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TWiP 11 letters

Sophie writes:

Hi Dick and Vincent,

I still love both of your podcasts and was very pleased when Dick referred to Claudius as I love the books about him. This malaria themed podcast made me realize that the historical part of parasitism is so interesting (I'm talking about the really old stuff), and although it is very difficult to say much about this, I would really like to know more about parasitology and their influence on history.

- Sophie

Erin writes:

Dear Vincent and Dick,

I have been fervently enjoying your podcasts since I learned about them a few months ago from Rich Condit himself. I am a grad student at University of Florida and I am on a training grant that he is involved with. I have been trying my best to catch up with your TWIV episodes, and I was delighted when you started TWIP. I study a protozoan parasite called Babesia bovis, which I bet Dick is aware of (believe me, most people are not).

I just listened to the TWIV episode in which Dr. Condit tells you about our seminar program where students get to present the speakers' papers to them after the talk. Wouldn't you know, I am one of the lucky students who gets to present to you! Of course I did not realize this at the time I was assigned to you - I was just annoyed that most of the speakers were virologists (not a single parasitologist, how surprising...!) and terrified because I know so little about virology. Presently I feel slightly better about the virology aspect after listening to so many of your informative and entertaining podcasts. However, you have become somewhat of a celebrity to me but don't yet know I exist, which I was beginning to feel a little weird about. Hence, this email.

I am very excited to meet you and I think you should bring Dick along. I will take him fishing in my canoe!

Also, I have a suggestion for a podcast topic, which could actually be covered on either TWIV or TWIP. The particular aspect of Babesia bovis that I study is its ability to undergo rapid antigenic variation, which I'm sure you know is not unique to this organism. I think people would be interested to hear about antigenic variation and how it allows pathogens to evade the host immune response. Also, you could talk about antigenic shift and drift, and the differences between those three events. Sorry if you've already covered this topic - like I said, I haven't quite caught up yet.

Like Dr. Condit, I enjoy your podcasts most while on my daily bicycle commute. I truly appreciate the opportunity you've given me to learn something during this otherwise uneventful part of my day. My other favorite podcast is "This American Life" - if you haven't heard it, please give it a listen. In fact there is an episode (no. 404) called "Behind Enemy Lines" that has two stories about parasites, including one about a man who purposefully acquires hookworm (by stomping around in tropical third-world country latrines) to ease his allergies and asthma.

Sorry for all the rambling, thanks again, and I very much look forward to meeting you.



p.s. One of my cats is chronically infected with tapeworms despite my best efforts to eradicate them. I find lots of little proglottids in her favorite sleeping spots, and sometimes I find 2-4 inch long, flat, crusty worm segments that look like rice noodles. I'd be happy to save one for you!

anonymous writes:

I am a little behind on both TWIV and TWIP, but as I was listing to the trichinella, while collating appendices,  I had a thought.  I have read/heard over the years that the lack of parasites in our society is related to the high incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases.

I will fully admit this may be a stupid question..


When looking into making vaccines for parasites (as Dick mentioned has been done), has it ever been considered as a way to stimulate the immune response (without causing any disease) to help prevent/treat allergies and autoimmune diseases?  Just thought it was an interesting idea.

anonymous writes:

I listen to at least a dozen podcasts regularly and sometimes I don't have time for every episode, but TWIP and TWIV are two that I never skip.  I'm always entertained and always learn something.  It's  not at all related to my present occupation, (electrical engineer working on rockets), but maybe that's why it's especially interesting because it's so different.

1) Question:  I'd be interested if you could cover diseases that we can get from our pets as I have several dogs and a couple of little kids.  I wonder what kinds of scary parasites you can describe that can help keep me up at night worrying.  At least we are in Arizona so we don't have many fleas or ticks around ( I guess it gets too hot?)

2) Tip:  http://www.giantmicrobes.com/ Check out this website and the cool stuffed bugs, germs, viruses etc.  Stuffed bears are entirely over represented in the stuffed toy world.

PS.  I need TWIP to be more frequent.  Please.  Thanks for all the time you guys put in to this.  It's very much appreciated.

PPS.  If you ever change your tag line at the end it could be " Another TWIP... is in your brain"<

Duncan writes:


I thought this news item might interest you:


"Health authorities are warning of the dangers of eating slugs as a Sydney man battles a rare form of meningitis.

The 21-year-old caught rat lungworm disease after he ate a slug as a dare some time ago.

He is now in a critical condition in hospital.

The disease is caused by a parasitic worm that is carried by slugs and snails.

In some instances, the worm can cause fatal swelling of the brain and spinal chord.

Doctor Jeremy McAnulty from New South Wales Health says these cases are rare and most people can recover.

"It goes away by itself because the body's immune system will eventually get rid of it," he said.

The disease can also be caught from raw vegetables or fruit which have not been washed properly."

Cheers, Duncan


Vincent writes:


I am sure someone has sent in this article, but I thought I would bring it to your attention if not.


Keep up the wonderfully good work on both podcasts!


Michael writes:


Man eat a raw slug and gets the rat lungworm

Michael writes:

Since we can't get enough of TWIP, I have started a facebook group on Parasites and Parasitology. Feel free to cross post on it and spread the word.  I have linked this website to the group and perhaps you would do the same.

Kind regards

Dr. Michael

John writes:

I love both TWIP and TWIV, but I need more frequent TWIP podcasts!!  Too much waiting gives me digestional problems.  So, due to my failing health, I need more frequent TWIP productions (much more, if possible).  Of course I don't have a Doctor's note, but I am working to get into the Microbiology Ph.D. program at UF and I can't handle the extra stress ;)  Hook us up, guys, we need our "fix."

Thank you for the awesome shows

Nora writes:

Hello Drs. Racaniello and Despommier,

I am an avid listener to TWiV and just recently am catching up on TWiP.  I work in the Biotech field, formerly in clinical viral production and now antibody production.  I specialize in large-ish cell based production I suppose.  well virology will always be close to my heart.


Anyway, I have a couple of comments for TWiP, I have only listened to the first couple of episodes so hopefully no other listeners have beat me to this.

On the first podcast you said that there are no parasites larger than insects.  I believe I have thought up and exception.  The cuckoo bird would be a parasite.  Wikipedia lists it as a "brood parasite".  I would love to be the first listener to have though of this as you have a very intelligent listenership! :)

In the second podcast you discussed Ivermectin, just an interesting side note, this is also used extensively for horses.  It is part of the "wormer rotation" used against round worms, bots, etc.  (my bachelors degree is in Equine science).

I wonder if you wouldnt do an episode on Tuberculous.  I find this disease very interesting and it is making a world wide comeback.

Thank you, keep up the great work,



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