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TWiV 154 Letters

Gabriel writes:

I just finished listening to TWiV 152, in which you spent quite some time discussing the death of Steve Jobs the past week. Though this mention is certainly well-deserved, I thought it was an oversight not to make any mention of the outstanding immunologist and fellow New Yorker Ralph Steinman, who also passed away due to the same disease that same week, only days before being awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of dendritic cells. I know you guys are not the greatest fans of immunology, but I think that it deserved at least a mention, especially given the huge importance of DCs to the way our immune system senses and responds to viral pathogens.


Faleye writes:

Hi TWiV crew,

I’m Faleye Temitope from Nigeria. I’ve finished a masters degree in virology in Nigeria and will be convocating in November 2011.Though I’ve been offered a PhD position in Nigeria, I’l love to experience education in another part of the world. I have been searching for what to do for PhD and in this light i went for IUMS 2011 ICV meeting in Sapporo, Japan and it was mind blowing. It was my first time in an International meeting and a Virology meeting at that. I learnt a lot and just assumed the TWiV crew would be there. I was however not very happy to not see you guys there.

At the meeting I learnt about Saffold virus for the first time. Saffold virus is a Human Cardiovirus that was first identified in 2007 by Morris Jones and his group in California. The virus was isolated in 1981 from an 8 month old female child with Fever of Unknown Origin. On returning to Nigeria, I downloaded everything on Saffold virus listed in pubmed and am churning through it all. I’m surprised to see the likes of Nick knowles, Eric Delwart, Howard Lipton, Don Ganem, Joseph Derisi and Nathan Wolfe already neck deep in the field. What was more surprising was the fact that I have no memory of Saffold virus being discussed on TWiV.

The way you guys covered XMRV has built in me a level of trust in your judgement as a team and i will so appreciate you guys discussing Saffold virus on TWiV. Should I venture out to work on, for PhD, Saffold virus in Nigeria? Please, i will appreciate it if you can, in additon to your opinions, also add the opinions of David Baltimore, Karla Kirkgard, Ian Lipkin and any other individual you feel is well positioned to inform my choice.

You guys have constantly been a source of strength and support to me. I’m glad to inform you that I finished top of my M.Sc class and I have to confess that TWiV and Prof Racaniello’s virology lectures played a big role in my education. You guys thought me a sizable chunk of all I know today about Virology. Thanks guys for all the effort you put into educating me and everybody out there who in one way or the other has benefited from TWiV.

I look forward to hearing from you.


(photos at VirusTalk)

Dan writes:


I’m a second year medical student and was turned on to your podcast by my medical microbiology professor. I love listening to your shows because they integrate the often dry, tedious, concepts and “bugs” that I’m learning about into relevant, amusing, and easy-to-follow stories. You make learning entertaining.

A few episodes back, you mentioned that you were looking for a Virology for Dummies-style text book for amateur enthusiasts. While, not specifically virology oriented, I’ve found the book ”

Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple by Mark Gladwin and William Trattle to be a great resource.


It takes a humorous and lighthearted approach to a fairly complicated and, as I said before, often tedious subject. Through humor, cartoons, mnemonics, and other imaginative “study tricks,” its a great way to understand the basic concepts of medical microbiology. Since I’ve been completely immersed in all things medicine/science for the past few years, its hard to judge just how “ridiculously simple” the book may appear to a complete lay person. However, for someone with basic science knowledge (e.g. knowing the difference between RNA and DNA), and trying to get more insight into the world of microbiology, I highly recommend it.

The best part about this book is its knack for juggling basic concepts with just the right amount of detail, without overwhelming the reader with technical jargon or complicated, seemingly random, facts. It is able to integrate and link concepts without coming off as a “bug parade” as most micro courses/books often do.

Besides a few chapters on viruses (classification, life cycles, structures, specific viruses, etc), it spans concepts of microbiology from differentiation of gram stained  organisms, to specific organisms (Staph vs Strep, food born, etc) to parasites, fungi, prions, and even mentions some pharmacology. Definitely worth the $25 price tag.

Please keep up the good work.

Thank you,


Ricardo writes:

Hello Vincent and the rest of the twiv gang.

Congratulations for the three years. I haven’t write much but you can be sure I’m there listening every monday on my driving to the University. Talking back to you as if I was there. One of your listeners said it seems like you are our friends. Well, it sure fells like it. I can see a Tertulia about Virus with all of you siting at a café table.

I’m giving a little bit back with this video, once again. You might use it on a public Twiv event while you wait to star the show, so people can see a little bit of the Twiv history.

My best regards to all of you.


Ricardo Magalhaes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology

Faculty of Health Sciences of Fernando Pessoa University


Geoffrey writes:

Doctors and Alan (I don’t remember mention of a PhD for you):

I don’t follow these matters closely but I have a point that I feel probably confuses a lot of people and probably contributes heavily to rumors of continuing US offensive biological weapons programs.

As pointed out in episode 151, there are now quite a few defensive programs in place in the US. As part of their research, some of these programs actually do weaponize biological agents. This is not because they are, necessarily, looking for the next best weapon nor because they think defenses against these will be of direct use in the future. It is, rather, because weaponizing (indeed any genetic manipulation) has unpredictable (at our level of technology) system-wide effects and they are creating these agents to gain insights into how weaponizing might make biological agents more or less susceptible to established defenses. Sure they keep these creations around for future study and that is, I believe, what causes many rumors of weapons development.

However, the difference between defensive and offensive development is mainly in quantity. A few vials of a weaponized strain, while dangerous, is not a weapon. A few tons of micronized smallpox or anthrax ready to be distributed to warheads is a weapon (as was the case before the disbanding of the Soviet Union). To the best of my (the public’s) knowledge, the US is not stockpiling biological weapons and is not, therefore, engaged in any offensive programs. This does not mean that the US does not have some gems in a freezer somewhere that they are prepared to produce in quantity should the need arise but that is not an offensive program.


Timothy writes:

Dear TWiVers:

I’m responding to your discussion about M.D.-Ph.D. training in your e-mail-only episode #151. You got it mostly right, but there are some nuances that were missed. While M.D.s can do basic research, and Ph.D.s can partner with M.D.s to bring clinical translation to their work, we clearly need people at the interface who do both for a more seamless transition. The two pathways for a person to reach the point where they take care of patients and conduct bench science are, as you said, (1) the combined program or (2) an M.D. to trains extensively in the laboratory. Many of my colleagues that have taken the latter route received their laboratory training during their subspecialty fellowship years and stayed under their mentor’s wing until they were able to procure their own K- then R-level grants. They learned to do science by apprenticeship, however, without the rigorous oversight of a thesis committee or completing the academic requirements of a Ph.D. training program. I believe that the Ph.D. training equips the individual with a more robust toolset for conducting research, and ultimately they are better poised for success. There is a downside, of course, in that the training is long during years of being a student and going further into debt. I myself essentially was in school for 17 years after high-school before my first real job. Of course, talented individuals will be successful no matter which route they take. I do want to emphasize how important it is for there to be people that do both, because they can get things done or see insights that two people from the different spectrums can’t appreciate.



Timothy P. Cripe, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics

Division of Oncology

Research Director, Musculoskeletal Tumor Program

Medical Co-Director, Office for Clinical and Translational Research

Director of Pilot and Collaborative Clinical and Translational Studies Core,

University of Cincinnati Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Georganne writes:

Has Ila Singe made a statement about whether XMRV is still a player in prostate cancer. I’m surprised I haven”t seen a statement from her regarding this issue. Have I missed it. I would think she would go with the latest studies that show XMRV is a contaminant in prostate cancer.



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