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TWiP 49 Letters

Jim writes:

Professors, you've discussed this idea before, but I thought you'd enjoy this nice summary from Nature:

And I do enjoy your podcasts. Thank you for sharing your wonderful conversations!
Sincerely, another "Jim" from Virginia

Alan writes:


Virginia writes:

I've been fascinated with parasites for years, ever since reading Peeps, a novel by Scott Westerfield. While it is fiction, every other chapter focused on a particular parasite and described its life cycle.

When I found this podcast, I nearly burst from happiness! While I am no longer a wildlife biology student (I recently switched to an English major - what a change, eh?), I still love learning more about parasitism. So many people find it odd that I'm so enamoured with such "gross" creatures, but I think they're just nifty.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for starting this podcast. It is both informative and entertaining. Keep up the excellent work!

Ethan writes:

Saw this and it instantly reminded me of Dickson's heavy breathing in the background.


Don writes:

Dear Sirs.
I became intersted in parasites of the gills in fresh water fish, esp Myxoma fundubli, and was surprised to learn tha this animal produces spores. How common is that? Your TWIPMV is marvelous, thank you so much.

Spencer writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

Here's a link to an interesting study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that was done in China suggesting that schistosome infection may curb diabetes risk. The researchers detected an association between previous schistosome infection and a lower prevalence of diabetes in patients. This may hint at a link between glucose metabolism and T cell mediated cytokine secretion. Before I tell patients to go seek out schistosome infection, perhaps more studies need to be done.

Association of Previous Schistosome Infection With Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: A Cross-Sectional Study in Rural China

Spencer Kroll MD PhD

Noor writes:

I apologize in advance for the large volume of correspondence, and for not knowing the entire catalogue of what has and has not been covered. I send these e-mails with only the utmost respect and admiration.

I was so ready to roll my eyes into the back of my head for that story, but found myself captivated. I believe I sense the gift.

Also any chance of exploring the facts of the great Candiru myth?

From Wikipedia:

William S. Burroughs wrote about the candiru in his 1959 novel Naked Lunch, describing it as "a small eel-like fish or worm about one-quarter inch through and two inches long patronizing certain rivers of ill repute in the Greater Amazon Basin, will dart up your *censored* and hold himself there by sharp spines with precisely what motives is not known since no one has stepped forward to observe the candiru's life-cycle in situ."[22] Burroughs also mentioned it in The Yage Letters: "At that time I was stationed at the remote jungle outpost of Candiru, so named from a tiny eel like fish that infests the rivers of that area. This vicious fish introduces itself into the most intimate parts of the human body, maintaining itself there by poisonous barbs while it feeds on the soft membranes".[23] The fish is also referred to in David Grann's The Lost City of Zand in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (novel).

Not knowing anything about its reproductive or life cycle, its difficult to say if this should be classed a predator or parasite, but in my book anything that "allegedly" swims up your urethra and needles itself in there permanantly should be classed a parasite, although one that certainly shows no regard for the life of the host, although I'm sure there must be surgical interventions to prevent kidney rupture.

It should also be noted that the Candiru is a major plot point in the Season 1 Episode 9 of the animated Adult Swim show "The Venture Brothers" entitled "Are You There God? It's Me Dean."

The episode appears to have been available for free some time in the past, but is now certainly $2 on iTunes.

Being a Johnny Quest kid I have a special place in my heart for The Venture Brothers.


Robin writes:

With regard to TWIP & TWIM & TWIV: Keep 'em comin' !

Possible reservoirs in a vertical farmer:

Many hares
Ten little piggies.
Two soles.
Two calves.
A large variety of ducks:
Thoracic, R lymphatic
(R & L & common) hepatic, (cystic & common) bile, pancreatic etc.

Visceral pain:

All viscera except the central nervous system have pain receptors. They are activated by stimuli appropriate to the organ, which are not necessarily the same as the stimuli for somatic receptors. The intestine can be cut with a knife without pain, but just about everyone has experienced the pain from stretching of the gut. The pain receptors in most solid organs is located in their (fibrous) capsules, and are stimulated by ACUTE stretching or ACUTE inflammation.

Insects, bugs & arachnids:

It was quite clear to me in school that all bugs were insects, but that not all insects were bugs. I would not have graduated if I were not clear on that point. I had to unlearn English after coming to the uS of A (lower case "u", as that is the way it was originally intended, in the Declaration of Independence).
Likewise, I would not have graduated if I had lumped ticks and mites with insects. But of course in the uS, one must not expect to hear about Medical Arachnidology.

Mosquito swarms:

In my childhood, I remember swarms of male mosquitoes swirling above the heads of people in the evenings. One knew that they were male because they had mustaches (feathery antennae). Therefore one was not concerned about being bitten by them.

TWiP 48 Letters

Ruth writes:

Dear Dick Despommier

My name is Ruth
I am a listener of twip and recently I decided to look into your vertical farming that you mention on the podcast.

While I was watching a video of you explaining vertical farming you mentioned soil-less growth in an urban environment and I immediately thought of another video that saw earlier this week.

The video is about a man named Eric Maundu - who combined aquaponics with fish farming in an amazing way. Using a very small amount of space he set up a system with a fish tank . The fish water with the fish waste is carried on a basin of rocks (in which sit plants). Bacteria break down the fish waste and the plants use the nutrients. Afterwards the water -minus the waste is returned to the fish tank. Maundu also mentions that the fish could be edible types - so you could grow two resources at once.

I just thought it was so amazingly efficient and thought you may be interested also.

Here's the link to the video .

Also I would like to thank you and Vincent very much for This Week in Parasitism and this week in virology - both wonderful entertainment and education :)


Maureen writes:

I'd like to learn more about sarcocystis, a parasite that usually only affects animals but seems to have infected some of our military.

Carl writes:

To: This Week in Parasitology podcast (Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier)

Here's evidence-based advice for cat owners unwilling to get rid of their pets:

" litter should be changed daily, and pregnant women should delegate this task to others.

"Many scoopable cat litter manufacturers suggest scooping fecal lumps daily and changing litter weekly, but this is likely to give a false sense of security because the oocycts might sporulate in the leftover feces; in addition, the scooping spoon is likely to become contaminated with oocysts; hundreds of oocycts may be present in a milligram of infected feces. There is also the risk of cats tracking infected feces throughout the house.

"We do not currently have a practical recommendation for safe disposal of cat litter other than disposing it in a heavy duty plastic bag with the hope that anoxia will kill T. gondii oocysts."

Dubey et al: Survival of T. Gondii in Cat Litter.
Journal of Parasitology, Oct 2011 at 753.

"Gloves should be worn while gardening, while changing litter and while handling soil potentially contaminated with cat feces.

"Owners may also be advised to keep dogs away from the cat litter box to prevent ingestion of and passage through of oocysts.

"Vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating, because they may have been contaminated with cat feces."

Dubey: Toxoplasmosis of Animals and Humans,
2d ed. 2009 at 54.

Practical suggestions:

Here's what I'm doing with 3 cats my wife insists on keeping:

Using a small open litter box, arrange a big plastic bag covering the bottom and extending up over the sides. Add the litter. At least once every 24 hours, wearing disposable examination gloves, lift the bag containing all the litter, knot the top and take it outside to the trash container. (No scooping.) Replace bag and litter.

We switched to pine pellets for litter, which is much cheaper--especially from farm or horse supply stores.

Public health risk:

Although most vets believe that cats shed oocsyts once for a few days, the leading researcher says, "Whether naturally infected cats shed oocysts more than once in their life is unknown."

Dubey: Toxoplasmosis of Animals and Humans, 2d ed. 2009 at 36 - 39.

While everyone was skeptical of the initial reports of brain cysts leading to mental illness and car crashes, the more recent research has made such claims more plausible. Given the limits of research tools and funding (and how small oocysts are and how hard it is to evaluate brain cysts...), it seems prudent to minimize our individual risk of toxo from cats and encourage more effective public health efforts (like changing the labels on cat litter.)


I assume you've been trying to get JP Dubey on your podcast. Please
keep trying....

TWiP 47 Letters

Liesbeth writes:

Tomorrow starts the XVIII International Congress for Tropical Medicine and Malaria Conference here in Rio de Janeiro. I read Peter Hotez will be participating in a round-table session on “What is the future role of academic journals in the research, control and prevention of tropical diseases?”.I myself will be presenting partial results of my graduate project on the zoonotic potential of Giardia duodenalis in the past. Dr. Racaniello recently participated in the Brazilian Virology Society meeting congress in São Paulo, but what about Dr. Despommier? It would have been awesome meeting you both here! But well, too many congresses, too little time, right? (and money, for that matter!)

All the best


Sophie writes:

Hello Twipsters

I have a pick of the week: Windowfarms, it's a non-profit vertical gardening project: How to make your own vertical window garden. If you want a full description listen to Britta Rileys TED-talk, I can't do it justice. I don't know if this is a fitting pick, as it's more a Dickson pick, than a parasitology pick. But I think it is amazing, I'm definitely doing this:)

Keep up the good work

Peter writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson.

I would like to point out that the "Female Owners of Cats More Prone to Suicide" article mentioned in TWiP 43 is rather misleading. The study mentioned made no mention of cat ownership and men were not included in the study as it was only mothers who were included in the cohort.

Most human infections are from contaminated meat, not from handling infected cats.

If a cat is infected with Toxoplasma gondii the oocysts are only shed for a short period of time, typically less than 14 days, before the cat's immune system stops oocyst production. The cat should then be immune to further infection.

Dr Postolache has noted limitations to the study, such as the inability to determine the cause of the suicidal behaviour.

