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TWiV 113 Letters

Trevor writes:

Hi Vince, Dick, Alan and Rich,

My name is Trevor Stewart, a PhD student at the University of Toronto (in my final year!!) in Physics. I've been listening to TWIV (and TWIP) since last Xmas when my twin brother (who is a graduate student studying mass-spec determined protein sequences with massively parallel computer systems) recommended the show to me. I've enjoyed every moment of the show, which has helped deepen my understanding of viruses and topics related to them (such as public health).

I had a comment on Alan Dove's response to the letter about the media and dissemination of scientific results. While agreeing with Alan, I think he may have missed the exact point of the letter (or my interpretation of it) by discussing the results of study in such detail. While the XMRV studies seem much more credible than the Wakefield study... I think there are similarities in how the studies are being used my advocacy groups, and individuals in the public. Some people in the CFS community have pounced on the original result in the same manner that the autism/anti-vaccination jumped on the Wakefield study. One only has to do a quick search on youtube to find videos for XMRV to see this (eg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz8pwuDa8aM ). In these cases, I'd suggest that the link has become an article of faith, rather than a reasoned interpretation of the data... and that no negative article will change this. In this way, XMRV is quite similar to the MMR vaccine autism link.

Is there a better way to spread scientific discoveries and encourage critical thinking? Maybe it will take a complete re-tooling of education systems to help people better understand how science ‘works'.




Shannon writes:

Hello Team TWiV,

I'm writing today because I am in the midst of listening to episode 100 and your discussion of why young people don't go into careers in science. I'm forwarding an email from venture capitalist Larry Bock to a good friend of mine who is very involved in science outreach to young people and the general public. You can read more about the USA Science and Engineering Festival that Larry is organizing in the email below but the key line that I wanted to share is, "Society gets what it celebrates! As a culture, we celebrate movie stars, rock stars and athletes and we generate a lot of them, but we don't celebrate science and engineering." A great way to start celebrating science and engineering is this 2 day festival being held on the Washington Mall October 23-24, 2010 See: http://www.usasciencefestival.org for more details. I think it would be a great event to publicize to TWiV listeners so they can attend the event or forward the information on to people in the DC area who may be able to attend.

Congratulations on reaching 100 episodes!

All the best,


Graduate Student at the Salk Institute/UCSD

Mitchell writes:

Hello TWiV:

I was just catching up on some back episodes and heard your conversation in TWiV 51 regarding vaccination of fish and how there is some poor guy in Chile inoculating 300,000 fish by hand. I recently learned of this company, Microtek, which has a machine for doing just this. The company was recently acquired by Pfizer, so they obviously have something good. There is still a lot of manual labor involved, but the machine does the heavy lifting.

Be sure to check out the video that is linked in the last sentence on this page.



Durham, NC

Yasmine writes:


I LOVE virology and although I am not a virologist I constantly read about it and recently I read an interesting article, and not quite sure I understand the whole mechanism:

Question: I read an article about using cyclotriazadisulfonamides (CADA) compounds to down regulate CD4 receptors (up to 90%!) and therefore block HIV adhesion to CD4+ cells. It's been shown to be very effective in decreasing HIV infectivity and also works synergystically with other anti-HIV meds. Here's what I don't understand... So one would have to take this med continuously to prevent new virions from attaching and the drug will never get rid of already infected cells? If this is the case would it be a practical tx for patients to take for the rest of their lives? Plus, I'm sure CD4 receptors are there because they serve a role in binding substances...blocking them would not affect health?



Rick writes:

Hello Dr. Racaniello et al.,

I enjoyed listening to episode 103 with Dr. Tan. I appreciated his explanation of Flumist. Pretty cool. So if I understand correctly, the attenuated virus in FLumist is engineered to produce HA from the H1N1 pandemic 2009 strain, HA from H3N2, and HA from type B virus?

Also, a second question kind of off-topic, why do adeno-associated viruses, when used as a gene delivery vector, require a helper virus, and what is the role of the helper virus?

I appreciate you and your colleagues taking the time to put this awesome podcast together. TWIV and TWIP (the parasite podcast not photography) help my commute go by quickly.

Well one more question, perhaps for Dr. Condit. Many TWIV's ago, Dr. Condit described the antiviral mechanism for acyclovir and gave a nice discussion on viral TK. I have read that acyclovir can irreversibly inhibit viral DNA polymerase in addition competitive inhibition and chain termination. Any insight as to how this drug can irreversibly inhibit DNA polymerase?

Thanks much,


[sent "Acyclovir Triphosphate Is a Suicide Inactivator of the Herpes Simplex Virus DNA Polymerase" JBC 259:9575]

Julia writes:

Hi all

Been listening to the podcasts on my dog walking sessions! A quick question about a throw away comment from, I think, the CFS podcast. There was a mention of CCR5 gene therapy for BMT in HIV. I cannot find anything on this being a reality just a theoretical concept but the comment came across as if it was actually being done. Can you clarify at all?

Best wishes


Consultant Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Disease

Newcastle General Hospital

Neil writes:

Dear TWIV,

Thanks for the great podcast. I am catching up on recent episodes and was just listening to episode 103 with Dr. Tan talking about flu vaccine. I used to work at Medimmune (while it was still called Aviron) and so could not resist writing to correct an error which was Dr. Tan saying that flumist is an engineered vaccine. In fact it was attenuated "the old way" by serial passage in vitro, at low temperature. My project was actually to engineer a separate vaccine strain but this was shelved once the flumist strain (aka "cold-adapted") was licensed by Aviron from the NIH.

Anyways since some folks get nervous about genetically engineered organisms, I thought it would be important to let listeners know about this error.




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