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TWiP 74 letters

voxsciurorum writes:

Dear water-based life forms:

It is 24 degrees in Overland Park, Kansas and I am looking at a slide labeled "Giardia lamblia", part of a museum exhibit on water and human (over) use of water.

I see a greenish lump. I don't know if it's alive. I was not meant to be a diagnostic technician.

The exhibit is produced by AMNH and/or, and located in the Museum at Prairiefire ( It may be interesting to listeners in the Kansas City area.

Heather writes:

Hi Dr.s R & D!

I think I recall one of you mentioning a younger relative enjoying the game Plague, Inc. during a podcast somewhat recently. With this vague notion in mind I downloaded the game and have been enjoying it ever since. Normally I don't like electronic games, but this one seems to use some very accurate algorithms to simulate the spread of various real and imaginary pathogens, with the ultimate goal of the player being the total annihilation, or enslavement, of humanity. The game is played from the perspective of the pathogen and DNA is the "currency" of the game, which I thought was very clever. Most of the "science" the game is based on seems to be quite well-researched also. I think a discussion of the game, from the viewpoint of scientists who work with microbes and pathogens, would make for a very interesting TWiM or TWiV (there are many kinds of pathogens, besides parasites, including viruses. I have good luck winning with both, even on the "brutal" level of difficulty).

I have just subscribed to Urban Agriculture. I have no idea how I will keep up with four podcasts now! I have no idea how Dr. R. keeps up with four of them! I can keep on top of TWiP and TWiM easily enough, since that is my background but I sometimes have trouble with TWiV, since I only have the most elementary virology background. Perhaps a virology primer, like the early episodes of TWiP, would help me and other listeners who don't know a ton of virology?

Thanks for the great podcasts!


Tristen writes:

Dear Vincent and Dixon,

I have to tell you that I'm a huge fan of Twip and I love listening to you guys! In November 2013 I did my first medical mission trip to Nzara, South Sudan. Vincent you probably already know an interesting fact about Nzara is that it's one of the first places Ebola virus was discovered in 1976! After the short trip I enjoyed the work so much that now I am trying to find funding or sponsorship to leave life here and work in Nzara for a couple years. I appreciate how your podcasts are both educational and entertaining at the same time. My favorite one so far is when you had Peter Hotez on talking about neglected tropical diseases.

I want to request you guys do an episode about chronic malaria infection in children living in sub Saharan Africa and the connection between Epstein Barr virus and the high rate of pediatric burkitts lymphoma diagnosis. This would be a great podcast because it combines parasitology and virology! I learned about this connection after having malaria myself after my trip and find it very interesting. Thank you both for your good work and for giving me such valuable information which I can take back with me to South Sudan!


If you are interested in seeing the page about my work, visit here:

Claire writes:

Hi Dickson and Vincent,

I wrote to Twiv recently but had to also write in here to let you know that without your podcast I would have been totally lost last month when I heard a series of talks on some of the more "popular" parasites (tryps, leishmania etc). I didn't know an amastigote from a billy goat before studying up with your podcasts. Thanks for the help!
-Claire in Seattle

Jim writes:

Here's a link to a short story in our local "Daily Press" for the Norfolk area, about a museum in Tokyo about parasites. Perhaps it's provide Prof Despommier a side trip one day when he's in that part of the world. - Jim; Smithfield, VA

Museum might put you off sushi for a while

For something educational to do before lunch, I admired bottle after bottle of pickled parasites. Some frilled. Some with suckers. Most hermaphrodite. And all gross...

Suzanne writes:

I found lice in my 7 year old's hair about a month ago. My 11 year old had been asking me to check her hair for months and I never could find anything. Checking more closely with a lice comb revealed she did have them. A quick comb through my hair came up positive, too. Yay. Lucky for my husband, he keeps his head shaved.

There was a funny thing I noticed, though. I had been taking a low dose of iron daily and can pretty easily tell when I'm... eliminating... the extra and ought to skip a day or so or when it's all being used up. As soon as we shampooed and combed out the lice, I stopped using all the iron.

Remembering your comments on hook worm and anemia, I looked up lice and anemia. Google had links to a few cases where kids who were very infested showed up at doctors' offices or hospitals with severe anemia that had no other cause the doctors could find. This and the information about lice that mentioned some people have asymptomatic cases (evidently the itching is due to an allergy, not their bites) made me wonder just how long we had all been infested. I've had off and on times of slight iron deficiency since I was pregnant with my youngest and my oldest was in preschool. That's not too uncommon in women and I'm healthy otherwise. This could be totally coincidental, I know, but it's making me wonder.

I'd love to know if anyone has studied how prevalent lice are in the US. I'm starting to suspect that quite a few of us could carry them around in low numbers and not know for... maybe years? It does seem, like bed bugs, that lice are turning up more. At least around here in Central Texas where the weather is barely even worth mentioning. It's summer so it's hot. Seriously hot. But we've been getting more rain this year so that's something.

Peter writes:

Dear TWiP team,
I thought this report from The Lancet Infectious Diseases may be worth a mention:

Evidence of schistosomiasis has previously been found in 5200-year-old Egyptian mummies, that date has been pushed back a thousand years by the find of a flatworm egg in a grave at a Neolithic settlement site in northern Syria.

Piers Mitchell at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues examined sediment collected from beneath the pelvises of 26 skeletons, all between 6500 and 6000 years old. In one 6200-year-old sample they found a 130-micrometre-long flatworm egg that belonged to one of the species responsible for schistosomiasis.

More information on the Tell Zeidan site:


Rabbit writes:

I just started listening a couple weeks ago, so I'm not caught up yet, but TWiP is the best science podcast I've found. It's so hard to find resources for laymen about parasite that aren't full of misinformation. I've been teaching myself about parasites for a while (I'm autistic, and they're one of my special interests). As is the case with many subjects, it's hard to find resources about parasites that appeal to an audience that's not made up of either experts or complete novices. It's easy to find very basic information, and it's not too difficult to find academic resources, but TWiP is by far the best resource I've found for my level of knowledge.

I have a question: I've read that cat owners aren't significantly more likely to be infected with toxoplasma gondii than people who don't have cats. Is that true, and if so, why/how do you suppose that is?


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