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TWiV 177 Letters

John writes:

Dear TWIVvers,

In TWIV 173, you talked about a study on antibody levels to bird flu (H5N1) in various populations, and related this to infections that don't cause serious enough illness to send someone to the hospital, or perhaps to get them tested for H5N1. I was curious whether some of the people with antibody to bird flu might have been exposed to the virus, but not ever infected. It seems like people who worked with poultry could be exposed to enough virus particles that even if they don't replicate in the human body, they might still develop antibodies to them. Is this plausible? Since this is a gastrointestinal virus in birds, would droppings from infected birds be the main source of virus particles someone might be exposed to? If this explains some of the antibody against bird flu in the population, it should affect the estimate of how lethal the virus is when it does manage to infect a person.

A related question is: if we are worried about a potential H5N1 pandemic, would it make sense to add a related strain to our yearly flu virus, so that if it did start to spread, there would at least be some level of cross-reactive antibodies in people who'd been vaccinated?

Thanks again for your wonderful podcast,


Lawrence writes:

I just wanted to express my appreciation for your podcast, and to tell you that I find your discussions fascinating. I am trained in engineering, but have a wide range of interests in all things scientific and am now turning my attention towards microbiology. Listening to your discussions of scientific publications and hearing the scientific mindset at work is soothing balm to my psyche in our world awash with banality, scientific illiteracy and anti-science. I keep a notepad with me as I listen and jot down words with which I am unfamiliar, and spend time afterwards researching their definitions which opens up new horizons and broadens my perspective in areas that I likely would never have encountered were it not for your podcasts. Thank you all very much for your time and effort.

Ebrahim writes:

Dear Dr. Palese, Dear Dr. Racaniello

I am a young student working on viruses in Heidelberg university, I am interested in Influenza and in viruses in general. I was watching the recent academy of sciences meeting in New York, and I just wanted to thank you so much for the position you took in the meeting, and I just could not convince myself against the idea that the real reason behind camping against the publications is anything but scientific, it might be political or whatever reason but I feel it is not based on scientific basis, since from my small experience in virology at least there are lots of experiments that might be far more dangerous than what have been done, and it might be helpful for me if you could give me your thought about that - of course if you have time for that

Thanks again


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