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TWiV 117 Letters

Martin writes:

Listen to this...it's incredible.

The pharma establishment is stomping on Dr. Andrew Wakefield in the same way they stomped on Peter Duesberg of UC Berkeley. In both cases Dues and Wakefield got it right, and the pharma establishment is shielding gross scientific error because of money.

Wakefield's study was not fraudulent and accurately reported that all 12 kids had MMR vaccine associated digestive track viral illness that brought on autistic symptoms. The virus doing the damage in the kids' guts years later was found to be the same Measles strain that was in the vaccine.

The recent news stories slamming Wakefield come from reports by a single corrupt pharma paid science writer, which the American media has jumped on without checking for accuracy.

Be sure to listen to the end of the program where the mother of two of the kids in the study tells how she tangled with the corrupt science writer.

Go to iTunes store

In the search box enter The Gary Null Program

Click on the Jan 12 show and listen at your computer

Wiki on Gary Null: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Null

Null's website: http://www.garynull.com/

Martin writes:

Dear TWIV,

In your last discussion about thimerosol, you seem to be unaware that mercury is a nerve poison. Please check out this letter from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.


They are opposed to the use of mercury in any material that is injected into the human body, specifically vaccinations.

Do you know which common vaccinations include mercury, especially for children?

Best as always, and I never miss a show,


Donghoon writes:

Dear Doctors

I was so much thrilled when I listened you read my email (Episode 106) about High Throughput Screening program funded by NIH (MLPCN). At the same time I apologize I did not spelled out SAR: Structure Activity Relationship. Chemists usually research SAR to make a better compounds by looking at "Chemical (target protein as well if its structure is available) structure" and activity of the compounds.

Anyway, I would like to have your comments about evolutionary benefit of natural hosts if you don't mind. A lot of zoonotic viruses are carried by natural hosts; hantaviruses by rodents and influenza viruses by wild birds etc..Most them are asymptomatic in their natural hosts. My question is why the natural hosts carry the viruses instead of removing them. There might be some evolutionary benefits for the hosts? I appreciate your thoughts on this.

I really enjoy TWiV everyday and I have to admit that TWiV inspires me so much not only with science in virology but also with my social responsibility and attitude as a young scientist.

Thank you again for your great work.


Donghoon Chung, Ph.D

Center For Predictive Medicine

Assistant Professor

Department of Microbiology College of Med. University of Louisville


Jamie writes:

Dear TWiVers,

I love your show and am one step away from wearing a sandwich board to push it. For now, though, I just recommend it by word-of-mouth.

I have a comment regarding Vince's assertion on episode #105 that there is not a functional envelope for HERV-K. In fact, a group at the Pasteur Institute (Thierry Heidmann's lab) found that one member of the HERV-K family--HERV-K108-- codes for a functional Env protein, and when the env sequence is cloned into an expression vector and used to co-transfect cells along with an SIV helper, the HERV-K108 pseudotyped particles mediate infection of a number of cell types (including cat brain cells, ewww), though at a very low level.

The same group later reconstructed a full-length HERV-K provirus (Phoenix), from a consensus sequence (the envelope region was that of HERV-K108), and was able to show infection of a few cell types, again, at very low levels.

Identification of a receptor is probably just around the corner (or, "au coin de la rue"?).


Jessica writes:

Hello Dr Racaniello or the lucky grad student that is scanning his emails for him,

I am currently taking Virology at Montana State University, it is being co-taught by Dr. Mark Young an Dr. Michele Hardy, They are great! I have enjoyed your podcasts as an added reinforcement to our lectures. I recently listened to podcast #19 about cap-snatching, and in the introduction you mentioned a photo of a chinese chicken farmer sleeping with his chickens. You mentioned that there was a high chance of viral exchange via aeresol transmission. Now I have to admit that my dog does like to sneak up onto my bed and she is a cuddle bug, my question is should I be worried that we could be swapping viruses? Should I get my dog a flu shot?...just joking. Maybe a good podcast would be how house animals, especially exotic animals, are affected by the viruses that we introduce them to.

Thank you Jessica

Atila writes:

Dear Twivers,

After the mail I wrote asking for mitochondrial viruses, I have found some interesting things.

There are mitochondrial viruses in Fungi! They are mitoviruses, small 2 to 3kb dsRNA viruses of the Narnaviridae family:


Chloroplasts may also be infected by viruses, and there is a cool story behind it. There is a sea-slug capable of making photosynthesis, Elysia chlorotica is capable of stealing chloroplasts from the algae it eats and keeping them under the skin making photosynthesis for months.

This solar-powered sea slug keeps the chloroplasts functional much longer then they should last outside the algae cell, since they need specific proteins that only the algae have genes for. But Elysia chlorotica has stolen these genes and incorporated in its nucleus. And the sea-slug has an endogenous retrovirus that has been found both in its nucleus and the chloroplasts, which may have helped to transfer the genes between species. This virus may also regulate the sea-slug life cycle, as its found in great numbers when the host dies.

This is the reference:

Rohwer, F., & Thurber, R. V. (2009). Viruses manipulate the marine environment. Nature, 459(7244), 207-12. doi: 10.1038/nature08060.

Alan Dove also mentioned that chloroplast's polymerase seems to have a viral origin. Well, our mitochondrial DNA polymerase too. It is very similar to T4 polymerase:

Shutt, T. E., & Gray, M. W. (2006). Bacteriophage origins of mitochondrial replication and transcription proteins. Trends in genetics : TIG, 22(2), 90-5. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2005.11.007.

Congratulations again for the great podcast,



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