He said:

"T. gondii infection is likely not a random event and it is conceivable that the results could be alternatively explained by people with psychiatric  disturbances having a higher risk of  becoming T. gondii infected prior to contact with the health system.”

Could the high rate of infection reported in France be due to the popularity there of rare meat?

Further information on Cats and toxoplasmosis:

Peter writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson.

Thank you for a fascinating and informative TWiP, I thoroughly enjoyed the linking of parasitism and ecology.   Following your request for listeners to find more information on the life cycle of  nematomorphs I did some reading and found that many nematomorph species use a "paratenic" or transport host in which the larva forms cysts and do not develop further until the paratenic host is eaten by a scavenger or predator.(1)

Crickets are generally omnivorous but some species are carnivorous. A wide range of species can be used as paratenic hosts including flatworms, snails ans some nematomorph species make the transition from water to land by forming cysts in aquatic insect larvae, with the cysts surviving the host's metamorphosis to an flying adult which can then convey them to land. Adult nematomorphs are short lived and do not feed, they die after mating. One species of nematomorph has been  discovered from Kenya that is parthenogenic and lacks males(2) Some sites I looked at mentioned the morphological similarity of the larval nematomorphs to some adult marine worms(3)





continuing: I came across a bit more information on  how  nematomorph worms  influence insect behaviour.

David Biron,  Frédéric Thomas and  colleagues at the  Laboratory of Genetics and Evolution of Infectious Diseases at Frances National Scientific Research Center in Montpellier., France, have found the worms produce proteins that mimic some found in the insects nervous system. Somehow these prompt the insect to jump into water, allowing the adult worm to swim away.

Tommy writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

I really enjoyed your episode on the horsehair worm and food web ecology. In case if you haven't already found it, here is a review on the biology of nematomorphs which you might find useful:

Hanelt, B., Thomas, F., and Schmidt-Rhaesa, A. (2005) Biology of the Phylum Nematomorpha. Advances in Parasitology, 59: 243–305

Also, I was pleasantly surprised to hear you talk about the New Zealand cockle-trematode system. Those papers you mentioned originated from the lab where I did my PhD - in fact, my PhD thesis (and a small part of my postdoc work) consisted of research which followed up on some of the questions which were raised by those initial studies you cited, delving deeper into the ecology of that host-parasite system. Here are a small selection of publications which pertain specifically to the cockle-trematode system.

Leung, T.L.F. and Poulin, R. (2007) Interactions between parasites of the cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi: Hitch-hikers, resident-cleaners, and habitat-facilitators. Parasitology, 134: 247-255.

Leung, T.L.F. and Poulin, R. (2007) Recruitment rate of gymnophallid metacercariae in the New Zealand cockle Austrovenus stutchburyi: an experimental test of the hitch-hiking hypothesis. Parasitology Research, 101: 281-287.

Leung, T.L.F., Poulin, R. and Keeney, D.B. (2009) Accumulation of diverse parasite genotypes within the bivalve second intermediate host in the digenean Gymnophallus sp. International Journal for Parasitology, 39: 327-331.

Leung, T.L.F., Keeney, D.B. and Poulin, R. (2010) Genetics, intensity-dependence, and host manipulation in the trematode Curtuteria australis: following the strategies of others? Oikos, 119:393-400. Leung, T.L.F. and Poulin, R. (2010) Infection success of different trematode genotypes in two alternative intermediate hosts: evidence for intraspecific specialisation? Parasitology, 137:321-328.

Leung, T.L.F. and Poulin, R. (2011) Intra-host competition between co-infecting digeneans within a bivalve second intermediate host: dominance by priority-effect or taking advantage of others? International Journal for Parasitology, 41: 449-454.

Vincent was wondering how the cockles become infected with the trematodes - I can answer that as I conducted (and came up with the protocols for) experimental infections of those cockles, and spent many, many hours observing and documenting the process. The free-living cercariae are initially sucked in through the cockle's inhalant siphon, once inside the cockle's mantle cavity, they immediate cling to the foot and begin penetrating into the muscle. Once within the foot, they then migrate through the muscular tissue for some time (a few hours at most) before encysting at a suitable spot (usually the tip of the foot). During one of my observation periods, I recorded some footage of the cercariae penetrating the foot tissue - the link to which I recall I've sent to you in another e-mails, but to save you the trouble of wading through masses of old e-mails, here it is again:


P.S. I really appreciate all the effort and time which must go into making all the "This Week In" podcast series and the role they play in educating the public about the unseen and overlooked majority of life on this planet. I am the writer and co-administrator of the Parasite of the Day blog (, where I write about newly published research on parasites that I happen to come across, in a manner that is accessible to the general public. I consider that my small contribution, as a scientist, for public education and promotion about parasites, parasitism, and parasitology.

Robin writes:

A Conversation with Robert Sapolsky

A few years ago, I sat down with a couple of the Toxo docs over in our hospital who do the Toxo testing in the Ob/Gyn clinics. And they hadn't heard about this behavioral story, and I'm going on about how cool and unexpected it is. And suddenly, one of them jumps up, flooded with 40-year-old memories, and says, "I just remembered back when I was a resident, I was doing a surgical transplant rotation. And there was an older surgeon, who said, if you ever get organs from a motorcycle accident death, check the organs for Toxo. I don't know why, but you find a lot of Toxo." And you could see this guy was having a rush of nostalgic memories from back when he was 25 and all because he was being told this weird factoid ... ooh, people who die in motorcycle accidents seem to have high rates of Toxo. Utterly bizarre.

What is the bottom line on this? Well, it depends; if you want to overcome some of your inhibitions, Toxo might be a very good thing to have in your system. Not surprisingly, ever since we started studying Toxo in my lab, every lab meeting we sit around speculating about which people in the lab are Toxo-infected, and that might have something to do with one's level of recklessness. Who knows? It's very interesting stuff, though.

You want to know something utterly terrifying? Here's something terrifying and not surprising. Folks who know about Toxo and its affect on behavior are in the U.S. military. They're interested in Toxo. They're officially intrigued. And I would think they would be intrigued, studying a parasite that makes mammals perhaps do things that everything in their fiber normally tells them not to because it's dangerous and ridiculous and stupid and don't do it. But suddenly with this parasite on board, the mammal is a little bit more likely you go and do it. Who knows? But they are aware of Toxo.

Don writes:

Dr. Racaniello,

On TWIP 42 you decried the lack of a Microbe World search engine.  Well here's a little used Google feature that can help.  To find the TWIP episode about toxoplasma simply type this as a Google search: toxoplasma "this week in parasitism"

As long as the site allows the Google crawlers the result is usually better than site search features.  Unless of course the site search feature is an embedded Google search.

Looks like the TWIP you were looking for was #12.

Love TWIP, TWIV and TWIM.  I have heard them all.  Some multiple times.  But my favorite has to be TWIP largely because of the happy accident of a world class parasitologist and a world class raconteur being embodied in your co-host.   Dickson Despommier is without peer.

Dickson's modest erudition and your nagging straight man routine make for a very entertaining show.  Please don't think I am belittling the part you play.

That you could do what you do so graciously, given all your accomplishments, is rare.  Lesser men would let their egos get in the way.

That I can also learn something is also much appreciated.  Don't change a thing.

Thank you, Don

Kyle writes:

Dear Dr. Despommier,

I am a student doing post-bac work in premed, and was intrigued by your discussion of a possible study of the contamination of dog run soils by Toxocara Canis.  I'm designing a study in the Chicago Land area to gather this data, and was wondering if you could recommend a method of testing for eggs in the soil, i.e. if there is any preferential methods in your opinion.  Also, I heard on your podcast that there is some graduate work being done in New York, and was also wondering if they would want to compare data after both our studies are done.  Thank you for the great work both you and Dr. Racaniello put out every week, your podcast is an absolute joy to listen to.

Sincerely, Kyle

Ronald writes:

I love your TWIP and TWIM and am sharing a balance of them with students as time permits. My absolutely only complaint is that ... as an old geezer ... my hearing is not what it once was and for me ... there are often times when a speakers' voice seems to almost disappear ... sort of a mumble for me ...  I believe this is because you speak ... and this is natural ... as if you are speaking to someone sitting close to you. I believe it would help if you each spoke as if you were speaking to an audience ... maybe with a microphone and never allowing your mouth to point away from the audience ... aiming the sound down instead of forward ... without losing the cordial atmosphere. Trivia, I know and I doubt anyone else has described similar issues. Keep up the great work. It is great to have a chance to learn from your discussions. I know you spend a lot of time preparing these and I am truly grateful. Enunciate is the word that has been escaping me but I believe that is the core of my problem.


Nick writes:


Firstly I'd like to say I am a huge fan of your shows- TWIP, TWIV and TWIM. I am a student in Perth, Australia and am in the final year of my zoology major, and first year of my microbiology major. I am extremely interested in getting some experience in a lab to do with viruses, parasites and microbiology, so I was wondering if there was any help or advise at all you could give me?

Thanks, Nick

Amanda writes:

Good morning Drs. Racaniello and Despommier;

My name is Amanda and I just love your TWIP podcast.  This article caught my eye and I thought it would be of interest to both of you considering that it seems to be about a virus parasitizing another virus!

Also, a recent study on DNA methylation in Trich:

Keep up the good work!   Can't wait to hear another podcast…you guys keep my brain active when doing routine lab tasks!


Research Technician at Massachusettes General Hospital

Jim writes:

FYI for Dick just to show where the subject is appearing, with comments.

