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TWiV 142 Letters

TWiV 142

Marshall writes:

Dear TWiV hosts,

I'm sure you've already heard about this, but I was curious what your take on this study is.


I understand that studies showing results in monkeys don't necessarily translate well to humans, but I thought it was interesting that they might have been able to completely wipe out the virus in some monkeys (if I understood the article correctly. I'm a linguist, science is just a hobby of mine...for now).

So, I was curious what you all thought about this possibly leading to an effective vaccine/cure for AIDS. Best and worst case scenarios?

Thanks for all the free lessons! I enjoy all three podcasts tremendously, and as I said, I'm not a scientist yet, but thanks in large part to your podcast, I am seriously considering it for when I retire from the military in a few years.

Keep up the good work.


[I believe this is the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21562493]

Kay writes:

Dear TWIVers,

I have been following your podcast from day one but never got around to mailing you. Like everybody else, I love your show and plan to ask you some (more or less) intelligent virus-related question later on.

One of the things that keeps amazing me is the broad range of occupations held by your listeners. In a recent episode, your read an e-mail from somebody working with Rockwell Automation. While mentioning this, you said something along the lines of 'I wonder what they are producing'. Well, apparently a lot of things, among them the famous Retro-Encabulator (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXJKdh1KZ0w) which is a greatly improved version of the original Turbo-Encabulator (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLDgQg6bq7o). You should really watch the short (~2 minute) videos, they are hilarious.

Best Wishes,


Debbie writes:

Dear Education Pioneers on TWIV,

I'm a pediatrician in Taiwan. I'll be finishing my last year of fellowship in pediatric infectious disease this summer. One year ago, I noticed TWIV on iTune. The interesting topics and your witty conversations soon fascinated me. I became a regular listener every since. My favorite show was episode 103, with Dr. LJ Tan. As a specialist of pediatric infectious disease, I was very happy to hear such an organized talk, clearly pointing out the major issues in immunization and providing simple but crucial information.

During the pandemic H1N1 influenza in 2009, we had a large proportion of parents refused H1N1 influenza vaccinations for their children in Taiwan. People learned about H1N1 vaccine mostly from the mass media, especially news or talk shows. It took a great deal of time and efforts in our clinics to clarify the rumors about the vaccines and to emphasize the importance of influenza immunization. During the interviews in the vaccine clinics, I learned that there was a gap between facts and misunderstanding toward vaccination in public. The gap could only be filled by constant education. From time to time, Vincent and Alan would raise this issue and address public awareness about vaccination in different episodes. It was such a motivation for we clinicians, trying to continue the efforts in public health.

On the other hand, there is also a huge gap between lab findings and medical care. Physicians sometimes have a hard time to understand the scientific findings. However, virology becomes far more interesting through your introduction, debates and analysis. I love to learn a variety of topics in virology and microbiology. (Also, thanks to Vincent and ASM to create TWIM.) You inspire me to pursue another adventure in research. I am about to start my PHD program this autumn. You help me to realize the happiness in learning and self-improvement. Thank you all for making science as a vivid and interesting subject. It is always a great pleasure to hear stories of scientific discovery from Rich and Dick. I truly admire your enthusiasm as public educators. Keep up the great work.

ps. A good educational website of evolution from Berkely


(They provide simple and detailed explanations about evolutions, such as phylogeny, through kindergarten to undergraduate.)

Best wishes



Clinical fellow

Infectious disease, Pediatrics

National Taiwan University Hospital

Chad writes:

I don't know if I heard correctly, but did you say that CFS and Fibromyalgia were related or one and the same?

I'm asking because I don't want to put words in your mouths.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about a year and a half ago, and I do notice that unless I get a minimum of 8-10 hours of sleep, I have a hard time functioning.

It would be interesting to be tested to see if I have XMRV.

Thank you,


Jason writes:

G'day from down under,

You have probably already seen these stories, but I thought I should send them through anyway.

Hendra virus vaccine announcement...


[the paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21689706]

And a summary of the Nigerian type 2 VDPV outbreak...


Keep up the good work guys, it is much appreciated.



Senior Medical Scientist

WHO Poliovirus Reference Laboratory

North Melbourne,


Jonathan writes:

First off, I am starting from the beginnings of your show and I am currently at episode 31. I am enjoying it very much. Being a person who could never afford to go to college. I am also learning alot about a topic I've never really paid much attention to.

This contains spoilers for people who haven't seen the following show.

I have been watching The Event on NBC. Over the last couple of weeks virology has been fairly important to the episodes.The "aliens" who are 1% different genetically from humans. They can interbreed with humans. The "aliens'" world is dying and they are trying to take over the Earth. In the episodes they dug up a corpse of a Russian soldier. He had died of a particuarly virulant strain of the 1918 flu. The virus would kill humans in a few hours from aerosoled contact. The "aliens" are immune to the virus. They released it on a subway car packed with video cameras to see the spread of the virus. In the show they had the people dying with lesions around the mouth and profuse bleeding from their nose and mouths. To stretch out the infectious period, so more people would be infected they needed to have the virus mutate into a strain that would have a longer infectious period. To do this, they infected one of the hybrid children. They did this via an infected pustule swab into a nostrel. And thus got their super human eliminating virus.

