New book illustrates the wonderful world of viruses

Sara LaJeunesse
August 31, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A new book by Marilyn Roossinck, professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology at Penn State, reveals the fascinating world of viruses, from the deadly to the beneficial. Titled "Virus: An Illustrated Guide to 101 Incredible Microbes," the book was published this summer by Princeton University Press.

"Viruses are really cool and really beautiful," said Roossinck. "I've been in love with them since I was an undergraduate student. I hope that this book will give people that kind of appreciation as well."

According to Roossinck, most people think of dangerous pathogens, such as Ebola and Zika, when they hear the word "virus."

"There are many misconceptions about viruses," she said. "People think they are all these evil things we hear about in the media. But our own bodies are full of beneficial viruses. I wanted to present a balanced view of viruses and give people a more comprehensive idea of what they are all about."

Roossinck explained, for example, that mice host a herpes virus that is similar to a herpes virus in humans. In mice, being infected with this herpes virus confers resistance to a number of bacteria, including the bacteria that cause bubonic plague and listeriosis.

"Viruses can have a significant impact on the immune system in a positive way," said Roossinck. "We are learning that viruses even are part of our microbiome, just like bacteria, so they play a role in many different aspects of our biology that we don't know very much about yet."

Roossinck's book provides a glimpse into the mysterious worlds of 101 viruses found living within organisms from all kingdoms of life on Earth, including humans, insects, plants and bacteria. The book begins with a history of virology, followed by a discussion of the biology of the entities -- from how their genes work to how they replicate to how they interact with their hosts. Roossinck then offers brief descriptions of each virus, which are illustrated with stunning, full-color images.

An expert on virology, Roossinck's research focuses specifically on the ecology and evolution of viruses. In addition to studying viruses' role as agents of disease, Roossinck examines how viruses can form mutualistic relationships with plants and fungi.

Before joining the faculty of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences in 2011, Roossinck was a staff scientist and professor in the Division of Plant Biology at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. She earned doctoral and bachelor's degrees at the University of Colorado in 1986 and 1982, respectively.

Roossinck will be available to sign copies of her book at the Barnes & Noble, located at 365 Benner Pike in State College, at 2 p.m. on September 18.

More information is available online at


  • Roossinck virus book cover

    A new book written by Penn State researcher Marilyn Roossinck provides a glimpse into the mysterious worlds of 101 viruses found living within organisms from all kingdoms of life on Earth.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 01, 2016