Jim Smithfield, VA

Singapore Builds First Vertical Vegetable Farm

via Slashdot by samzenpus on 11/5/12

kkleiner writes "Short on arable land? One solution would be to plan up. Singapore, a small country that imports most of its food, has now begun selling vegetables from its first vertical farm. And even while they're more expensive the vegetables are already selling faster than they can be grown. If the farms prove sustainable – both technologically and economically – they could provide a much desired supplement to Singapore's locally grown food and serve as a model for farming in other land-challenged areas."

Michael writes:

Dear Professors Vincent Racaniello and Dick Despommier,

I am a long retired biochemist who spent his career in Public Health. The two things that I miss the most are access to journals, and the round table discussions that I held in my office every morning. I accomplished this by providing free coffee, and often Danish. Soon my office was bursting with those wishing to talk about what they were doing, where they were having problems, and what they were going to do about them. These were not meetings in the normal sense, but rather verbal free-for-alls where many problems were resolved, many friends made, and aptitudes which were dormant came alive.

While I often worked with the biochemistry of microbes, I never had occasion to do any work with parasites other than see an interesting slide or specimen that someone wanted to display to everyone in sight. When I started listening to TWIP,  I first I thought it was the filling of an enormous cavern of personal ignorance that drew me towards your show. But then I realized it was the Socratic method that formed the backbone of your lectures. With Professor Racaniello so often playing the foil, and the general banter it was almost like being back at my favorite time of the day at work. As I now live in a rural area and can no longer have such conversations with my old colleagues, this has truly gladdened my heart and filled in a missing part of my life that goes far beyond the knowledge provided. While I realize that this is not your primary intent, it is a delightfuly serendipitous collateral benefit. I would like to urge you to ignore those curmudgeons and martinets who demand a formal, structured and pedantic presentation. You are at your best when you allow your personalities to show through.

This is particularly significant to me as I had been in an undergraduate honors program that had about 40 profs and a dozen students. We were completely self directed, and met either one on one, or in small groups with the profs. We got to know them as people, and as a result leared more and did more than we ever would have under more normal circumstances. It was unfortunate that this outstanding experiment was far too expensive to be broadened to the rest of the students.

Before I wear out your patience, I would like to note that I listen to many such podcasts, but that yours is the only one that does not request financial assistance (which I usually provide.) You program is most worthy of some mechanism of recognition. So I thought perhaps a donation in your names and TWIP to be a possible method of recognition of your outstanding work. Would you please advise me as to your favorite charity or research facility in parasitology that you would prefer the donation to be made.

Truly gratefully yours, Michael

Robert writes: Sirs, In September 1903 the British satirical magazine Punch published an insomniac's ode to the students of tropical disease:

Men of science, you that dare

Beard the microbe in his lair

Tracking through the jungly thickness

Afric's germ of Sleeping Sickness

Hear , oh hear my parting plea

Send a microbe home to me.

Sometimes it is better not to get what you ask.

Todd writes:

Thank you so much for the parasitology podcast. I am encouraging my children and nephews who will probably pursue health related careers to listen to it, first because it is such an interesting “fly through” of the related science, and secondly because I find you two so interesting. However, my family eats a whole lot of sushi, and I haven’t been able to find the sushi episode on iTunes. Did that end up getting made?

Regards, Todd

P.S. I had been imagining myself to be a sort of forager, and would eat the semi-fermented pears that fell from my tree after cutting away the portions containing ants and worms and washing them a bit,  but after watching some YouTube videos about roundworm infections, I got a little bit afraid, since I don’t know but that the pears had fallen onto soil or leaves that had traces of dog, opossum, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, or bird feces. However, a professor friend of mine told me that our immune system kills roundworms for us, and it’s only children who are at risk.

PPS. Since I also occasionally dip into alternative health websites, I wonder if you have ever podcasted related to the “clean hypothesis” of allergies and the alleged cures of asthma and other allergies  from exposure to roundworms (in controlled situations) and hookworms in uncontrolled situations. I think a lot of people are interested in auto-immune disorders lately, and those of us who live somewhat dirty and untidy lives wonder if somehow environmental stimuli are keeping us robustly healthy.

TWiP 44 Letters

Todd writes:

Hello Dixon and Vincent!

Your research and real life experience is slowly getting summarized by researchers so that it can be understood by reporters (aka those who
have a disproportionately loud voice in society):

The article is attempting to tie lack of MPV (microbes, parasites, viruses) to inflammatory diseases, which might be a stretch. I don't know if there is a dearth or an abundance of research for either side of this proposed relationship. But it's promising on the surface and hopefully the political forces at work destroying science in our country won't do the same for this research.

An excerpt from the concluding paragraphs:

"Since time immemorial, a very specific community of organisms - microbes, parasites, some viruses - has aggregated to form the human superorganism. Mounds of evidence suggest that our immune system anticipates these inputs and that, when they go missing, the organism comes unhinged."

Have a fantastic week fellas!

Josh writes:

Hello Parasite hosts!

I have written twip before to express my appreciation for the show. I still appreciate it very much and it still helps me get through my days auditing.

I ran across this article on, , which makes this discovery sound like a guaranteed cure for all forms of Malaria with just one oral dose. Thinking that was a rather large claim I did some digging and found the original story, , this article is a little more reserved, though not much, with its language. I am interested in what both of you think of this? Is this the wonder drug they make it seem like?


Phoenix AZ

Ricardo writes:

South African researcher find single dose cure for malaria:

Dirk writes:

Dear parasitology lovers,

Just came across your blog through recommendation of a colleague and heard your conversation on the worm in the eye.

The name seems to be the local meaning of "worm" as quoted on page 643 in the book "A HISTORY OF HUMANHELMINTHOLOGY by DAVID I. GROVE (link: from the publication #49: GUYOT. Ophthalmie produite par des vers dans les yeux à la côte d'Angole. Abstracted in J N Arrachart's Mémoires, Dissertations et Observations de Chirurgie, Paris, pp228-233, 1805. (Originally presented to the Academy of Surgery in Paris in 1778).

And if I understand correctly you claimed that Cobbold was a German. Although being a German myself Cobbold was British, a son of a Suffolk clergyman (Principles and Practice of Clinical Parasitology, Gillespie /Pearson, 2001, page 3.

Best regards,


Lisa writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

I am a veterinarian with a PhD in virology, and I am in my second year of anatomic pathology residency at the New England Primate Research Center. I just recently discovered the TWiM, TWiV and TWiP series of podcasts and they are great! I am training for my first marathon and my long runs were becoming quite tedious with the same old songs on my iPod every day. Now, I download another episode of TWIP every time I head out for a long run and I always have something interesting to listen to. I enjoy TWiM and TWiV, but TWiP is especially great while I am studying for my pathology boards. Although TWiP is based mainly around human diseases, most of these parasites are, of course, also quite relevant to veterinary medicine. Your amusing anecdotes and interesting stories help to cement the life cycles of these fascinating creatures in my head and your entertaining banter makes me feel like I am running with company every time. Thanks for helping the miles fly by and keep up
the good work!


Rufus writes:

Topic suggestion -- I noted recently a news article regarding a treatment method for malaria that addressed the parasite's ability to cause an infected red blood cell to lodge in a capillary and thus avoid being filtered by the spleen. I don't recall you discussing this aspect of the infection. I don't know how effective the treatment is, but the fact that the parasite does this is way cool.

See for example:

Best regards,


Software engineer (for a SEM manufacturer)

TWiP 43 Letters

Robin writes:

Trematodes are commonly referred to as flukes. This term can be traced back to the Saxon name for flounder, and refers to the flattened, rhomboidal shape of the worms.

Robin writes:

re men stealing meat from lions

Check out this video on YouTube:

Liesbeth writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

Let me start thanking you for encouraging me to carry a healthier life. Since taking the bus to the lab each day meant a 20 mins ride, and your podcasts are usually longer, I decided to start waking up earlier and walk every day instead, that way I can hear the whole episode! I feel somehow infected by a parasite podcast that modifies my behaviour in order to be listened, reaching its objective when I arrive at the lab commenting on the last episode heard.

After your discussion on the origins of the term Loa loa, I did some internet research and came up with an article published in 1991 by John D. Ruby and John E. Hall. Since it's really short, I copied it here for you to read:

"It has recently been called to our attention that the word 'loa', used for centuries, first by Africans and later by parasitologists, to refer to the 'eye worm', also appears in the terminology of voodoo or Vodun where it refers to a large pantheon of deities that may possess one's soul or being. The word 'loa' may be derived from the Yoruba word 'l'awo' meaning 'mystery', but according to Bourguignon its origin remains uncertain. To the devotees of vodun, the noon hour, when the sun casts no shadow, is a perilous time. A man without a shadow is a man without a soul and therefore vulnerable to possession by such spirits as 'loa'. To ward of these spirits, believers wear amulets and cast spells. African vodun evolved in Benin, formerly Dahomey, and was brought to Haiti with slavery during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since both adults and microfilariae of the 'eye worm' Loa are diurnal, with maximum activity occurring at noon (when the West African would be most susceptible to spirit possession), and since West African vodun and the 'eye worm' share a common geographic origin, we have reached the tentative conclusion that one is probably the etymological source for the other. Whether the helminthological Loa predated the anthropological one remains a matter of conjecture"

Knowing something about the origin of the name and the way the parasite was discovered really helps to remember things better!

Looking forward to your next infectious TWIP,

Todd writes:

Found the following reference for the origin of ‘Loa'. Still don't know what it means...

Love the show!

Laboratory Technician III
Georgia Perimeter College

Peter writes:

Just to get you started <grin>

Alice writes:

Drs. Racaniello and Despommier:

Did you see this about Toxoplasma gondii?


Spencer writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

Here is a news piece very relevant for TWIP: The first congenital case of Chagas disease in the US. With a great video from Dr. Jim McKerrow.

Here's the link:

Thanks and keep up the great episodes!

