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July 21, 1993

A Dancing Matrix: Voyages Along the Viral Frontier

Author Affiliations

New Ollerton, Nottinghamshire England


by Robin Marantz Henig, 269 pp, with illus, $23, ISBN 0-394-58878-9, New York, NY, Alfred A. Knopf Inc, 1993.

JAMA. 1993;270(3):385. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510030109049

Henig's intention, in this book designed for general readership, is to explore contemporary virological thinking and explain the phenomenon of viral emergence.

From chapter 1, a review of "Why New Viruses Emerge," she moves smartly on to a detailed account of the emergence of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). With the reader well hooked, she devotes chapter 3 to "A Virus Primer." For any JAMA subscribers who fancy writing for a general readership, here is a test. You have 24 pages in which to describe the structure, function, and variety of viruses; how they interact with the host cell's nuclear machinery; how the organism defends itself; and how viruses cause illness. If you can match Henig's neat and pacey sketch and her grip on the reader's interest, then a profitable sideline career awaits you.

The second section of the book, "New Threats," covers a series of intriguing virus stories, most