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TWiV 166 Letters

Eric writes:

Hello Professors,

Thanks again for all the effort and care you invest into your podcasts. I'm writing today to suggest a pick of the week: The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. Suzuki, one of Canada's scientist/rock-stars, hosts this weekly science program on our public broadcaster. The Nature of Things takes complex and topical ideas in science and presents them in an accessible, informative and entertaining way; much like yourselves.

In particular I would like to recommend an episode from December 8th, 2011 on the potential role of the gut microbiome in autism. The hypothesises discussed in this show are still largely at the bench but they are interesting and touch on some of the themes you've discussed on TWIM.

I hope this link will work for your American audience. Episodes are also available in iTunes.

Thanks from Guelph- [partly cloudy, and an unseasonable 4 degrees Celsius (proper fridge temperature)]


Lance writes:

Wired online recently published a great article on why science (specifically focused on biomedical and pharmaceutical) has been failing and the philosophy behind causality and how we as scientists are led astray by our own assumptions.

Some really interesting work dealing with the philosophy of science.

Thanks, and keep up the great work,


Nam writes:


I would go with "That Week In Virology" for the title of your 30 second segment. You can keep the same acronym we all know and love, though I suppose this might cause confusion.

Stephanie writes:

Dear Twivers,

On last week’s TWIV, you mentioned the concept of the meme. While the common usage of the word meme may be synonymous with the concept of an idea “gone viral”, I am too big of a Dawkin’s fan to not write you guys to flesh out this definition. Richard Dawkins, a prolific writer on the subject of evolutionary biology, first coined the word “meme” in a book, “The Selfish Gene,” discussing evolution. He observed that, like genes, ideas and concepts can be passed on through the generations through a form of natural selection. “Ideas and behaviors that proved most adaptive for our species survived and flourished, replicating themselves in as many minds as possible.” (Susan Blackmore) For people who wish to learn more about memes, I would recommend Susan Blackmore’s “The Meme Machine”



Andrew writes:

Hello from Raleigh North Carolina. First, I'd like to thank TWiV, TWiP, and TWiM for sharing such great information on the micro. I marvel that this world is really a thick soup of life (and viruses) which in neither a bad thing nor a good thing, but just how life has evolved on this wet rock. I've always been interested in biology but also by history, so when I watched the Showtime series The Tudors a few episodes peaked my attention. These episodes portrayed the English Sweating sickness epidemic of 1528 and the absolute terror it caused. It show people both suffering from the disease and people (including the King) worrying themselves to sickness. While this series is a dramatic recreation the epidemic did exist, but I could only find limited information on this time period. What is this sickness, how can modern virologist/microbiologist learn about this plague, and the 64,000$ question is it important to examine history for past afflictions? Once again thanks for podcasting and I can't wait for you guys to tackle this one.

Eager Learner

Ewout writes:

Dear Professor Racaniello and other members of the TWIV-team:

Recently a new Orthobunyavirus (named Schmallenbergvirus, after the German town where it is first detected last November among livestock) is/was circulating in the Netherlands and Germany, causing diarrhea among cattle and congenital malformations in lambs. Here is the URL to a recent human risk assessment made by Dutch (Netherlands) colleagues: The impact for humans seems so far to be very small (only theoretical), but for the veterinarians it's very relevant. It's unknown where the virus came from, and if it's here to stay.

No hard feelings if your podcast is already too overbooked with other interesting viral issues, but maybe it's educating and interesting to mention this newly discovered virus.

best regards, thanks for all the interesting podcasts!


MD communicable disease control, the Netherlands

Marie writes:

Greetings TWiV crew,

Thanks for your informative and entertaining podcast!

On a natural medicine website, I came across this paper used to support avoiding vaccines:

My understanding of this study from a brief skimming is that children with CF who received the annual flu vaccine had a lower CD8 T cell count (those broadly-reactive against influenza A) than non-CF children who did not regularly receive the vaccine.

What are your thoughts on this study? Is is valid to compare a non-CF group with a CF group? Have there been any studies done examining actual risk of influenza infection in those who have regularly received the vaccine in past years versus those who never received a vaccine (in a year when neither group receives the annual vaccine)?




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