Spencer MD PhD

TWiP 42 Letters

Jesse writes:

Dear Doctor's Racaniello and Despommier,

Huzzah! I have tracked down Dick's missing book on tropical medicine, or at least another copy of said book. While listening to TWIP #40, my ears perked up when Dick said he had lent a book to a student only to have it never return. A quick Google search found the following book: "Tropical Medicine and Parasitology: Classic Investigations" by Mott and Kean of Columbia University circa 1974, which I believe is the book in question. I managed to find a copy online for a steal (less than $10, including shipping!) and immediately ordered it. In 4-14 business days, I should receive a copy, which I will gladly send along to Dr. Despommier as a token of my gratitude for everything that he has done for me (more than you would think).

As a pharmacist working the night shift at a popular chain store, I quickly grew tired of listening to internet radio at night and needed some further stimulation. Your podcast was one of the first that I found and I quickly listened to every episode (multiple times even). This podcast, along with a few other life changing experiences, has inspired me to completely change the direction of my life. I now have solid plans in place to go back to medical school (once my debts are knocked down a bit) with hopes of becoming an infectious disease specialist. My dream is to join Paul Farmer's organization (Partner's in Health) and practice "tropical medicine" while helping those most in need.

Thank you both for all that you do and for taking the time to read my email. If you reply with a mailing address for yourselves at Columbia University, I will gladly send along the missing book once it arrives. As always, looking forward to your next TWIP!



P.S. Are you missing any books Dr. Racaniello? Your work on Polio is greatly appreciated, as my grandfather suffer's from a mild case of Polio myelitis -- so it is obviously a topic that is near and dear to me.

Keely writes:

Hello Dr. Racaniello.

To introduce myself, my name is Keely, and I'm currently a second-year graduate student at UCLA. I work on parasitic worms under Elissa Hallem, and I TA for the undergraduate parasitology class taught by Patricia Johnson.

First off, thanks for all the podcasts. I really enjoy them, and they keep me reading new and interesting papers that are a bit outside of what is usually on my radar. Also, though I was a microbiology major with a strong interest in parasites, my undergraduate institution lacked a full parasitology course, so I learned most of my parasitology from my own reading. I really appreciated the review that TWiP gave me before I started working on parasites for my graduate program.

Anyhow, I was listening to an older episode that I missed somehow, and you mentioned at some point having listeners on the show as a guest. If you ever decided to try and do this, I would love to toss my name in the hat.

Thanks again!

Michael writes:

I am 63 years old. I became ill while serving in Vietnam at the age of 20. For 43 years I have been going to one physician after another physician. Army, VA and private physicians have never been able to identify or diagnose my illness correctly, because every treatment or medicine they gave me, oral and topical, never worked.

For years I argued that I felt that it was parasitic, but the VA eventually convinced me that I had Agent Orange related illnesses and that my idea of parasites was not only futile, but hypochondriasis (a diagnosis, which they actually gave me).

Well, I am still hopelessly suffering. Boils are breaking out all over my body, particularly on my scalp and arms, and I truly feel that I am in late stage severe and chronic Parasitosis, but the VA has me diagnosed with Delusional Parasitosis. Last year in November, I had three very large lesions/boils that grew so large that they burst and left large continuously draining holes (blood and infection) in my arms and scalp. I became interested in the fluid samples and began collecting them in small plastic jars with tight lids. I took these samples to the VA and asked them if they would have them tested/cultured or examined under a microscope to see if anything could be determined or diagnosed. They refused and said that their blood tests for parasites was all that they needed and it had come back negative and there was nothing else that they could or would do. So to date, after years of complaining and arguing, all that they give me in medicines is anything medicines for para

After that I decided to buy a USB 200x Microscope that could take photos of what I focused on underneath the lens, which I found on Amazon marked down from $250 to $80, and examine these fluid collections on my own.

Doctors Racaniello and Despommier, both of you may be surprised. Thus far (for five months now), I have 200x photographed over 3000 pictures of the fluids draining out of these non-healing, large, deep, open wounds. In January I took nearly 1000 (what I had at the time) of these photos to the VA and they wouldn't even look at them, notwithstanding that they also did not give me the necessary wound either. If what I am looking at in the photos is correct I am acutely infected with millions of nematode microfilariasis worms and flukes.

Lastly, is it possible for me to send you a few of these photos (I can send them all on a snailmail CD or post them to Photo Bucket) for you to look at and advise me on whether or not they are in fact one or more of the over 10,000 nematodes that find humans as a desirable host? Thank you.


Raphael writes:

Good day, doctors!

I did not hesitate to write this right after hearing an email you responded on TWiP 39.

I would like to thank cytotechnologist Rebecca for the comment and Dr. Dickson for additional info on how tricho is vertically transmitted from mothers to female newborns and how it could be lifelong. Not so many years ago, I had a rare opportunity to have a urinalysis result that came out which was trichomoniasis positive. The female patient who was in her early twenties denied that she had no history of sexual contact but knowing very well that tricho is a sexually-transmitted infection, I immediately did not believe her. Nevertheless, I treated her with an antiprotozoal drug.

Now that I know how tricho is transmitted, I owe that patient my apology.

Tracy writes:

Dear Dick and Vincent (if I may be so bold)

I listened to the podcast on Leishmania this week as I prepped for my Leishmania lecture in Medical Microbiology. I was struck by Dick's comment that we didn't know what the amastigotes ate while in the the phagolysosome. I ran across an annual review in Microbiology article that seems to address the metabolic needs and potential nutrients sources for the amastigotes while in the phagolysosome.

Here is the link to the paper: (Metabolic Pathways Required for the Intracellular Survival of Leishmania)

I enjoy your podcasts and my students find them an easy way to approach very complex material.

Keep up the good work!

Laura writes:


Firstly i would like ot say that I followed your podcasts whilst i undertook my undergraduate degree and found them useful for revision. I am now starting a PhD at Nottingham University in England this year and would like to thank you for providing such great podcasts.

I would like to ask, as mosquitoes carry a number of parasites/viruses that can infect humans, is it possible for one mosquito to infect a person with more than one species of parasite/virus, for example could a person get malaria and leishmania at the same time from the one mosquito?

Jon writes:

Ok, this sounds rather unpleasant - but may explain a lot about the world :)

The Brain: Hidden Epidemic: 
Tapeworms Living Inside People's Brains

Suzanne writes:

Maybe Dickson knows or maybe someone else has mentioned it, but if you wash immediately with soap and cold water poison ivy oil washes off more easily. Wash all your clothes in cold water, too. Most people want to wash with warm water (I've done it and boy did the rash spread) but cool or cold water works best. I hope his has cleared up by the time you get this!

Jim writes:

Dickson mentioned this 2 vol set on the last TWIP. This link from the World Catalog may have specifics as well as where Vol 1 can be bought, and cheaply too, it appears. Volume 2 is in the World Cat database, but not linked to any library or store -- odd. The key thing is that the title may be "Tropical Medicine and Parasitology." I found a few Vol 1's, but no Vol 2. Might a Vol 2 be sold as a Vol 1? Here is a link that at least shows a Vol 1 & 2 set has at one point been listed on Amazon, so a periodic search may eventually be productive. I like looking at old books and will keep an eye out in this area. Maybe a mention on a TWIP would alert listeners to also watch for the set. Not an expensive item.

Ref deer flies: I have used these tred-not patches on my hat for several years and they are quite good. Just ordered another big batch. Sound like something Dickson can use, if he is not doing so already. Only negative aspect is that they are only good for one day. The last of my current batch were purchased last year and worked just fine.

Beautiful shows, all!


Smithfield, VA

Stephen writes:

This is actually for TWIP, FYI

(BTY: It's not easy to send to TWIP from the Nature app, because it assumes an email address.)

Bovine TB disguised by liver fluke

Nature News,Published online: 22 May 2012; | doi:10.1038/nature.2012.10685

Meika writes:

I have been one of your silent fans for about a year now. And I absolutely LOVE all three of your podcasts. I am a scientist at heart and by training, but a horse trainer for my living. I recall a past podcast about a dressage barn that had an outbreak of toxoplasmosis, and I am trying to search for it, but Toxo is a very popular subject for you guys and the list is long. While I am willing to listen to all episodes again to try to find it, can you give me a hint as to which episode it was and shorten my search?

Your show has been an inspiration to me as well as a fun link to my past life as a scientist. Listening to TWIM has prompted me to go on a several days long spree of reading reprints of my grandmother's research. The earliest I can find is 1933 and she is the lead author in The Journal of Bacteriology on carotenoids and Vitamin A in bacteria. She also was interested in nutrition and color inheritance in Serratia and published her research for four decades. I cant help but think that she was the rare woman bacteriologist who led by example for so many women back then. Thanks for keeping me interested and helping me know my grandmother better.

Meika (pronounced: mica, like the mineral.)

Mike writes:

Doctors, I have recently discovered podcasts and the very first thing i searched for was one on parasites. I have been fascinated with parasites since grade school and will be starting my 3rd year of veterinary school in the fall so i was very excited to see a podcast devoted entirely to parasites. granted a bulk of my parasite knowledge is animal based i still very much enjoy TWIP. I started your first episode and have just finished the episode on hookworms. a few things i wanted to bring up, from the perspective of a budding veterinary parasitologist. First: A. caninum is capable of infecting young pups through the bitches milk and i was wondering if any human hookworms have been documented to do the same, at least for animals, hookworms can also be contracted from eating the 3rd larval stage (generally pica) or from eating a variety of other animals that have eaten the 3rd larval stage and act as a transport host, for example, the larva eaten by a mouse, enter a hibernation state until a cat or a dog comes along and eats the mouse. as the tissues are digested away the larva wakes up, receives environmental cues and will proceed to develop to an adult, this is a particularly common way for cats to contract A. tubaeforme given their predatory nature. Has anything similar ever been documented with a human species of hookworm?

