.

The greatest human catastrophe in modern history was the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic, which killed between 20 and 40 million people. We are now besieged by Covod-19. The WHO reports that worldwide the Covid-19 virus has infected over 37 million individuals and killed over 1 million. We examine mechanisms that give a virus pandemic potential. We examine case studies that illustrate the attributes of a successful or an unsuccessful public health response. We will seek to understand how an understanding of the biology and pathophysiology of a virus can lead to an effective public health response.
Explores how molecular biology is used to understand how specific respiratory viruses create pandemics. Begins with an analysis of the virus that caused the great public health catastrophe, the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic and then examines more recent pandemic viruses, including SARS-Cov-2. Focuses on the use of molecular techniques in defining why specific mutations increase the virulence and pandemic potential of a virus, the pathological response of a host’s immune system to a virulent virus and pathological interactions between two different respiratory pathogens. Emphasizes how molecular, pathophysiological and immunological studies may be used to predict a virus’ pandemic potential. Reviews how governmental responses affect the spread of a disease with pandemic potential, including the response to SARS-CoV-2.
Learning Objectives
Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe modern molecular biology techniques used to study viruses with pathogenic potential.
  2. Explain how these techniques can be applied to a major public health problem
  3. Interpret data generated by these techniques
  4. Describe the molecular basis for the pathogenesis of specific viruses
  5. Describe how the hosts immune system and co-infections with another pathogen can promote lethal disease.
  6. Describe U.S. government's to address and end future influenza pandemics and to end the current Covid-19 pandemic.
  7. Discuss the efficacy and safety of masks, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies currently in use during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Methods of Assessment
This course is evaluated as follows:
  • 80% Exam(s)
  • 20% A one-page memo, submitted to the White House that will advocate for a specific public health measure to address the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Enrollment Restriction
This course is open to graduate students only.