Dr Derek Gatherer is a lecturer in the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Lancaster University. His research interests are virus phylogenetics, bioinformatics and evolution.
  • Ebola  © Sergey Uryadnikov | Dreamstime.com

    What is the Ebola virus?

    This morning you woke up feeling a little unwell. You have no appetite, your head is aching, your throat is sore and you think you might be slightly feverish. You don’t know it yet, but Ebola virus has started to attack your immune system, wiping out the T-lymphocyte cells that are crucial to its proper function.

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    Five common misconceptions about seasonal flu

    It’s that time of the year again. You probably think I mean Christmas, but as a virologist the sight of glitter, fairy lights and moulting pine trees immediately makes me think of the flu season. And if there’s one thing that can ruin your family’s Christmas, it’s the arrival of that particular unwanted guest.

  • Medical staff in protective clothing.  Photo: Army Medicine, CC BY

    Ebola vaccines were always in the pipeline – now we’re starting to see the results

    When people look back on 2014, it may be best remembered as the year of Ebola. Two previous assumptions – that the virus was confined to remote regions of central Africa, and that the notorious virulence of the disease acted as a kind of self-limiting factor, with epidemics always burning themselves out after their initial flare-up – were shattered.

  • Five things you need to know about bird flu

    The UK has just recorded its second visitation of bird flu in less than three months. At the end of November, the relatively new subtype H5N8 – which was first spotted in late 2009 in China and which has since made its way westwards as far as the Netherlands – turned up in Yorkshire.

  • What was sweating sickness – the mysterious Tudor plague of Wolf Hall?

    In the first episode of BBC historical drama Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s novel of the same name, Thomas Cromwell returns home to find his wife and two daughters have all died during the night, victims of a pestilence – the "sweating sickness" – that is scything through the Tudor world.

  • flu

    Explainer: what is freshers' flu and what can you do about it

    Many countries face a mass migration every autumn. In the UK around 1.8 million young people leave their normal place of residence and move to a few hundred concentrated locations, where they often live and work at high density.

  • flu

    And now for the flu forecast...

    It’s that time of the year again. You probably think I mean Christmas, but as a virologist the sight of glitter, fairy lights and moulting pine trees immediately makes me think of the flu season. And if there’s one thing that can ruin your family’s Christmas, it’s the arrival of that particular unwanted guest.

  • Flu vaccination

    Why it’s time for a rethink on flu vaccination

    I recently had my annual flu shot. Along with all the others who’ve received it, I’ll be hoping that it does the job of preventing me catching flu this winter – or at least reducing the severity of the disease if I do get it.

  • Zika Virus Aedes Mosquito

    Five little-known diseases to watch out for in 2017

    The phrase “emerging disease”, to describe an infectious disease that is new to humans or which is suddenly increasing its geographical range or number of cases, dates back to the 1960s. But it was the realisation in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the world was in the throes of previously unrecognised pandemics of genital herpes and AIDS, that really propelled the term into the mainstream.