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The epidemics of AIDS, SARS, avian flu, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV2 are examples of viral infections which, starting from local outbreaks, spread in many different countries or even became pandemics. Reports of novel viruses emerging from remote areas of the world and able to infect the human population, are not anymore confined to medical bulletins, but are being found everyday in newspapers and public media. This, because it is now well understood that every outbreak, small and remote it may be, can rapidly evolve into a worldwide health emergency. Dealing with such situations requires high forecasting ability starting from the available data and deep knowledge of the many factors influencing the spread of a viral outbreak. In turn, such ability stems from the study of the life cycle and pathogenetic mechanisms of the viruses. Understanding the biology of viruses and the relationships between emerging viral pathogens and the anthropic influences on the environment is the key to develop new drugs and vaccines, but also to genetically manipulate viruses for gene therapy applications.