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TWiP 52 Letters

Jason writes:

Hi Drs. Despommier and Racaniello,

This week you wondered why the immune-activating receptor for Toxoplasma gondii, TLR11, is present in mice but not in humans. You noted that it looks like there's no selective pressure keeping it around in us and it has become a pseudogene. You asked why mice then need it since it doesn't harm the host.

Is it possible that rodents need extra defenses against T. gondii because it changes their behaviour and makes them more susceptible to predation? "Toxo" could be killing the mice indirectly. We descended from tiny crawly things, but when our ancestors moved up the food chain, they wouldn't need this defense any more. If it is true that T.gondii increases your risk of auto collision then perhaps we will see a selective sweep over the next million years!



Houston, TX

Kim writes:


I just finished listening to TWIP 50 and got sad when you guys were partly demoralized to continue the series. I would like to suggest you merging TWIP and TWIM, to make the burden of making these excellent podcasts a little less exhausting.  You could find a parasitologist every now and then (if Dickson is not availabe) and speak about these things in a larger group. For example Elio would probably know something and Michael, as he seems to have knowledge about almost everything! This could be embedded with doing like a ratio of 1:3 with bacteria (meaning every fourth podcast on parasites or so). Please consider this, as I object to quitting the series but am also worried about Vincent’s mental health with his work-burden!

I would also love to hear Dickson explain the vertical farm-thingy. The name is pretty obvious what it is, but a little more in depth. The book is on my list of books to buy, but I have still a few to read before buying new ones so I would like a little preview!

Thank you for the great podcasts.

Best regards,

Kim, biomedical undergraduate from Stockholm.

Jan writes:

Hello doctors,

Just a thank you from the Netherlands. I'll keep listening. And if you could do an episode on tree parasites (with external expertise ) I'd be ever so grateful. I never took any biology in school, but I can still understand the podcast ( I am a science nerd though ). What is your opinion on Carl Zimmer"s Parasite Rex ? It seemed quite accurate to me, and is very well written, but I'm no expert. Would you recommend it to the general public?



PS Majored in medieval history, now a tree-worker

Maureen writes:

To Our Esteemed TWIP Duo:

I waited with bated breath for #50 TWIP for a month. TWIP is my favorite of the tri-TWIs! Imagine my dismay when the discussion at the end of it was about whether you should end TWIP (I listen to the end). We are listening!  We just didn't write because there was no TWIP to write about for a while. I find TWIP to be the most informative and comfortable to me. Vincent and Dickson have a great rapport. I work in infectious disease with patients with Toxoplamosis, Leishmaniasis, Lime disease, Malaria, Loa Loa, Strongyloides, Giardia, etc., and always look to understand these parasitic diseases better. Your discussions clarify so much for me so please keep TWIP. I would like a TWIP that includes information regarding Sarcocystosis. Long live TWIP!


Clinical Research Nurse

Justin writes:

Good morning Dr. Depomier and Dr. Racaniello,

I listened to episode 50 on Monday, congratulations, and nearly had a panic attack when I heard that the show may come to an untimely end. I have not listened to all the episodes but have been listening sind late summer early fall and always excited to listen though as of yet I don't understand much about parasitic life cycles. Anyways, my contribution to saving TWIP is proposing a topic that I would like to see discussed. Chagas disease recently trended on the news and twitter and I thought it was pretty cool. I know you have discussed T. cruzi before but here are two links I'm interested in, a news article. and the corresponding paper

Thank you and God save the TWIP

Mabry writes:

first - to let you know how much i am enjoying your podcasts.  my husband steered me your way with #38 about dracunculiasis. i am working my way though all them now  while i am quilting on my sewing machine. then i will go through the viruses.  i was trained as a chemist; my biology education has just been picked up over the years (many now).  this is a great way to learn, and you two are fun to listen to.  thanks

second - i have great-grandparents who left the mississippi valley for oregon in 1845 & 1853 because of malaria.  in one family account, one was so sick from it that he could only lay in the wagon for the first month of the trip.  (as an aside - can you imagine walking all the way from iowa to oregon?)  i have heard that one/perhaps the major reason why we don't have malaria in the u.s. now (and italy & other places) is that because of our mosquito eradication programs, principly with ddt, we dropped the human resevoir of the disease enough so that there is not enough to propagate the disease.  we certainly have drained a lot of swamps. that helps, but i doubt that it is the answere. mosquitos will always still have more than enough places to breed. i know that ddt had a bad rep, justifiably so.  but it broke the cycle of transmission, and then it was no longer needed.   what sort of studies have there been on transmission rates vs rates of infection in the population vs the others transmission factors?

Trudy writes:

I love this podcast.  I learn so much from you two...just listening to #50.  Will be thinking of what other topics or papers might make an interesting episode.  Was very excited to see that there was a new episode!  I am subscribed via the iPhone and iPad podcast app.

All the best from a fan in Naples, FL


Rufus writes:

Yes, I'm still listening.  Fine episode.

I think I now know a bit about what complement is.


Portland, Oregon.

Nick writes:

What is your guys' favorite parasites and why?


Neal writes:

Dear Vincent and Dixon,

I am not too proud to beg.

Don't stop TWIP-ing.

I am a recent devotee to all things TWIx.  Love it.  

You have made my commute much more productive; like a journal club while I am behind the wheel.

I just listened to TWIP podcast 50.  My colleagues work on Factor H and Neisseria (maybe good for a TWIM podcast); so I found this mosquito/malaria/complement business was very cool.  Of course, mosquitos have their own complement C3 like factors that are involved in controlling malaria.  Maybe complement is the achilles heal for this parasite that we should think about more?

As an "insect immunologist", I am looking forward to listening to episode 51.  Lost of great mosquito immunology that you might consider for TWIP.

Don't stop TWIP-ing.  If you build it, they will come.

Keep up the great work!



P.S.  I won't tell Shankar that you butcher his name.


Neal Silverman Ph.D.

Professor & Research Director

Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology

Department of Medicine

University of Massachusetts Medical School


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