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TWiP 38 Letters

Carlos writes:

Dear Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

I am an avid listener of TWIP since its start, have been following TWIV for at least two years and, surprise, also follow TWIM.

My field is Computer Science, but I crave for information in all areas I find interesting. To me, your Podcasts fill the role of giving me very pleasurable conversations on science, and help me better understand fields where nature dictates the validation of the research. In my field we often deal with the construction of artifacts that are validated by their mathematical properties, so the validation process is a bit more detached from nature.

What prompted me to write now is that I just listened to the start of TWIP #33 and your discussion of how google scholar indexes more publications and citations, than PubMed I believe, but with a more messy presentation format. You might find it useful to explore a new tool that allows authors to aggregate papers in a specific google scholar author page. After one does that, its easy to sort by publication year, impact etc.

Take a look at the following link to see how to set it up:


The strong point is that the tool makes it very easy to identify (and separate) your own publications and co-authors. For more common author names its often a mess to separate one's articles from the other homonymous authors.

Keep doing the excellent job of promotting interest in your fields and science in general.



Universidade do Minho,

Peter writes:

Just watching a clip on cellular metabolism. The background music was the Vangelis theme from Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
A very great sadness came over me.
He looked outward whilst you guys look inward, so to speak.
I feel sure he would have loved your shows and would eagerly have embraced podcasting.
You are doing the inner Cosmos.
Thank you.

Emerson writes:

Hi guys,
love the show.

You listed csf, blood, lymph, urine, aqueous humor, cochlear fluid, and semen.

I'd like to suggest that there are more than 7. Ignoring interstitial fluid and cytosol I'm fairly sure that bile is sterile before it leaves the gall bladder. Synovial fluid within the joints is typically sterile, the falopian tubes/ ovaries are bathed in sterile fluid. Tears are also sterile before they are cried I believe.

Take care!

Laura writes:

Drs. Vincent Racaniello and Dickenson Despommier,

I'm a Masters student doing research on Soil Microbes, and in my research have come across papers referencing Mollicutes (phytoplasmas, mycoplasmas, ureaplasmas, and spiroplasmas are examples). Are there any parasitic mollicutes that actively infect humans and cause detrimental symptoms?

Thank you,
Chatham University

Peter writes:

Taking the image challenge on the NEJM site i guessed wrong on a lung
sputum sample. Desperately trying to recall lung involvement parasite.

Ascaris? Bzzzzzzzt!

Of course not, dummy. Too quick on the mouse.

It was a bloody egg in the lung, not a juvenile organism, and I don't
think Ascaris does the disgusting stomach to lung thing?

Turned out to be paragonimus. -> Paragonimiasis

I don't recall that one in twip

Sounds interesting,

coming soon?

Ignore last email

D'oh! I realize you guys did touch on paragonimus. TWiP 27: Trematodes
Must have some in my brain.

Anyway, here's the link.


Brian writes:

Docs R & D,
At the end of your A. lumbricoides program you discussed problems related to Toxocara canis & T. cati infection in humans, namely VLM & OLM. Dick said it would be great if someone surveyed dog runs in NYC, or nearby, for Toxocara eggs. Sampling & counting eggs sounded relatively straightforward, piece of cake was mentioned a couple times. Such a survey would be an excellent topic for an enterprising high school student, with some help from a famous parasitologist or virologist, or someone they may know. Give it some thought.

I am reading Dick's book pick a while back, "The Fever" by Shah and find it fascinating. As an anthropologist, I am well acquainted with the sickle trait balanced polymorphism, but under-appreciated the impact malaria had on human history. The rapid spread of the parasite in the US hit home after reading how fast it infected areas of New England after the environment was altered by the building of mill ponds. It took only a few returning soldiers from the Civil War to infect whole towns. Incredible.

My wife took a parasitology class a few years ago and had to draw many of the specimens you have discussed. She thought Giardia trophozoites were "cute" with their little faces. After going though a Giardia infection, I'll tell you how cute they are.

As much as I love TWiP, I am happy with the longer break between episodes so I have time for the many other terrific podcasts like TWiV, TWiM, Science Friday Video (a favorite, if you haven't seen it), NYTs The Minimalist, Science Now, Nature, Archeology Channel, RadioLab, among others. So many podcasts, so little time.

And, I have to know how you selected the fun but creepy opening music and great hard-driving riffs at the close of the show. Good stuff.


Trudy writes:

Listening to you right now on Science 360 Radio. You mentioned this post and I had to comment. As a former nurse epidemiologist who worked in County Public Health Practice, I am a strong proponent for vaccination. I worked a number of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks including rubeola (measles) which resulted in individuals becoming needlessly seriously ill. Very much enjoy TWIV and TWIP and TWIM....My mother was also a nurse who worked in public health before most vaccines were available. She saw the tragic cases of diseases which resulted in great morbidity and mortality. I could go on and on about the good vaccines do. Thank you Professor Racaniello. Kudos to you and all who assist in the productions of your wonderful podcasts. Dr. Despommier is a treat. I have so many interesting experiences with all kinds of reportable diseases and conditions including on how I became a nurse instead of a medical illustrator or possibly a physician. I sustained a needle stick pre recombinant HBV vaccine while working my way through college in a teaching hospital. I carry natural immunity to hepatitis B now. Didn't get extra credit in my micro class, however.

Best regards,

retired from public health but never tired of pathogens and learning about them...
Naples, Florida

Ricardo writes:

Hello Vincent and Dickson.