Here is my problems with this.

A) Depending on the 1% genetic difference is crossbreeding possible?I mostly ignore this thanks to many years of Star Trek.

B) Using the Spanish Flu (Russian Variant) because of it's nastiness.I have heard that if the 1918 flu came out today, that it wouldn't necessarily be as bad as it was then. Mainly due to better health care and sanitation.

C) It kills people in hours from aerosoled contact?

That would mean they inhailed a virus particle, it incubated, obtained critical mass, became infectious and killed in hours. (again not really a strong point from past education) That'd make this the nastiest airborn virus in the world and why are we even still alive?

D) They are immune?

Must be that 1% part again. If a person can catch a simian virus, swine, or avian virus. I don't have the numbers exactly but I am certain in all of those cases the genetic difference is greater than 1%.

e)Blood and lesions?

Must be Hollywood-ing it up here. I do not know anyone who has had facial lesions from the flu. I can buy the blood, tearing in the lungs from excessive hard coughing.

f)The Mutation.

So after infecting one person, who apparently fell on the wrong side of the whole 1% line, the "aliens" have obtained the necessary viral mutation. for some reason the likelihood of this happening has sent my BS meter back for refurbishment due to a broken dial. Additionally wouldn't this have also made the virus possibly infectious to themselves?

I look forward to (eventually) hearing your thoughts on this.

Violated Gorilla


Peter writes:

Dear TWiV hosts,

Many thanks for still keeping up the high quality after 133 episodes. I am looking forward to listening to #134 tonight.

Also many thanks for TWiP and TWiM.

I wanted to bring an article to your attention as a follow-up to TWiV #39 back in July 2009. Yes, it has been a while.

It's about the Virus contamination at Genzyme's manufacturing plant in Allston, Ma.

The article is open-access (even the URL address seems to indicate otherwise) and can be found at:http://www.biotechnoblog.net/bioprocessingjournal.com/articles-for-purchase/J92-Plavsic.pdf

You might find it interesting; not much industrial matters, but pure virology background information.

Alan might want to comment on the 'volunteers' mentioned in the 'Physicochemical Properties' section: "Noroviruses (NV), members of Caliciviridae, retain infectivity in the majority of volunteers following…"

Makes me wonder whether this volunteering is compensated with a cruise ship ride...;-)

And entirely unrelated, could you elaborate on the hypothesis that the stop of smallpox vaccination made way for the HIV epidemic.

This has been in the news recently again in the context of the current discussion over the destruction of the remianing smallpox virus stocks.

If you have discussed this already, could you point me back to the relevant episode?

Kind Regards from Incheon / Korea,




Michael writes:

Magic Johnson was a Spartan not a Wolverine! MSU not UM!

Ken writes:

Twiv Crew,

Just a quick e-mail. The new perspective you had for Twiv 132 (virology 911) was great. It was very interesting to see the clinical aspects of these viruses, and I would love to see you adopt a clinician as a regular contributer. Thanks always for the wonderful podcast.


Anthony writes:

The paper discussed in Episode 115, “Color me Infected,” focuses on infection by one type of virus. If multiple different families of viruses were to infect a susceptible cell at the same time, would you expect that certain types would be preferentially replicated over other types? Do you think that the type of viral genome (i.e. RNA vs. DNA), in addition to other factors, would affect which viruses are more competitive for replication in the host cell, given that there is a limit on how many the cell can express at one time?



[Check this out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6316646]

Angus writes:

Dear Vince and the TWiV gang,

Maybe this is old news but I thought that you all would enjoy the "Science Weekly with Alok Jha" podcast from the UK's Guardian Newspaper.


The 24th January 2011 episode offers a fascinating discussion of science-orientated blogging and how this can potentially enhance the dissemination of scientific discoveries and thinking, something dear to the hearts of all involved in TWiV.

I think it is fair to say that many people are growing weary of the kneejerk opinions that dominate the news cycle on TV and radio, and which fuel poorly informed discussion of important matters ranging from vaccines or climate change to birth certificates. With luck we will see a return to more measured and reflective thinking, and folks like you will be at the vanguard of this return to sanity.

One of the bloggers interviewed on this podcast raised the interesting idea of not reporting on a major scientific paper until a few months have elapsed. This would give science journalists and bloggers time to gather measured opinions from independent experts in the area and perhaps include follow up studies that support or refute the original splash. It is pointed out that for most people, it really doesn't matter if science news is delayed a little and that this does not hold up the science itself. Providing thoughtful and tempered coverage of a complex issue is something you've done extraordinarily well with the ups and downs of the XMRV saga. Thinking back to your first discussions of this topic, would TWiV cover this story any differently today if you'd never mentioned it before?

Cheers and keep on 'casting!


Angus Wilson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology & NYU Cancer Institute

New York University School of Medicine


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