Second: as to the question of prevalence of hookworms in dogs in America, yes they are definitely endemic. they are a problem across the nation especially shelters, as are whipworms, ascarids, coccidia.

Third:in one of the episodes on tapeworms Dick was comparing the pork tapeworm to the beef tapeworm and mentioned that horses and cattle are different from pigs and asked Vince why. Dicks answer was that cattle and horses are both ruminants while a pig is an omnivore, i don't know if this was an accident but horses are not ruminants, they do not have the complex foregut fermentation system of cattle, sheep, goats, deer and other similar animals, horse are hindgut fermenters and do a bulk of their digestion in their colon and cecum (appendix) but both are herbivores.

and last, to Vince, you had peppered Dick with questions on what animal species had what nematode parasites, to broaden your list, ascarids are found in horses, pigs, cats, dogs, cattle, raccoons, wild canids and felids and mostly any other mammal. hookworms are just as ubiquitous in the animal kingdom. that's all for now but i am sure i'll write again, keep up the great work gents. I understand that this is a long email and will not be offended if you don't read it on the air but i would greatly appreciate answers to my questions if possible

Mike writes:

Doctors, again i write to you because a few things had slipped my mind while writing my last email. Dick, when you were describing the live cycle of ascaris, you said there was an operculum on ascarid eggs. I have seen many ascarid eggs of several species and have never seen an operculum, did you miss speak or have i just not been looking carefully enough? or is it specific to A. lumbricoides? it has always been my understanding that the operculum is rather rare in nematode species save members of the orders Oxyurida and Enoplida. speaking of Enoplida, one of the many parasites we discussed in parasitology course that is part of our curiculum was Dioctophyma renale, the giant red kidney worm, a particularly cool video of a dog in canada that was unfortunate enough to contract a few of these has been posted on youtube: Has there ever been a case in people that you know of?

Lastly, I just listened to the Strongyloides podcast, do pigs, like people often pass the larva in their stool but in the veterinary world they are the exception, most of the time in other domestic species the eggs are what are passed does this ever happen with people? have you ever seen a Strogyloides egg? This particular parasite can be debilitating and even fatal to piglets but with the modern management techniques in the American swine industry the problem has ceased almost entirely.

thanks again for humoring me gents,

Daniel writes:

Hello again professors. Sorry to keep bugging you but I thought you might be interested in a website I happened upon the other day.
It's a crowd sourced pseudo-video game designed by UCLA students in which the players have to identify RBCs that are infected with malaria. Here's a bit of text from the site and the link.

The Idea

Analysis and related diagnosis of medical images, regardless of the source and imaging modality, are tasks that require a great deal of expertise, demanding significant training of medical practitioners prior to being able to accurately interpret and diagnose such images. This is particularly true in analysis of microscopic data, creating challenges in resource-limited settings and developing countries, where properly trained health-care professionals are difficult to find.

We have shown that by utilizing the innate visual recognition and learning capabilities of human crowds it is possible to conduct reliable microscopic analysis of biomedical samples and make diagnostics decisions based on crowd-sourcing of microscopic data through intelligently designed and entertaining games that are interfaced with artificial learning and processing back-ends. We demonstrated that in the case of binary diagnostics decisions (e.g., infected vs. uninfected), using crowd-sourced games it is possible to approach the accuracy of medical experts in making such diagnoses.
Specifically, using non-professional gamers we report diagnosis of malaria infected red-blood-cells with an accuracy that is within 1.25% of the diagnostic decisions made by a trained professional.

Wish you both the best and let me apologize again for bombarding your inbox.


Nick writes:

Hi Vince and Dick,

I'm writing hoping that you haven't already been flooded with emails regarding heartworm treatment and resistance, and if you have, maybe I can still be able to contribute something. I'm a dual degree student (DVM/PhD) at Cornell University and am studying the mosquito vector ecology of heartworm. As your listener mentioned, there have been some reports of persistent microfilaremia in dogs on preventive medication. Some of the issue has been shown to be due to lack of owner compliance to administering the drug, but, after controlling for that, there have still been dogs identified with persistent microfilaremia despite preventive treatment (and often after the adults have been killed or removed), which currently is the only standard method to clear the microfilariae.

This loss of efficacy is specifically of the microfilariae to clearance, not to melarsomine (Immiticide), which is the adulticide. Ivermectin formulations used as preventive/microfilaricidal, which you eventually got to during the podcast anyway! There have been some studies looking into the effect of doxycycline on clearing the Wolbachia in Dirofilaria immitis to reduce their ability to reproduce and possibly reduce microfilarial and larval fitness for transmission, which I thought you'd find interesting.

I'll be sure to chime in on veterinary topics or, more likely, vector biology topics that I know something about. Also, I was surprised to hear that Dick came to speak at Cornell but I had missed it! I'll have to be more attentive next time,

Keep up the good work!


Alberto writes:

Dear Parasite Hosts

I thought Dickson would be interested in this story from ABC's ( Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Science Show which features an interview with A/Prof Daryl Davies of USC, LA in which he discusses the potential use of ivermectin for the treatment of alcoholism.

I found this recent article in Neuropharmacology from the Davies lab which describes the experimental use of ivermectin in a mouse model of alcohol dependence.

I quote from the abstract:
".. in the present study we investigated the effects of this agent on several models of alcohol self-administration in male and female C57BL/6 mice. Overall, IVM (1.25-10 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) significantly reduced 24-h alcohol consumption and intermittent limited access (4-h) binge drinking, and operant alcohol self-administration (1-h)."

The mechanism of action appears to be via antagonism of a purinergic receptor in the brain. In the interview, A/Prof Davies explains that in parasitic organisms, the drug acts by stimulating an excitatory glutamate chloride channel.

Keep up the great work guys.


Ethan writes:

I found this in the mail today from my water department and had to forward it to you guys. Looks as though my city's water is clean of any cryptosporidium parasites, but inhabitants of other middle Tennessee areas perhaps are not so lucky!



Peter writes:

Watching 'Origin of Us' a BBC2 documentary on Human evolution. In Episode 2, 'Guts', the host Dr. Alice Roberts mentions an interesting hypothesis relating to tape-worms.

It appears that the lion tape worm and human tape worm are very closely related. A DNA study is used to determine the time of worm
speciation. It is assumed that around this time Humans began to steal or eat the same prey as lions. Eventually the worm evolves from Humans as the intermediate, host to becoming the definitive host. Aprox 800k to 1.7 million BCE.

She does not cite the work but, being a BBC doco, I have no reason to doubt the work is genuine and published somewhere.

Novel idea to use tape worms for plotting meat eating in Humans.

Stephen writes:

Might this help to learn how Cobbold named Loa loa.

I don't have access to the journal, and didn't find the full text on line. finds it at the nearest university library, but it's $31.

A bit steep just to satisfy curiosity.

Rohit writes:

Dear Dr Racaniello and Despommier,

I listened to the fascinating episode Worm in the Eye: TWIP 40 earlier this week. Coincidently, I saw this news story, about a doctor taking out a worm from the eye in Mumbai India today.

I thought that it would be interesting to hear Dr Despommier's expert comments about this worm/case. I apologize if this worm has already been discussed and I have just not caught up with that particular episode yet. I am curious if the doctor's statement "The worm could have travelled deeper into the eye or gone to the brain through the optic nerves, which could have been fatal" is true. Being a virologist, I know that Polio and other viruses travel through nerves but can worms too travel through nerves?

Dr Despommier is a wonderful story-tellier. I find it amazing how much he can remember. Keep the awesome worm-stories coming along with some very intriguing questions from Dr Racaniello.



Postdoctoral Fellow, Chandran Lab
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Ethan writes:

Dickson mentioned how crazy it is that ticks can live up to 50 years in a dormant state without taking a blood meal, and it immediately reminded me of this:

After subjected to conditions within a vacuum and being blasted by an electron beam, the tick keeps ticking.

Joann writes:

Hi Drs. Racaniello and Despommier,

Great podcast!

I'm a graduate student in epidemiology and am completing my practicum this summer working as a health inspector in a coastal town. One of the health agents I work with used to be a chef at one of the local restaurants. She described to me (warning this is gross!) how they used to use tweezers to pull out little (~1" worms) from cod and swordfish that would later be cooked in served. My questions for you: do you have any idea what these worms might be? And, is there any chance that ingesting them (or perhaps eggs/larvae, etc.) of these worms would make humans sick? Regardless, still pretty nasty.

Keep up the great podcasts! I have a long commute usually and have been twipping and re-twipping.


TWiP 41 Letters

Adam writes:

What up Doc's?

I'm writing to voice my complete disagreement with the sentiments of Sven Urban, in his letter on TWIP 38, that you as hosts are prone to engage in a ‘degree of banter which is distracting'.

I'm sure Dickson does not mind being antagonised, and like caffeine on an adenosine receptor the antagonist in this case is a vital educational aide serving to keep me awake.

I will concede the point that Dr. Racaniello is most often the instigator of these disruptions. For negative control please see the first episode of TWiV which Alan and Rich did on their own - this ran disappointingly efficiently, depriving me of company and edu-tainment on the latter half of a long commute to uni.

I will end with this observation - If you can't play as a child you can't be imaginative, and the last thing we need is scientists without imagination (I believe these are called accountants btw).

You have this listener's permission to be as disruptive as you like.

Keep up the good work.


Melbourne, Australia (26◦C Partly Cloudy)

PS: Consider this my vote against This Week in Old Guys Reading Aloud from Textbooks (TWiOGRAFT).

