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TWiP 25 Letters

Casey writes:


I would like to thank you for the excellent podcasts regarding parasites and viruses. Although I must say, I think TWiP is more enjoyable than TWiV. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Microbiology and a bachelor's degree in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of Iowa, ultimately becoming board certified in Medical Laboratory Science with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). I am currently working as a Clinical Microbiologist at a 500 bed hospital that just recently got rid of the parasitology laboratory.

Unfortunately, I wish the United States put more emphasis on parasitology as it does in the other areas of medical microbiology. While I was a microbiology major, the Department of Microbiology never offered a course in parasitology. In addition, as a CLS major, we were only given a 3 day lecture on parasites, which was really just brushed aside. Your podcasts continue to increase my interest in parasites pushing me to buy many books on the subject to add to my already growing microbiology library. I must admit though, I have not bought the book by Dr. Despommier yet. I can easily relate to some of the patient cases as I was recently infected with two parasites (giardia and E. histolytica) while I was in small villages in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I was just admitted to the University of Texas Medical Branch as a PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences Program, with an emphasis in Experimental Pathology. During my interview, they found it interesting that I mentioned parasitology as an area of research interest.

I do not know if you have mentioned it in previous TWiV or TWiP podcasts, but I would like to inform you of the Infectious Wearables website, www.iawareables.com. I have bought several infectious disease ties from this website, which are always a conversation starter at family and professional gatherings.

Thank you and keep up the excellent work,


Suzanne writes:

I'm learning so much about history today! :) Just before TWiP I was listening to a podcast about Scotland and Ireland and the Scotch/Irish
who'd moved to the American colonies a couple hundred years ago. I'd known that one of the most hated British regiments had burned churches in the South and that was partly why they lost the favor of the royalists there at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. I learned
today that they were burning Presbyterian churches because the Presbyterian ministers were wandering the land trying to gather support for the Revolution.

Not that that has anything to do with your podcast :) Other than I was also interested to learn the role of hookworm in the South after the
Civil War. The South was pretty screwed up economically to begin with. There really wasn't great wealth by that point, just a few people who
were very wealthy. At the end of the war the few landowners who'd had enough land to make money left. Even before the war there was a lot of unemployment because of slavery and slavery itself wasn't nearly as economical as the landowners tried to convince themselves. Except in
the few cases where someone had enough land to profit on a small margin. Kind of like farming today. It wasn't just the machines in the
north that made businesses more profitable. Even small northern farmers were more profitable because they could hire fewer freemen who
would actually be interested in doing the work without the payment of a foreman to beat it out of them. Thomas Jefferson even wrote about
the problems created by slavery long before the Civil War. Frederick Law Olmsted (yeah! the park designer!) has an interesting book (The
Cotton Kingdom) he wrote after traveling through the South just before the war. I expect hookworm was the final nail in the coffin. Very
interesting to find out!

Thanks for all your podcasts. They're all in my list of favorites!

I also meant to say it's been fun listening to further information about things I already know a lot about like hookworm, which my mom
always warned us about when I was a kid in the 70s in Texas, and pinworm, which I first learned about from friends with kids. Let me
tell, you, my friend were not happy to find out that most of our kids probably had pinworms! I did feel the need to tell them, though, since
it does happen occasionally that someone's kid gets enough of them to be an annoyance. The trick I learned from the email list of moms I
used to frequent was to peek at your kid's bottom while they sleep at night. Evidently you can see the adult females crawling out of the
kid's anus if you're... lucky?

Rich writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

I can't resist. In TWiP 12 Dickson asserts that sea otters eat only abalone. This is incorrect. They eat all sorts of stuff:


I spent part of my youth watching these critters and they are not only fascinating and an important part of the ecology, but they are decidedly gourmets as well. The reason abalone loom so large on the human perception of sea otters is that the abalone fishermen blame the comeback from near extinction of the sea otters for the decline of the abalone industry. There is vigorous debate about whether the sea otters or the fishermen themselves are in fact responsible for the decline of the industry:


Keep up the good work.


Richard Condit
Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32610

Joe writes:

Dr. Racaniello and Despommier,

I very much enjoy listening to your TWiP podcast since I recently discovered it on iTunes last month. I particularly find the clinical presentation information and patient anecdotes informative. I will be starting medical school in the fall and will be sure to keep this information in mind as I go through my training.

There was mention in your broadcasts on Trichinella spiralis about the lack of current research being conducted on this parasite. I'm not sure if you are already aware of this article, but I thought you would be pleased to know that in the March 2011 issue of Nature Genetics the genome of Trichinella spiralis has been has been drafted (Matreva et al. Nature Genetics 43(3): 228-235.

Keep up the excellent work!

Thank You, Joe

Godfried writes:

Dear Hosts,

Did you ever considered yourself as addictive substances?
Some weeks ago a friend of mine suggested twip and twiv and now i find myself listening to your podcasts too frequently. There's a huge trove of episodes that i'm overdosing on (with horrible clinical effects as well as collapse of my social networks).

Currently i'm doing an MSc in infectious disease and combining this with your podcasts.
Thanks a lot for your effort, it is seriously helpful and fun.

A had a note/question to Dr. Despommier. In an earlier episode the genome size/gene content of Trichinella was discusses and it was mentioned that it has more genes than C. elegans. Last week i saw a paper in pre-print in Nature Genetics that discusses the genome of Trichinella (The draft genome of the parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis Nature Genetics 43, 228-235 (2011). It seems to have fewer genes than C. Elegans. I tried to work my way through the paper but it's dense and a lot of data (I failed). I wondered if Dr. Despommier, with his experience with this bug, could shine his light on this paper. I'm especially curious if the paper explains longstanding questions of Dr. Despommier regarding trichinella (that maybe the authors hadn't thought of). It must also be good news for him that "his" animal has been sequenced and that scientific research is continuing to be done on trichinella.

All the best,


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