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TWiV 168 Letters

Mike writes:

Hello Men (and sometimes women) of TWiV!

I have read before that the human genome contains the genetic code of several thousand retroviruses. These retroviruses are in an inactive state, and are believed to be the product of infections that have been passed down through the germ line through many generations of humanity. These viral genomes have in effect become incorporated into the human genome and are now a part of us. I am wondering if it would somehow be possible to use some form of restriction enzyme therapy to remove these viral genomes in order to see what effect (if any) it would have on human health - do you think it could be done? If so, what would you predict the effects would be? Are the viruses in any way, shape, or form driving evolution? Or could they be causing damage just by being there?

Once again, I appreciate you taking the time to read this email. I greatly enjoy listening to your podcast, and I apologize if this is an ignorant line of questioning. I started listening to your podcast regularly in November of this year, and have enjoyed it so much I am now trying to catch up. I am currently still in early 2009, but should be completely up to date within the next two months or so. Once again - thank you for all that you do.

P.S. Please tell Alan that I have already taken the listener survey, so if he could please remove the subliminal message from my brain it would be greatly appreciated. I would very much like to stop waking up in the middle of the night with the sudden inexplicable urge to take a survey over the interweb.

Raihan writes:

Hello TWIV hosts

In TWIV 167 Dr Despommier said that the virus in Contagion is similar to Nipah virus as the virus in the movie is erroneously compared to a bat-pig hybrid. Dr Despommier said abt Nipah as ' ....pigs and bats gathered together in the mangrove'

Nipah viruses arose in Malaysia where pigs in a farm were feeding off bat droppings. The bats in turn, were habitating in nearby fruit orchards. No one would place a pig farm or fruit orchard in a mangrove.

I guess I'm being as nitpicking as Dr Racaniello was on TWIV 167

Stephanie writes:

Dear Twivers,

I was reading a paper on exploring vector immunoprophalysis for HIV and was surprised to hear that the transmission of HIV has been found to be less than 1 infection per 100 heterosexual coital act. When I looked up the reference paper, I found a control in the methods section so amusing that I had to share it with you guys. So, basically, the transmission statistic was based on couples in Uganda with only one spouse positive for HIV (80.4% of the couples reported never using condoms). The point of the study was to follow these couples, monitoring HIV status to evaluate the transmission rate of the virus. After the study was over, they compared the strain of HIV from newly infected spouses with the strain collected from the spouse. Apparently, the authors had to exclude 4 people from the study because their strain of HIV could not have come from their partner. I wonder how each of the 72 couples that underwent seroconversion during the study responded when they saw that in the paper!


Paper: Rates of HIV-1 Transmission per Coital Act, by Stage of HIV-1 Infection, in Rakai, Uganda

Charlotte writes:

Contagion - what a dog!

May I recommend to my fellow twiv addicts a movie about a real virus: Roger Spottiswoode's film "And the Band Played On" based on the book by Randy Shilts.

And for my fellow twim addicts: Akiru Kurosawa 1952 classic "Ikiru" about Helicobacter pylori (although not explicitly stated in the film). Perhaps a Listener Pick when you bring Marty Blaser up from NYU.

Looking forward to seeing you at ASM in June. Perhaps we can do a live show at Berkeley.

Best regards,



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