Liesbeth writes:

Hi Vince, hi Dick,

my name is Liesbeth and I'm doing my Masters in Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro. I started to follow TWIV a couple weeks ago and now I'm absolutely infected with TWIP and trying to catch up with TWIM also. Thank you so much for this great initiative, for the effort and time dedicated... it's really appreciated and highly contagious! Keep up with the amazing podcasts!

All the best,

Bill writes:

Dear TWIP Team

30-40 years ago, completely unaware of giardia, when hiking in the high Sierra we commonly drank from mountain streams without any ill effect. There's much greater awareness since then, but I wonder if the risk of infection has really increased. i.e. if drinking from fast flowing streams at high elevations is as safe now as then. What do you think?

Arthur writes:

Vincent Racaniello and Dick Despommier- you guys are GREAT!

I discovered TWiP one month ago and so far I'm addicted, I don't know how many guys in Kenya listen to TWiP, I suspect I'm the only one but I'm quickly spreading the gospel. I have special interest in the Leishmania podcast because I came across so many patients with Kala Azar especially during my internship year in Eldoret- Kenya, last year and I have seen firsthand the kind of clinical havoc the parasite can cause. A few questions;

Q.1 Why do patients with Kala Azar have pancytopaenia (most of the time-severe)?

Q.2 Apart from the BMA and the Splenic Aspirate, what are the rapid diagnostic methods that are available and how accurate are they?

The doctors working for MSF- (doctors without borders) in Pokot (an area near the border of Kenya and Uganda where Visceral Leishmaniasis is endemic) usually base there diagnosis on epidemiology and some rapid testing methods and start treatment- mainly sodium stybogluconate but some patients still die, so over to my next

Q.3 How effective is Sodium Stybogluconate in the treatment of Kala Azar? Is Amphotericin B more effective despite its side effects?

Observations: In Kenya the most vulnerable age group are kids around the age of 6 years because they play on and around anthills where most sandflies are found.

Prof. Despommier and Prof. Racaniello, it would be really great if you give lectures in Kenya- the medical fraternity here will really appreciate it.

Dr. Arthur Mumelo - Medical Officer - rural Kenya.

Roxanne writes:

I am a new to the podcast. I gotta say I love the repartee. I find it entertaining and it sometimes adds suspense when the answers are put off for a bit. As a disclaimer: I am an avid CarTalk fan. Your names, Vincent and Dickson, even share an alliteration component like Click and Clack.

Roxanne, PhD (microbiologist turned forensic DNA analyst, public health hopeful)

Daniel writes:

In the early TWiP episodes Dr. Despommier spoke at length about neurocysticercosis. You mentioned that the neurocysticercoses remain dormant and the patient is asymptomatic (unless they obstruct the foramen magnum) until they begin to die and subsequently cease to suppress immune response. My question is, if cestodes that become neurocysticercoses have no aging genes what causes them to die? Is it because they are encysted and can't gather nutrients from their environment?


Ethan writes:

I had some questions regarding the difficulties in producing successful vaccinations for sleeping sickness. From my understanding, the biggest trouble is that as the immune system produces effective antibodies and the trypanosome populations decline in the host, gene expression for molecules making up the outer VSG coats in progeny switch to quiet genes thus changing the VSG molecules and rendering the host's current antibodies useless.

Why can't we vaccinate against all of these antigen variations? If that is impractical, why can't we vaccinate against every 10th antigen, for instance, so that once the trypanosomes turn on one of those genes it is then eliminated by the host's inoculated immune system? I'm also curious as to whether the trypanosomes always begin their life in their host with the same VSG or if it will vary its first expressed gene. If it always starts in the same place and uses a specific order, we could better select which ones to make vaccines for.

Since the trypanosomes switch these genes in a specific order, can we catalog this progression in a model and use that as a reference for the host's current and future antigens? If so, we could select the most relevant vaccine that would be effective against the impending wave of new antigens, playing the waiting game for our target gene to be switched on.

Sorry for the barrage of questions, this just had me thinking the last few days. It seems to me a vaccine for this should be easy - but obviously I'm wrong!

Christopher writes:

Hello gentlemen,

First off I want to thank you both for an excellent and entertaining podcast. I am a regular listener and I enjoy your show immensely!

I had a question regarding the "successful systems attract parasites" quote. Dr Despommier mentioned that this quote had won a poll in which readers were asked to vote for the pithiest statement on biological research over a specific time frame (or perhaps that best summarized 100 years of biological research??). As part of an upcoming faculty lecture series, I am preparing a talk on how- at least from an ecological perspective- that statement is perhaps better worded this way: "parasites play key roles in defining and structuring successful systems". Unfortunately I have been unable to find any reference to this poll online, and I was hoping Dr Despommier would be so kind as to remind me of the details (what publication / organization ran the poll, what were the "rules" of the contest).

Thanks for your time, and I look forward to more awesome podcasts in the future!

Cheers, Chris
Christopher Blanar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Division of Math, Science, and Technology
Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
Nova Southeastern University

Stephen writes:

Re: using sari cloth to filter water to reduce cholera, the agent being filtered is a copepod that carries Vibrio, not the Vibrio itself:

"In laboratory experiments employing electron microscopy, we found that inexpensive sari cloth, folded four to eight times, provides a filter of [about] 20 [microns] mesh size, small enough to remove all zooplankton, most phytoplankton, and all V. cholerae attached to plankton and particulates [greater than] 20 [microns]."

Links to download a pdf of the PNAS paper:

Reduction of cholera in Bangladeshi villages by simple filtration

PS, I wrote to TWIV previously regarding hyperparasitoids. I really like the extended format and the fact that your shows feature people who know what they're talking about, or admit that they don't know.

Chris writes:

Hi Vincent and Dickson,

Love all your podcasts. I just wanted to write in to clarify a couple of things that were said on a couple of recent TWiP episodes.

On TWiP 37, you were discussing the use of water filtration in the eradication efforts of dracunculiasis and the subject of the work of Rita Colwell came up in which she used sari filtration to filter out Vibrio cholerae from natural water sources. Dickson mentioned that this might be possible due to V. cholerae's long flagellum. In fact, the reason this is possible is because of V. cholerae's affinity for chitin. The majority of the bacteria in nature tend to be attached to small crustacean zooplankton. It is this property that allows enough of the bacteria to be filtered out of the water to significantly reduce the incidence of cholera in areas using this practice. Thus, because of this, I think it would be unlikely that this type of filtration would have a significant effect on removing other enteric bacteria (infectious dose playing a role here too).

On TWiP 38, you were discussing Babesia, and Dickson said that the species was bigemina. However, B. bigemina is vectored by Boophilus ticks and is the cause of a cattle disease known as 'Texas cattle fever' or 'red-water fever'. In the United States, Babesia microtiis the species that most commonly infects humans and is vectored by Ixodes scapularis ("deer tick") in the U.S. Northeast and New England regions. Thus, it is B. microti that is the most important species infecting humans and has a deer tick - rodent life cycle. Since it infects red blood cells, it has also been an issue for the blood supply.

Just wanted to clarify those two statements not as criticism, but more to get the correct information out there. Keep up the great work with the podcasts.

Chris Whitehouse, Ph.D.
Microbiologist working for the U.S. Government in the Washington, D.C. Area

Allan writes:

I've enjoyed listening to your your TWIP podcast. You are a wonderful story teller and though I have worked in this field a bit as well, I never fail to learn something. I listen in the car on Sticher. My kids think I'm weird but they like it too.

In the episode today (1MAR12) on dracunculosis, you made the natural connection that we come across cyclops both in Malaria and the Guinea Worm programs, but in the podcast you mentioned a couple times that mosquito larvae eat the cyclops and I think you probably meant the converse.

We add cyclops to family water jars in Cambodia to eat the mosquito larvae.

Anyway keep up the great work. You strike a nice balance of making the field more approachable, while keeping it interesting enough even for the grouches.

Best regards,

Allan, DIH, MPH

TWiP 40 Letters

David writes:

Love the TWIPs! I'm a helminth user (25 hookworm for allergies), so your programs are fascinating!

Dr. Racaniello, after listening to TWIP 33 where you were discussing the history of your surname, I thought I'd give your listeners a way to remember your obviously Italian name. It's the rap song, "Black and Yellow"! lol

Peter writes:

Dear Professors,

please do NOT abandon your style ever!!

Even if there´s some privacy in there, be it fishing or simply the weather or whatever, it has to be in your podcasts because it makes them authentic! Even more, talking like you with so much commitment and humor increases the amount of learning. You know why!

I always tried to be a good teacher (for natural sciences at a german secondary school since more than 20 years) exactly in that way.

And scientific researches in recent years have approved that the brain of all ages learns better and more effectively with these attributes.

Here you are:

And remember, just because informations cause an emotional response, and that means attention is rising: (page 7)

Please keep on with your excellent work, you are pioneers in science and "face-to-face" interaction,

greetings from Wiesbaden, Germany


Richard writes:

Dear Dickson & Vincent,

I recently delivered a lecture to nursing students at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Tanzania, on a subject that Dickson is very well versed, Trichinella.

I am a medical entomologist & have no knowledge of Trichinella so quickly had to do some reading & piece together a basic lecture. In the process of preparing the lecture I was left with a couple of questions that I hope Dickson can answer.

