Allen G. Rodrigo

Professor of Biology, Duke University and Director, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Durham, NC.

Presentation Title: Rapidly Evolving Viruses: Studying Molecular Evolution in Real Time

Viruses like HIV, Human Influenza Virus, and Hepatitis B and C Viruses, acquire mutations in their genetic material very rapidly. This means that over the course of an epidemic, or an infection lasting one or more years, we are able to see changes in these viruses and study the evolutionary processes that act on these populations. Rapidly evolving viruses are subject to genetic drift, selection, recombination and the dynamics of population growth and subdivision. In this talk, I will describe how understanding virus evolution allows us to understand disease and therapy. I will also talk about how evolutionary principles have been used in vaccine design.

Lab Website:

Recent Publications

Holmes, EC. 2007. Viral Evolution in the Genomic Age. PLoS Biol 5(10): e278. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050278

Holmes EC, 2004 Adaptation and Immunity. PLoS Biol 2(9): e307. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020307

Nicholls H, 2006 Pandemic Influenza: The Inside Story. PLoS Biol 4(2): e50. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040050

Koonin, E.V., Senkevich, T.G., Dolja, V.V. 2006. The ancient Virus World and evolution of cells. Biology Direct 1:29 doi:10.1186/1745-6150-1-29
An interesting paper on the potential origins and evolution of viruses.

Resources for Teaching

Viral Outbreak: The Science of Emerging Disease

The 2011 Holiday Lectures focus on infectious disease, including the molecular evolution behind it. The lectures will be webcast live December 2 & 3, 2010, webcast on demand after December 6, 2010. The DVD version and educational clips will be available in Spring 2011.

HIV’s not-so-ancient history

From Understanding Evolution
Story and podcast about the origin of HIV in human populations.


From Jon C. Herron
This computer simulation demonstrates the phylogeny reconstruction using virus evolution. A case study about a surgeon and the transfer of hepatitis C virus is included.

Influenza Virus: A tiny, moving target

From NESCent
This classroom activity explores how viruses infect cells and replicate.

Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases

From the National Institutes of Health
This module is available online or in print by request. The module covers the major concepts related to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and their impact on society.

Viruses and host evolution

Don Chamberlain
From Access Excellence
Classroom exploration of viruses.