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TWiP 29 Letters

Dylan writes:

Dear Professors Racaniello and Depommier,

I hope this email finds you both in good health. I am a second year medical student from Ireland studying at the University of Cambridge, UK and I have been following the TWiP series with considerable interest. Please allow me to compliment the marvellous work you both are doing for science communication, which I am certain will help inspire both researchers and clinicians alike as well as the general public to learn more about infectious diseases. If I may, I would like to request that an episode be devoted to the helminth, Schistosoma mansoni.

Wishing you the best of luck with all the podcasts,

Yours faithfully,


Clint writes:

Love your show.

Have you seen this http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308084743.htm

The news clip covers a Chemotherapy Drug that Also Kills the Parasite That Causes Malaria.

It may be a malaria breakthrough could you give us your thoughts.

Thanks Again for a great program.


Ryan writes:

Hey Guys,

Thought I'd follow up with you on my email you read on #24.

You asked which university I attended and who taught parasitology there. I attended a smaller to medium size school in Texas called Tarleton State University, where I studied Limnology. My parasitology professor's name was Dr. Russell Pfau. Most of his work is with genetics and currently based around the cotton rat (Sigmodon hispids).

I also thought I would tell you guys how I have put my parasitology classes to use, as it might interest Dickson.

After I graduated with my B.S. I started working at a state run fish hatchery, where we produce game fish and do a fair bit of aquaculture research. We produce striped bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and rainbow trout that are stocked in public water bodies around the state for angling enjoyment. We do regular sampling of our fish for various parasites and bacterial infections, so I've kept my microbiology skills fresh over the last few years.

Our arch-nemesis, however, is a single cell algae: Prymnesium parvum (golden algae).

It is a common algae found in estuaries around the world, but wreaks havoc when introduced to inland waters. P. parvum was first identified in Texas in the mid-eighties, and has gone on to destroy fish populations in several of our drainage basins throughout the state. Since then, it has reared its head in many different states in the U.S. Much of our resources (and most of my time) are spent dealing with golden algae at our facility and providing assistance to private land owners who have experienced blooms on their property.While we have good controls for dealing with it on a small scale, there is currently no solution for treating on a large reservoir scale.

Here is a link to more info on our website if anyone is interested:


Thanks again, for the great podcast. Since finding TWiP, I've also added your other podcast to my weekly downloads. They're all great.

(semi-professional phycologist)

John writes:

This show has stimulated an interest in the subject in me, an unlikely candidate.

Thank you

Coincidentally my dog is currntly being treated for heart wrom.

If you ever need an alternative name for the show I have;

1) Hold my hand, I'm a stranger in parasitism

2) Parisitism lost - paristism found.

3) Another shitty day in parisitism.

I hereby assign all rights.

Keep up the good work.


Alberto writes:

Dear Vincent & Dickson

Thanks for your wonderful podcasts. I have recently subscribed to both TWiP and TWiV and am slowly working my way back through the back catalogue.

I am a diagnostic molecular biologist working in the haematology department of a major teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia. Our lab's main tasks are PCR detection of various mutations and gene rearrangements found in leukaemias. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first official diagnostic PCR report issued by our lab, so we have been involved in the field from the early days

I was particularly interested in TWiP #23 re. Strongyloides stercoralis since it is relevant to my work in molecular diagnostic haematology. One of the diseases that our lab works with is chronic eosinophilic leukaemia (CEL), particularly the myeloid subtype that is characterised by the presence of PDGFRA and PDGFRB gene rearrangements; this subtype is particularly sensitive to kinase inhibitors such as imatinib. Curiously, these gene rearrangements are almost exclusively found in males and they do not involve the sex chromosomes.

(Note for your listeners: Eosinophils are white blood cells that form part of the innate immune system. They are full of toxic protein granules that are released to kill invading organisms. However, if these granules are released in the host's tissues in large quantities they can cause significant systemic toxicity. Commonly affected tissues in hypereosinophilia [eosinophil blood counts above 1.5x10^9 /litre] include the skin, heart, lungs & gastrointestinal tract. )

Therefore, it is very important that patients with eosinophilia are correctly diagnosed so that the clinician can determine if they are eligible to receive this very effective targeted therapy. CEL is very rare compared to reactive eosinophilias, including those caused by parasitic infections. Other idiopathic eosinophilias are treated with corticosteroids which suppress immunity.

In my CEL powerpoint that I have presented to clinical haematologists I have a couple of slides stressing the importance of screening patients by Strongyloides serology prior to commencing corticosteroid or kinase inhibitor treatment for eosinophilia. It was not until I heard TWiP#23 that I really understood how serious strongyloidiasis is and why it is so important to avoid it.

Having no background in parasitology and very little in immunology beyond undergraduate biology, I appreciate that Dickson instructs us in the correct pronunciation of the names of the organisms and diseases that you discuss.

I hope you guys continue to keep up the good work and that you mentor a new generation of podcasters who will produce other interesting podcasts. I only wish there was a podcast of equivalent content and production quality in molecular haematology. Thanks again and I look forward to hearing more from you both.




Molecular Haematology Lab, Institute of Haematology

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital



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