New Trading Cards Allow You to Swap Viruses The Safe Way


Kids in the '90s collected trading cards from shows and movies like The X Files, Gremlins 2, Jurassic Park and The Blair Witch Project to sports like basketball and baseball. A molecular biologist created her own set of trading cards that allows users to swap viruses the safe way.

Seattle-based designer and molecular biologist Eleanor Lutz created a set of beautifully designed virus trading cards. They depict the molecular structures of some famous viruses such as adenovirus, HPV, cholera and dengue.

"Viruses are surprisingly symmetrical, and I love them because they remind me of a biological version of snowflakes. Each trading card shows you the structure of the viral capsid - the protein shell protecting the genetic material inside a virus," Lutz wrote on her blog Tabletop Whale.

The cards are not only beautifully created but the viruses come to life through 3D animations. Each card contains complete information with statistics, symptoms, mode of transmission, source and a brief description of the microorganism.

Lutz said she was inspired to make the cards after learning how to use a free molecular modeling program called the UCSF Chimera.

Scientists could use the software to create the structure of new viruses they discover and all information will be uploaded to the worldwide Protein Data Bank. The viruses are also given a unique ID number.

Viruses may be beautifully structured, but they are potentially fatal and harmful to the body. For instance, the dengue virus could lead to a serious condition called Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which causes massive bleeding in patients. This virus is a close cousin of Yellow fever and the Zika virus since they're all transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Photo: Eleanor Lutz

Adenovirus Type 5 is a virus transmitted through fecal-oral and airborne transmission. This virus causes respiratory disease such as the common cold.

Photo: Eleanor Lutz

Cholera, on the other hand, could be acquired from drinking contaminated water.

Photo: Eleanor Lutz

Human papillomavirus or HPV is the pathogen that causes genital warts and in some cases, cervical and anogenital cancer. It can be transmitted through sexual contact.

Photo: Eleanor Lutz

These are just a few of the many viruses existing in the environment and Lutz might design more of them in the future.

People who commented on her blog post are also waiting for other virus trading cards to be designed.

"So cool, hope you have time to do more! These are great," commented one of the blog readers.

Photo: Dominic Alves | Flickr

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