I just came from my first jury in a monographic work where the student cited TWIP. The monograph title was "Trichinosis: from the parasite to the ecosystem".

I was very impressed with the "watermark" left by TWIP on the student, and happy that my friend (her supervisor) suggested her to listen to TWIP.

One of my colleagues from the jury commented the text looked like a romance. She appreciated the "stories". :)

Thank you both for the really great work you are doing.

Ricardo Magalhaes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology
Faculty of Health Sciences of Fernando Pessoa University

Felix writes:

Hi Professors,

In episode 16 on Giardia you discuss Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and his early adventures with a microscope. Here are a couple of interesting resources which discuss him:

Firstly an article in the ASM magazine claiming that Leeuwenhoek gets too much credit for his discoveries, some of which should be shared by Robert Hooke of the Royal Society of London. http://forms.asm.org/microbe/index.asp?bid=27982

Secondly, an excellent BBC documentary "The Cell", which begins with Hooke and Leeuwenhoek. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/cell/

You have also mentioned Paul De Kruif's book "The Microbe Hunters" as one of the few sources for information on the history of germ theory and microbiology. A recently published book (also from the ASM) addresses the same area, most likely with a less idiosyncratic style than the dated De Kruif volume:

Germ Theory: Medical Pioneers in Infectious Diseases
Robert P. Gaynes
ISBN: 978-1555815295

Just while writing this email I discovered the ASM book store with a section of the history of science http://estore.asm.org/browse/index.asp?plid=2&categoryid=20.
(I have no connection with the ASM!)

I am currently re-listening to all of your TWIP podcasts, having listened to them all at least twice when they were first released. They're are just that good!

I really love the beginner-level approachability of the first 30 or so episodes.
It would be great if you could cover a small number of highly important non-parasitic diseases, such as cholera, in the same style.

best wishes,

Jim writes:


I'd really like to hear the details of your efforts to convert Dickson's text to electronic format for access over the web. Lessons learned should be useful to anyone with similar thoughts. How is it different from creating such a work from raw materials? I'd prefer it as part of the TWIP's, if that is acceptable.


I'm still hear all the TWIM, TWIP and TWIV's, but my podcast listening load is heavy (60/wk) and production of a weekly blog about the best entries is slow for an old-timer.

Loved Dickson's link to the stop-action high-speed photos of the liquid drops.

Smithfield, VA

Sven-Urban writes:

Dear Profs Racaniello and Despommier,

As a long time listener of TWiP (and for that matter TWiV and TWiM) I feel obliged as well as entitled to express some - mild - criticism that I feel and hope is appropriate.

While Your mutual friendship is a much valued aspect of the show, I think it might lead You to a degree of bantering that interferes with the contents. Slightly too often I find Your discussion interrupted by mutual jibes, which make me lose the thread of thought. I would say that generally, though not exclusively, Dr Racaniello is the instigator of these interruptions. I am, of course, not now referring to those abundant, seriously intended and equally seriously phrased questions that Dr Racaniello interjects, but rather about occasional stray comments and jibes that appear in private between very close friends. I think the term "in private" here is crucial, as I doubt that You would express Yourselves like this were the two of You jointly presenting before a class.

Today I could, by the way, compare TWiP #37 ("Dracunculiasis") with TWiV #172 ("Two can be as bad as one", with Kathy Spindler) - both in a one-on-one setting - and the difference in tone is remarkable.

Naturally I speak here only for myself, of course, but I for one would appreciate if You might henceforth tone down the sparring, keeping in mind that You do actually appear before a large, international audience, not all of whom might appreciate or be able to follow Your bantering. (And just to be precise, "tone down" does not necessarily mean "discard".)

This notwithstanding I am very grateful for the set of podcasts You so graciously provide us all with!

Sincerely and Respectfully, Yours

Robin writes:

This from http://thefreedictionary.com:

- plural noun 1. Often, Acta. official records, as of acts, deeds, proceedings, transactions, or the like

< L, neut. pl. of āctus, ptp. of agere to do; cf. act

Robin writes;

The TWIP podcasts again emphasize to me the difference between hearing first-hand from someone with experience in contrast to hearing material regurgitated by someone with book-knowledge. It made a world of difference listening to a trauma surgeon or an emergency physician from a trauma center speak in contrast to similar material presented by someone without direct experience.

Sarah writes:

Greetings Dickson and Vincent!

I am a new listener and I am thoroughly enjoying working my way through the TWiP and TWiM podcasts. I found your conversation regarding Draculunculiasis very informative. I think it is great that you spent a good portion of time emphasizing the necessity for clean water for overall public health. It is something that we often take for granted here in the U.S. Something caught my attention though. You talked about the use of cheap cloth to filter water in the prevention of Guinea worm and mentioned that it was unfortunate that this wouldn't prevent diarrheal diseases. I attended a session at the ASM general meeting a few years ago to the contrary. While Sari cloth won't prevent viral borne diseases, it does seem to reduce the incidence of Cholera. Here's the link to the study which was published in the first issue of mBio:


Kind Regards,

Assistant Professor of Biology
Gordon College
Barnesville, Ga

Ian writes:

Dear Drs. Twipaniello and Twipommier,
On the topic of the Dracunculus life cycle: Is there evidence that a male is required for fertilization? Some nematodes are parthenogenic and "virgin birth" for this worm would be a nice compliment to the biblical story of the cadueceus (sp??).
Keep up the good work,

Alicia writes:

I`ve heard that Toxoplasma gondii might be caught by touching a leech. What`s the general consensus on this?

Thanks and keep up the great work.


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