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TWiP 12 Letters

Maria writes:

Dear Dr. Dickson Despommier and Dr. Vincent Racaniello

I am a microbiologist. I studied in Colombia and after finishing my bachelor's I moved to New York city in 2007. All my life I have been fascinated about microorganisms. Some weeks ago I found an interesting blog about social media and microbiology, a talk that Dr. Racaniello gave in Scotland not so long ago. Listening to his approaches in the study of viruses and the use of media in his teaching to bring information to his students and other people in different ways got my attention.

I am one of those who think that knowledge is the backbone of success and more important to be able to share this knowledge is the key for a successful society.

After listening to his speech, I found twiv and then I found twiP... wow!!! what amazing podcast!!!! I start listening to TwiP and now I have become addicted to your voices and learning from you two.

The first episode of TwiP Dr. Despommier talked about his beginnings as a parasitologist and you made me remember my professor in college, Dr. CJ Marinkelle. He was an excellent professor from The Netherlands who has taught in Colombia for decades and I had the privilege of being one of his students. He used to tell us stories about parasites in Africa when he was practicing medicine back in the 1940's, the same way as you did in the last episode about sparganosis.

As I told you, I studied microbiology in my country. My desire is to do a PhD and be able to work in research. This idea has been always in my mind, unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to get into the programs that I have applied. However, I am a little stubborn and I keep pursuing this dream. As Dr. Despommier said..." sometimes when one door closes another door may open". In the meantime I have volunteered in Cornell Medical College and in NYU, working with Plasmodium falciparum.

I just want to say thanks for this amazing team that you two have there, and for bringing us a wonderful time every two weeks in TwiP and every week in TwiV.



Don writes:

I was reading my second favorite blog:

Bruce Schneier, which is about security, especially computer-related security, and which I highly recommend.

Today, there is an entry entitled Insect-Based Terrorism, relating the tale of a conference at the University of Florida promoting fears of a terrorist attack based on mosquitoes or some other insect disease vector. As I read this piece, I found myself wishing I had the depth of knowledge you guys can bring to a topic like this. If you have a chance, maybe you could take a look at this and, perhaps dispel a myth or two.

The Twiv podcast is definitely my favorite bloggish information feed, and I listen to it on my long commute just as soon as I can download it.

Twip would be right up there, but I find myself succombing to the ick factor and often delay a few days before listening to it. Somehow viruses don't do it, but I can't listen to Dick talk about worms without feeling them squirming about in my guts. I sure am glad I don't have loads of parasites, but my imagination runs away every time, and for a while I am sure I have whatever icky new parasite Dick is talking about.

I have long been fascinated by biology, and love listening to you. You have inspired me to treat myself to a subscription to Nature as a Christmas present, and while I don't have time to read it all, I am proud that I can manage to read at least a sampling all the way back to
the Letters.

Greg writes:

I heard about your show while listening to Futures In Biotech. After listening to the episode about Malaria, I posted on Twitter that I thought you two were the Abbott and Costello of Parasitism. I can't believe that my new favorite show concerns something I know nothing about and was totally disinterested in until I heard Dickson's story about Frog legs in TWIP #8. Thank you so much for both the information and entertaining style of the show.


Douglas writes:

Hi Guys,

Great work with TWiV and TWiP - best science podcasts out there.

An interesting link you might like is Parasite of the Day. You've probably heard of it already though.


I've been cringing recently whenever you pronounce Edinburgh as "EDIN-BOW-RO". It's "EDIN-BRUH" :D



Etienne writes:

Hello Dick and Vincent,

I love the show and I can't wait for every new release. I find it both informative and entertaining.

One question I have is why there is one type of parasite that seem to be missing from your discussions? Plants have parasite too and can be parasites, but they do not seem to fit in the classification system introduced in the early shows. It's true that they are not important in a disease sense but some of them have significant economical impacts.

A common example of a plant parasite is the mistletoe that germinate and burrow in tree branches to connect to the plant circulatory system.

A more agriculturally relevant example is the striga, a root parasite of many major crops that reduce productivity significantly.

An other popular example is the Rafflesia arnoldii or corps flower the biggest single flower in the world. That entire genus is composed of endoparasite of a genus of tropical vines.

I find parasitic plants a fascinating subject but sadly they seem to be to often forgotten by parasitologist. I hope TWIP will in the future approach the subject.


William writes:

Dear respected colleagues,

Your have heard from me before. I am the private physician who discussed your liberal/progressive political bias. I loved your human interest story of the young woman who died of malaria with the collapsing dominoes ending in cardiac resus and splenic rupture. That is the best way to communicate to young physicians. I never forgot those teachers who told those stories or my own similar experiences.

I trained at LA County General/USC. Much of my experience was with illegal immigrants. All of the drug resistant TB was coming in from Mexico/illegal immigrants in addition to many other illinesses including leprosy. Do you think the present Obama administration approach to illegal immigration (threatening the citizens of Arizona) is in the best health interests of the citizens of Arizona and America? Or did I misread the "terrible situation in Arizona".? I am a strong supporter of immigration - legal. If your children were at risk from drug resistant TB in grade school, might your stance be different?

I used an analogy when teaching HIV. Naive T-cells had to go to thymus U. They had to pass one test and fail another or they were disposed of. You get the idea.

Very respectfully,


Jim writes:

Night soil is used as fertilizer in some countries but not in the US because of health concerns about parasites and disease transmission. Have any countries developed simple methods of curing night soil to eliminate this hazard?

I understand that while urine is part of night soil, it's not considered a health concern as are feces. Is that correct? With all the supplements I take it seems that one of the best fertilizers for my garden may be my own urine. It would sure help offset the pharmaceutical cost and be a great recycling concept. On the other hand dog pee kills grass, so must any urine be aged or cured...? Does using urine sound reasonable?



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