1- In East Africa the species is Trichinella nelsoni. My understanding is that there have been very few human cases reported (200 ish) and they have all come from eating undercooked warthog or bushpig. In Tanzania pork meat from domestic pigs is commonly eaten (on a sidenote pork is called "kiti moto" in swahili which translates to "hot chair"- possibly because if the muslim population of Tanzania get caught secretly eating pork they will be in big trouble, or the "hot chair"). I was left wondering why T.nelsoni has not made the jump from wild pigs & warthogs into domestic pigs? I was asked this question in class & my explanation was that it could be due to geographic isolation as warthog/wildpigs are mainly found in "bush" and savannah areas where usually only Maasai are found. Maasai keep cattle, sheep, & goats but not pigs. Do you think this is a reasonable explanation? How would you have answered this question?

With rapid population growth in Tanzania do you think expanding human settlements could result in T.nelsoni making the jump into domestic pigs & resulting in more human cases?

2- In the excellent book, "Manson's Tropical Diseases" the T. nativa Arctic cycle shows that polar bears can become infected by eating raw walrus and seal meat. How do seals & walrus become infected with Trichinella? Don't they eat fish??

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Best wishes


Ethan writes:

Hello Vincent & Dickson!

I'd like to thank you for the superb podcasts I've had the pleasure of enjoying the past few months. Not having any previous interest in parasitism or virology, I downloaded a few podcasts on a whim and was immediately hooked!

Working a night shift by myself in the biology building of a university calls for TWIx podcasts for entertainment. While listening to the TWIP episode on hookworm, I noticed a ton of slides left out in a lab room full of microscopes. What was on them? Parasites galore! I took the liberty of finding slides of hookworm in various stages of life cycles and got to follow along during the podcast and actually see with my own eyes real examples of what you guys were describing under the microscope - it was awesome!

I really enjoy being able to learn from TWIP being a non-scientist (although I'm going back to school for physics soon, so I'll be in the scientist club before too long!). I have to look things up to follow along in TWIV, and TWIM is often way over my head, but I try to listen to both anyway, they're always interesting.

I've since listened to all the TWIPs and would love to hear new ones added more often. I'm also looking forward to adding Dickson's new book West Nile Story right beside my recently read copy of Parasite Rex.

Sorry for the lengthiness of the email!

Thanks again,


Rebecca writes:

Hello again!

Thanks for mentioning my email and talking about my obscure profession! Cytotechs screen pap smears in addition to fine needle aspirations from just about any body site. A normal day consists mainly of screening pap smears, but I get to look at some lung, thyroid, liver cells, etc. Legally, we have to screen all paps at an appropriately licensed lab with a Medical Director and Technical supervisor. Gone are the days of screening in your underwear at home - well, maybe some folks can still screen in their underwear. My workplace frowns on it. A lot of slides are still hand screened on an regular ol' light microscope, but some are analyzed by a computer first. All slides must be screened by a cytotech or pathologist - the computer just uses an proprietary algorithm to determine the areas of the slide with the highest probability of abnormal cells to guide our screening. We send all slides we diagnose as abnormal to a Pathologist. He or she has the final say. In addition to looking for cancerous or precancerous cells, we also look for non-cancerous infectious agents. HSV and CMV produce some gorgeous cells! Check google images for HSV or CMV cytology. As far as it being kind of boring to just look through the scope all day: you have do enjoy looking through the microscope or you will quickly go insane in this line of work. I personally enjoy the focused attention this work requires - it's like mediation for me. Bonus: I get to listen to awesome podcasts while helping people. Additionally, the microscope rarely back-sasses me, so I don't have to deal with any workplace conflict or stress:) Thanks again for the podcast!

Dan writes:

Hello gentlemen,

My name is Dan and I'm considering becoming an epidemiologist. I discovered your podcast and am slowly working my way through all of the old episodes, which I find extremely fascinating.

Forgive me if it's already been mentioned on your show as I am listening to the episodes in chronological order and haven't yet arrived at the most recent one, but I would like to recommend a book called "Parasites: Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests" by Rosemary Drisdelle. I recently purchased this novel and it served as a wonderful primer for your show and as fantastic "thought food".

If you can recommend any books, journals, or other publications that would be helpful for a budding young student such as myself I'd be very appreciative. I know for certain that with my next paycheck I'll be buying Mr. Despommier's "Parasitic Diseases".

Thank you very much for publishing this podcast! I'm very happy that I've discovered it.

Best regards,

TWiP 39 Letters

Rebecca writes:

Thanks for the podcast! I wanted to add a quick note about diagnosing trich: As a cytotechnologist, I diagnose trich on pap smears daily. I imagine this is how a lot of ladies find out they are infected.

Peter writes:

Greetings Dickson and Vincent,

A cool overcast 14°C on the Eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey as I write this.

Further to my question on a previous TWiP about whether parasites that used blood feeding vectors made the host more attractive to the vector I found this article on parasitic manipulation in vector-borne diseases

and this 2005 study which indicates that malarial parasites do manipulate their mosquito vector's biting behaviour:

The results look positive even if the number of test subjects was very small.

It was a slow day at work so I had time to spend on the internet.
A couple of other interesting items I found:

A new genus and species of leech (Tyrannobdella rex) from Perú that feeds from the mucous membranes of animals and when feeding may remain in situ for several days.

Blood feeding by proxy - the East African jumping spider Evarcha culicivora feeds on vertebrate blood by preferentially preying on blood-fed Anopheles mosquitoes. Not a parasite, but still interesting.

I would also like to suggest a possible guest for TWiP - Dr James Logan of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Cam writes:
I'm an amateur at this, looking for some help with identification.

These are in human blood, drawn at night via pin prick to the finger, magnified about 300x. No additives or stains. Nocturnal periodicity, so not found by any more conventional method. Note the thin, translucent folds on the head shot, and "V" shaped head. I was thinking mansonella, but the egg and nocturnal periodicity are not right for mansonella. M. perstans has a ribbon-y quality at the tail, not mid-body.

Warm regards,

p.s. Also wondering what the object is at 3:00 on the tail shot.

Peter writes:

A POTENTIALLY lethal tick infection newly identified in Australia has mysteriously emerged on the NSW south coast.

Doctors have revealed the first reported Australian case of human babesiosis, a tick-borne infection that carries a 5 to 10 per cent
fatality rate, higher than the death rate from the most common tick bite infections.

The victim was a 56-year-old man from the south coast who died, it is thought, partly as a result of babesiosis. In a report published today in the Medical Journal of Australia , doctors say the infection probably contributed to his death from
multi-organ failure last April.

The report of the first babesiosis case in Australia thought to have been locally acquired had raised ''intriguing questions'' about how
the infection is spread in Australia, the lead author of the report, Sanjaya Senanayake, of the Australian National University, said.

Todd writes:

I was reading news from my childhood home, Louisiana, and saw an article about a surge of heartworm infection due to a warmer and
wetter than normal winter (more mosquitoes roughly translates to more heartworm infection). The more concerning statement though: "...even more disturbing is that some dogs, who have been on a heartworm preventative medication, are still coming down with the potentially fatal disease."

Can you offer some details and insights into what the vets are seeing?|mostview

Peter writes:

Hi TWiP Team

I was talking to someone about animal diseases and they sent me these links to some plush parasites:

Francois writes:

Hello Monsieur Despommier & signore Racaniello,

Before all, sorry for my English.

And It's now 24°C in southern France. First water restrictions of the year.

My research years were oriented toward food safety & ferments selection. A.k.a fight Listeria in food with other bacterias or cheese ecology.

During, this previous life, I've found some some pretty amazing cheese ferments.
And I'm quite sure the smell & taste of some the resulting raw milk cheeses would have killed mosquitoes & parasites alike.

I've recently listen the oldest TWIV & TWIP, with exceptional pleasure.

I would like to follow on Mr Despommier comment about the 1981 movie "Quest for fire" (TWIP 10), & his suggestion that parasites exchanges between modern & Neanderthal humans could have been deletarian for Neanderthal.

Now, with proof that those populations have reached a certain level of intimacy, at least in the case of the Denisovans. What kind of traces paleoparasitologists could find to conclude that this was indeed hapenning : traces on bones, eggs or cysts in caves soils.
Or at the, now available, genetic makers. Ex : drepanocytosis ?

There was also wooly mammoth, sabberthoot tigers & bears in the film.  Do people get parasites by eating elephants, bears or big cats meat, because it seems that the megafauna was a frequent part of the neandertal diet and vice versa ? I've also heard about tiger, bear or canid meat in today asia, & seen hippopotamus meat in Togo.

Other info, I was 7 in 1982, when I & most of my school mates saw the film. No one have been bothered by the most "X-rate" part, but we were freaked by the "eat people alive bits by bits" part. Today the film is frequently seen in school by children between 7 to 10 years old.

Best regards, & all my thanks for those amazing efforts.

PS : For Mr Despommier
La Tour vivante (The Living Tower)

TWiP 38 Letters

Carlos writes:

Dear Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommier

I am an avid listener of TWIP since its start, have been following TWIV for at least two years and, surprise, also follow TWIM.

My field is Computer Science, but I crave for information in all areas I find interesting. To me, your Podcasts fill the role of giving me very pleasurable conversations on science, and help me better understand fields where nature dictates the validation of the research. In my field we often deal with the construction of artifacts that are validated by their mathematical properties, so the validation process is a bit more detached from nature.

What prompted me to write now is that I just listened to the start of TWIP #33 and your discussion of how google scholar indexes more publications and citations, than PubMed I believe, but with a more messy presentation format. You might find it useful to explore a new tool that allows authors to aggregate papers in a specific google scholar author page. After one does that, its easy to sort by publication year, impact etc.

Take a look at the following link to see how to set it up:

The strong point is that the tool makes it very easy to identify (and separate) your own publications and co-authors. For more common author names its often a mess to separate one's articles from the other homonymous authors.

Keep doing the excellent job of promotting interest in your fields and science in general.



