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TWiV 196 Letters

Dallas writes:

I am going through the old podcasts, when I have time. Number forty one covered ISA — a salmonid virus with a billion dollar class damages history. When someone mentioned vaccines development, a comments was made about how can you vaccinate salmon.

Most salmon are already vaccinated for bacterial diseases using automatic machines, where the salmon smolt are lined up, given a shot and released. When you have hundreds of millions of fish to deal with, the machines are fast.

To give you an idea of what has happened to antibiotic consumption over time in Norway salmon farms as vaccines for bacterial pathogens have developed (there is a similar graph showing the increase before vaccines, but I couldn’t find it):

antibiotics and fish

Notes: Use of antibiotics (yellow line) and amount of fish produced (blue columns). The numbers on the left side are the tonnes of fish; the numbers on the right side are the tonnes of antibiotics.

Sources: NMD & Directorate for fisheries, as cited in Ministry of Fisheries (2002).

Virus in the wild fish stock are also a significant issue, but as an old marine biologist once told me: nothing ever dies in the ocean, it is eaten alive before it is actually dead. That makes wild virus hard to study, but the source in aquaculture net pens is from the wild.

Don’t believe all the nonsense being spread by the anti-aquaculture activists and the commercial fishermen who don’t like competition. For example, the red pigments used in the diets are the same chemicals that make wild salmon red and the same as found in “red yeast” or red algae sold in health food stores and found in pepper meal. The color added label was politically added by the Alaska commercial fishermen, who were getting economically killed by the quality control possible with farmed fish (no sitting around on the deck for hours before processing).

Omega 3 fatty acids are a required dietary component in salmon feed and they end up with these fats in their tissue, just like wild salmon. One dinner of farmed salmon — or high fat wild salmon species — equals 10 or so of those fish oil pills and tastes a lot better.

I still haven’t run across an episode on shrimp virus that are resulting in consumers paying an extra billion+ dollars per year in their shrimp cost to cover virus losses.

Love your podcast,

Sam writes:

Dear TWiV,

Thanks so much all these brilliant podcasts, especially episode 184 (Reforming Science). Crowd-funding for science is an interesting grassroots mechanism to obtain support for small projects; you’re probably familiar with Petridish already but I wanted to highlight this project http://www.petridish.org/projects/targeting-mosquito-spit-to-limit-virus-transmission. Only 28d to hit the funding target! Would be great if you could mention it on TWiV.

Best, Sam

ps- no conflicts of interest to declare.

Mark writes:

Hi Vincent et al,

In case you haven’t seen this yet:


Merck has known for a decade that its mumps vaccine is “far less effective” than it tells the government, and it falsified test results and sold millions of doses of “questionable efficacy,” flooding and monopolizing the market, a primary caregiver claims in a federal antitrust class action.

Alabama-based Chatom Primary Care sued Merck on Monday, the week after the unsealing of a False Claims Act complaint two relators filed in 2010.

Those relators, Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, were Merck virologists who claim in their unsealed complaint that they “witnessed firsthand the improper testing and data falsification in which Merck engaged to artificially inflate the vaccine’s efficacy findings.”


All the best

Richard writes:

Hi Vincent and Co hosts

I just thought you should know, since I guess this is deliberate, that what you are doing is working.

So far you have got me to learn more about science, specifically biology, and virology, than I ever thought I would. To the point of working my way up to Kevin Ahern’s bb450/550 molecular biology course on itunes u. Of course I had to start with basic chemistry, so as to understand things like swartzchild radius etc. From there I went to basic biology, as well as all of your virology lectures. I then took a bit of a break, to grow some bacteria and phage, then to use the phage to create plaques. (I wish I had saved the instructions, as it seems the pages have gone away. Though I am sure I can find them on the Internet somewhere.) Right now I’m round 2/3 of the way through the molecular biology course, as mentioned above.

I am sure that you will have had a similar effect on some small percentage of your listeners. It’s taken several years, more or less since episode 1 of twiv, to get here. However 99 percent of what you say, I now understand, including gell electrophoresis, western blot, 16s subunits etc. Etc. This makes listening to twiv much less infuriating, as now I rarely have to look things up, except for things relating to the papers you discuss.

I guess I should give some details of my background, I studied electrical and electronic engineering. I am an engineer working on water and wastewater treatment. In doing this I’ve done some work in laboratories, testing samples of water. I’ve also spent many an hour staring down a microscope, identifying the various types of bacteria, and protozoa that actually do the ‘work’ of treating sewage. Not to mention trying to identify, and find ways to make life difficult for, foam forming filamentous bacteria. (if you can imagine a 1.5 million gallon aeration tank at sewage works, with such foam. Then a strong wind, blowing bus size chunks of foam about…. Well you get some idea of my feelings towards filamentous bacteria). So I wasn’t unaware of biology, but treated it like a car, I could in effect check the oil, water, and simple stuff, anything heavy duty, I would leave to the laboratory.

I hope you don’t mind me blaming you, as it were. I think this an interesting topic, and I’m enjoying learning about it. I guess that was your intention, to spread interest in a topic you clearly love.

If I get the chance, then I will be taking some sort of biology course, with the view to ending up in virology. Though I’m quite settled in my current career, who knows what opportunities the future might hold.

I guess you can file this particular listener, and under the heading “mission accomplished”

Thanks for taking the time to produce the pod casts that you do. I thought I should pass on my story, so you can see just how good a job you are doing.




Please excuse the brevity of the email, but I typed it on my phone.


I think I have removed all the auto correct blunders, but if any got through, I can only hope they are funny :-)

Renato writes:

Dear Professors Racaniello et al,

Thank you for the TWIV, TWIP and TWIM podcasts – I find them immensely interesting, even though my wife forbids me to listen to them during meals – her loss, really!

I am a computer science graduate student at Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, and I would like to make a suggestion to you.

Recently you discussed an episode of a podcast named “Futures in Biotech”, which I listen to regularly, along with some other podcasts which are “syndicated” in twit.tv.

They have a very interesting podcast about computer security, called ”Security Now”. (Hey, that is my pick of the week – a show about viruses that make you poor:http://twit.tv/show/security-now).

The host of “Security Now” does something which I believe you should also do: he pays to have his podcasts transcribed and then publishes the transcription online. By doing this, the contents of his shows can be indexed by Google and other search engines. If your podcasts also had this, I believe many people would discover you by accident, by simply googling virii-, parasite- and microbial-related keywords.

Again, thank you all!




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