Medical virology belongs to the field of microbiology. This branch of science studies viruses that can infect humans, and everything connected with them: their physiology, development, reproduction, morphology and structure. All this knowledge is classified and used by scientists, biologists, chemists, and doctors.
The virologist doctor is a specialist in the field of virology, who not only studies the viruses themselves and their pathogens, but also develops methods for their analysis, diagnosis and treatment.
Today, when every person daily encounters viral microorganisms, passes through active forms of viral diseases or is a chronic carrier, the profession of “virologist” is relevant and in demand in the field of medicine.
What does a virologist do
The scope of the virologist is very extensive. This doctor can study pathogenic microorganisms of a viral nature, their laboratory diagnosis, develop treatment methods, treatment regimens and prevention.
The virologist can apply his professional skills and knowledge both in the field of medicine and in the fields of pharmacology, education or laboratory scientific research.
Most often, patients encounter virologists who specialize in the diagnosis and directly in the treatment of diseases caused by infection.
With specialists who are engaged in the laboratory study of these tests, the patient intersects only in the process of passing tests. And thanks to the work, to a large extent, of virologists, many vaccines and drugs have been developed for the prevention and control of viruses.
A virologist who takes patients in a medical institution, first of all, diagnoses the patient for the symptoms that caused the treatment. However, based on only the external manifestations of the disease, it is often difficult to determine the correct diagnosis, therefore, the virologist writes out the directions for the necessary laboratory examinations, analyzes, studies.
According to the results of the information received, the specialist can identify the disease and its pathogen, and prescribe adequate treatment.
It is possible that for some time after recovery, you will need to visit a doctor and take some tests to prevent the transition of an acute viral disease to the stage of a chronic process or virus carrier.
In addition, the doctor develops and selects the necessary preventive measures in relation to a specific virus, and can also recommend the necessary vaccinations, for example, routine for the child, or unscheduled if you are traveling to exotic countries.
Parts of the body and organs that the virologist treats
A virologist specializes in diseases caused by viruses. Their pathogens can affect almost all organs and tissues in the human body:
- a heart;
- gastrointestinal tract;
- sensory organs;
- respiratory system.
The specialist selects the treatment method based on the diagnosis, and some complications and consequences require the participation of not only the virologist, but also other specialists in the development of therapy.
For example, the consequences of infection with the Coxsackie virus may be herpetic sore throat, the treatment methodology of which the virologist is developing together with an otolaryngologist, or hemorrhagic conjunctivitis - an ophthalmologist and a virologist can prescribe a treatment regimen against him.
Observing the course of the disease in the patient, the doctor checks the effect of the virus on the nervous and immune systems, and can prescribe appropriate studies.
What is the difference between an infectious disease specialist, a virologist and an immunologist?
In some cases, when the characteristic symptomatology becomes the reason for visiting the therapist, this general practitioner may refer a patient with signs of viral damage to a virologist, immunologist-virologist or infectious disease specialist-virologist.
The competence of these specialists is somewhat different.
An infectious disease doctor is involved in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, including viral infections.
He has a higher medical education and additional specialization in the field of infectious diseases.
An infectious diseases immunologist has undergone special training in both the field of infectious diseases and the immunology industry. This doctor treats infectious lesions that turn into a chronic condition and are accompanied by impaired functioning of the immune system. He also specializes in immune-infectious diseases like infectious mononucleosis or bronchial asthma.
The scope of activity of a virologist is narrower, since infectious diseases can be of a viral, parasitic, or bacterial nature.
An infectious disease specialist can diagnose and treat infections caused by any reason, while a virologist specializes in viral infections.
Virologist treats diseases
The competence of this specialist is infectious diseases, the causative agents of which are viruses.
What the virologist treats:
- Herpes viruses: these types of viruses affect approximately 90% of the world's population. Their danger lies in the fact that herpes, once ingested, the virus remains there forever, but it is asymptomatic almost all the time. Only in cases of weakened immunity, the pathogen is manifested by rashes, redness of the mucous membranes, itching, sometimes an increase in temperature and an increase in lymph nodes. Herpes can be infected sexually, by airborne droplets, alimentary and transplacental.
- Rubella, measles, mumps: these are dangerous childhood infectious diseases, but they also affect adults. The consequences of diseases can be meningitis, viral pneumonia, encephalitis, arthritis, infertility, diabetes mellitus. Once transferred rubella, as a rule, produces lifelong immunity. Re-infection with measles or mumps is possible in about 2-4% of all cases, if the disease was mild for the first time.
- Human papillomaviruses: like herpes, these pathogens are embedded in the cells of the human body and remain in them forever. Some genotypes are oncogenic and provoke cervical cancer in women, as well as skin diseases.
- Viral hepatitis: negatively affect liver cells, are among the ten most common causes of death among the population of the entire planet.
- Rabies: The virus is transmitted most often through the bites of infected animals. It affects the central nervous system, causing inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
- Smallpox: a highly infectious disease, the causative agent of which is transmitted by airborne droplets. It is characterized by the appearance of high fever and papular rash.
- Influenza: acute infectious disease, belongs to the group of acute respiratory viral infections. It affects the nasopharynx, throat, respiratory tract. In some cases, it can be fatal.
- Tick-borne encephalitis: a disease transmitted by encephalitis ticks. Its distinguishing features are seasonality, as ticks begin their activity with the onset of heat in the spring, and continue to attack a person until the first serious colds in the fall. Causes inflammation of the lining of the brain.
Of course, the signs of a viral infection have certain characteristics, but a person is often not able to independently determine which specialist needs to be contacted if their health begins to deteriorate in a certain way.
In this case, it is worth making an appointment with a therapist, and if we are talking about a childhood illness, a pediatrician.
The main manifestations of viral infection that you need to pay attention to:
- rashes on the skin or mucous membranes (in the oral cavity, in the nose);
- palpation pain and swollen lymph nodes;
- frequent and severe headaches (if this is not associated with a jump in blood pressure);
- state of fever and intoxication;
- dry mouth, insomnia;
- digestive disorders;
- severe muscle pain.
In addition, the reason for visiting the doctor-virologist is planned or already conducted trips to exotic countries, where the epidemic picture may differ from the usual for a person.
The doctor may prescribe a vaccination or, if the trip is already behind, the delivery of appropriate tests. For children, the doctor determines the scheme and procedure for special vaccinations, for example, against measles, rubella and mumps, against influenza.
Diagnostic and treatment methods
The first thing a doctor does when accepting a patient is to interview him in order to obtain information about his lifestyle and medical history. Next, the specialist conducts an examination and studies all the external manifestations of the disease, prescribes the necessary tests and studies in order to most accurately establish the diagnosis.
Among the main types of tests prescribed by a virologist are PCR diagnostics, a general and detailed blood test, bacterial culture and smears for flora, tests for hepatitis markers, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
In addition, the doctor can prescribe a direction for a liver biopsy, laparoscopy, puncture laparoscopy.
Having identified the causative agent of the disease and established the diagnosis, the specialist determines the drug treatment regimen, immunomodulating therapy, immunostimulants and interferons, antiviral drugs, and general supportive therapy.
The competence of a virologist includes not only treatment, but also disease prevention. He develops preventative measures for patients, and makes recommendations for vaccination.
Virologists are specialists involved in the study and treatment of infectious diseases caused by viruses. The activities of these doctors are aimed at reducing the incidence among the population, at preventing the development of epidemics, and at developing drug therapy against pathogens and manifestations of viral damage.
Specialists who receive patients in medical institutions, as well as study pathogens in laboratories, save dozens of people from the dangerous consequences of viral diseases every day.