Universidade do Minho,

Peter writes:

Just watching a clip on cellular metabolism. The background music was the Vangelis theme from Carl Sagan's Cosmos.
A very great sadness came over me.
He looked outward whilst you guys look inward, so to speak.
I feel sure he would have loved your shows and would eagerly have embraced podcasting.
You are doing the inner Cosmos.
Thank you.

Emerson writes:

Hi guys,
love the show.

You listed csf, blood, lymph, urine, aqueous humor, cochlear fluid, and semen.

I'd like to suggest that there are more than 7. Ignoring interstitial fluid and cytosol I'm fairly sure that bile is sterile before it leaves the gall bladder. Synovial fluid within the joints is typically sterile, the falopian tubes/ ovaries are bathed in sterile fluid. Tears are also sterile before they are cried I believe.

Take care!

Laura writes:

Drs. Vincent Racaniello and Dickenson Despommier,

I'm a Masters student doing research on Soil Microbes, and in my research have come across papers referencing Mollicutes (phytoplasmas, mycoplasmas, ureaplasmas, and spiroplasmas are examples). Are there any parasitic mollicutes that actively infect humans and cause detrimental symptoms?

Thank you,
Chatham University

Peter writes:

Taking the image challenge on the NEJM site i guessed wrong on a lung
sputum sample. Desperately trying to recall lung involvement parasite.

Ascaris? Bzzzzzzzt!

Of course not, dummy. Too quick on the mouse.

It was a bloody egg in the lung, not a juvenile organism, and I don't
think Ascaris does the disgusting stomach to lung thing?

Turned out to be paragonimus. -> Paragonimiasis

I don't recall that one in twip

Sounds interesting,

coming soon?

Ignore last email

D'oh! I realize you guys did touch on paragonimus. TWiP 27: Trematodes
Must have some in my brain.

Anyway, here's the link.

Brian writes:

Docs R & D,
At the end of your A. lumbricoides program you discussed problems related to Toxocara canis & T. cati infection in humans, namely VLM & OLM. Dick said it would be great if someone surveyed dog runs in NYC, or nearby, for Toxocara eggs. Sampling & counting eggs sounded relatively straightforward, piece of cake was mentioned a couple times. Such a survey would be an excellent topic for an enterprising high school student, with some help from a famous parasitologist or virologist, or someone they may know. Give it some thought.

I am reading Dick's book pick a while back, "The Fever" by Shah and find it fascinating. As an anthropologist, I am well acquainted with the sickle trait balanced polymorphism, but under-appreciated the impact malaria had on human history. The rapid spread of the parasite in the US hit home after reading how fast it infected areas of New England after the environment was altered by the building of mill ponds. It took only a few returning soldiers from the Civil War to infect whole towns. Incredible.

My wife took a parasitology class a few years ago and had to draw many of the specimens you have discussed. She thought Giardia trophozoites were "cute" with their little faces. After going though a Giardia infection, I'll tell you how cute they are.

As much as I love TWiP, I am happy with the longer break between episodes so I have time for the many other terrific podcasts like TWiV, TWiM, Science Friday Video (a favorite, if you haven't seen it), NYTs The Minimalist, Science Now, Nature, Archeology Channel, RadioLab, among others. So many podcasts, so little time.

And, I have to know how you selected the fun but creepy opening music and great hard-driving riffs at the close of the show. Good stuff.


Trudy writes:

Listening to you right now on Science 360 Radio. You mentioned this post and I had to comment. As a former nurse epidemiologist who worked in County Public Health Practice, I am a strong proponent for vaccination. I worked a number of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks including rubeola (measles) which resulted in individuals becoming needlessly seriously ill. Very much enjoy TWIV and TWIP and TWIM....My mother was also a nurse who worked in public health before most vaccines were available. She saw the tragic cases of diseases which resulted in great morbidity and mortality. I could go on and on about the good vaccines do. Thank you Professor Racaniello. Kudos to you and all who assist in the productions of your wonderful podcasts. Dr. Despommier is a treat. I have so many interesting experiences with all kinds of reportable diseases and conditions including on how I became a nurse instead of a medical illustrator or possibly a physician. I sustained a needle stick pre recombinant HBV vaccine while working my way through college in a teaching hospital. I carry natural immunity to hepatitis B now. Didn't get extra credit in my micro class, however.

Best regards,

retired from public health but never tired of pathogens and learning about them...
Naples, Florida

Ricardo writes:

Hello Vincent and Dickson.

I just came from my first jury in a monographic work where the student cited TWIP. The monograph title was "Trichinosis: from the parasite to the ecosystem".

I was very impressed with the "watermark" left by TWIP on the student, and happy that my friend (her supervisor) suggested her to listen to TWIP.

One of my colleagues from the jury commented the text looked like a romance. She appreciated the "stories". :)

Thank you both for the really great work you are doing.

Ricardo Magalhaes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology
Faculty of Health Sciences of Fernando Pessoa University

Felix writes:

Hi Professors,

In episode 16 on Giardia you discuss Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and his early adventures with a microscope. Here are a couple of interesting resources which discuss him:

Firstly an article in the ASM magazine claiming that Leeuwenhoek gets too much credit for his discoveries, some of which should be shared by Robert Hooke of the Royal Society of London.

Secondly, an excellent BBC documentary "The Cell", which begins with Hooke and Leeuwenhoek.

You have also mentioned Paul De Kruif's book "The Microbe Hunters" as one of the few sources for information on the history of germ theory and microbiology. A recently published book (also from the ASM) addresses the same area, most likely with a less idiosyncratic style than the dated De Kruif volume:

Germ Theory: Medical Pioneers in Infectious Diseases
Robert P. Gaynes
ISBN: 978-1555815295

Just while writing this email I discovered the ASM book store with a section of the history of science
(I have no connection with the ASM!)

I am currently re-listening to all of your TWIP podcasts, having listened to them all at least twice when they were first released. They're are just that good!

I really love the beginner-level approachability of the first 30 or so episodes.
It would be great if you could cover a small number of highly important non-parasitic diseases, such as cholera, in the same style.

best wishes,

Jim writes:


I'd really like to hear the details of your efforts to convert Dickson's text to electronic format for access over the web. Lessons learned should be useful to anyone with similar thoughts. How is it different from creating such a work from raw materials? I'd prefer it as part of the TWIP's, if that is acceptable.


I'm still hear all the TWIM, TWIP and TWIV's, but my podcast listening load is heavy (60/wk) and production of a weekly blog about the best entries is slow for an old-timer.

Loved Dickson's link to the stop-action high-speed photos of the liquid drops.

Smithfield, VA

Sven-Urban writes:

Dear Profs Racaniello and Despommier,

As a long time listener of TWiP (and for that matter TWiV and TWiM) I feel obliged as well as entitled to express some - mild - criticism that I feel and hope is appropriate.

While Your mutual friendship is a much valued aspect of the show, I think it might lead You to a degree of bantering that interferes with the contents. Slightly too often I find Your discussion interrupted by mutual jibes, which make me lose the thread of thought. I would say that generally, though not exclusively, Dr Racaniello is the instigator of these interruptions. I am, of course, not now referring to those abundant, seriously intended and equally seriously phrased questions that Dr Racaniello interjects, but rather about occasional stray comments and jibes that appear in private between very close friends. I think the term "in private" here is crucial, as I doubt that You would express Yourselves like this were the two of You jointly presenting before a class.

Today I could, by the way, compare TWiP #37 ("Dracunculiasis") with TWiV #172 ("Two can be as bad as one", with Kathy Spindler) - both in a one-on-one setting - and the difference in tone is remarkable.

Naturally I speak here only for myself, of course, but I for one would appreciate if You might henceforth tone down the sparring, keeping in mind that You do actually appear before a large, international audience, not all of whom might appreciate or be able to follow Your bantering. (And just to be precise, "tone down" does not necessarily mean "discard".)

This notwithstanding I am very grateful for the set of podcasts You so graciously provide us all with!

Sincerely and Respectfully, Yours

Robin writes:

This from

- plural noun 1. Often, Acta. official records, as of acts, deeds, proceedings, transactions, or the like

< L, neut. pl. of āctus, ptp. of agere to do; cf. act

Robin writes;

The TWIP podcasts again emphasize to me the difference between hearing first-hand from someone with experience in contrast to hearing material regurgitated by someone with book-knowledge. It made a world of difference listening to a trauma surgeon or an emergency physician from a trauma center speak in contrast to similar material presented by someone without direct experience.

Sarah writes:

Greetings Dickson and Vincent!

I am a new listener and I am thoroughly enjoying working my way through the TWiP and TWiM podcasts. I found your conversation regarding Draculunculiasis very informative. I think it is great that you spent a good portion of time emphasizing the necessity for clean water for overall public health. It is something that we often take for granted here in the U.S. Something caught my attention though. You talked about the use of cheap cloth to filter water in the prevention of Guinea worm and mentioned that it was unfortunate that this wouldn't prevent diarrheal diseases. I attended a session at the ASM general meeting a few years ago to the contrary. While Sari cloth won't prevent viral borne diseases, it does seem to reduce the incidence of Cholera. Here's the link to the study which was published in the first issue of mBio:

Kind Regards,

Assistant Professor of Biology
Gordon College
Barnesville, Ga

Ian writes:

Dear Drs. Twipaniello and Twipommier,
On the topic of the Dracunculus life cycle: Is there evidence that a male is required for fertilization? Some nematodes are parthenogenic and "virgin birth" for this worm would be a nice compliment to the biblical story of the cadueceus (sp??).
Keep up the good work,

Alicia writes:

I`ve heard that Toxoplasma gondii might be caught by touching a leech. What`s the general consensus on this?

Thanks and keep up the great work.

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