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TWiV 89 Letters

Andreas writes:

Hello professors,

I would just like to start by saying thank you for the wonderful podcast.

Today I found this article ( on npr which seems to describe a remarkably effective antiviral treatment for ebola.

The article has virologist Heinz Feldman expressing concerns that the drug - though very effective - is unlikely to be brought to market due to the lack of financial incentives.

What's your take on this?



Ken writes:

Hello DRs.V.R.A.D,

My Name is Agyeman-Badu, a graduate student in Ghana and a regular listener to TWiV and TWiP. I came across an article at a paper by Zhang et al and I have a question about priming of non-enveloped viruses before cell entry. If viruses are really particles before cell entry and hijack the cell machinery to act as living and replicate, how is it possible for non-enveloped viruses like the B19 viruses, Adenoviruses, Rhinoviruses, coxsakieviruses and even the Hepatitis Delta virus to prime from a dormant state to a metastable state by shedding off protective proteins before cell entry? How can a viral particle release proteins if it is not in a cell? I tried reaching the original authors but couldn't and hope you geniuses could help me answer this question. Maybe there is something i don't know and i would like you to fill the gap in my knowledge like okazaki fragments. Thanks and keep up the good work, you are really helping some of us now coming in the molecular research field.


Damon writes:

Dear Professors,

I am writing to more or less ask for a sanity check on the topic of flu vaccination. When my company began operation of a flu laboratory, our medical director mandated twice yearly flu vaccinations. Now, these are the normal seasonal vaccines, not the strains we are working with, but the hope is that there would be some cross-protection. That I can buy as a risk mitigation approach. However, I originally assumed that the vaccine we receive in the spring was the southern hemisphere vaccine, which would give us even broader influenza immunity. I recently learned that is not the case. In the spring we receive another shot of the same vaccine we were given the preceding fall. The justification for this is ostensively that the repeated shot will compensate for waning immunity.

I am tempted to call shenanigans on this, because I can find no evidence that flu immunity provided by a vaccine wanes, especially over a time period as short as six months. In fact, flu immunity against particular stains seems to be lifelong, as evidenced by the finding that people exposed to a similar flu decades ago had resistance to the latest H1N1.

What are your opinions on this? Is there any benefit to receiving an identical flu shot twice in a row?

A related question: Why is it that pets need to be revaccinated yearly, when most human vaccines provide lifelong immunity?

Thanks for all the fulfilling commutes provided by TWiV!

Best regards,


Dan writes:

Twiv crew:

Your recent interview with Dr. Kiki that touched on press releases and sometimes missconstrued information by the media relates well to this story in Wired Magazine. I am including the URL here as well as attaching a PDF with this email if for some reason the article ages off the site. You might want to consider a short mention of it on your program.

As a meteorologist, I now find myself in a field where the public's perception of the science is now heavily influenced by politics and public opinion (case in point – global warming/climate change). It used to be that a meteorologist only had to worry about a forecast, improving a numerical model, or better ways to assimilate or improve data for analyses and models, but now we have to fend off a growing upset public that have received erroneous information about climate change. It is ironic that I chose this field to help humanity. I figured a better forecast could only help mankind make better decisions that would benefit everyone. But because of strong opinion, some of my colleagues are now more worried about a direct physical assault on their own person or families than the science. The improvement in communication is a two-edged sword, not only does it allow for the wonderful opportunity of “free access” to knowledge (even perhaps cutting edge information such as presented on your podcast) a dream that I share with you, but it also allows for the uneducated to voice an “equal” opinion.

We all know funding dollars for research grow more valuable to us every day. I would hate to have to spend my research dollars on PR, but it might be necessary as science becomes more political and opinions more polarized. In virology you have your own nemesis – the anti-vaccinators, look how much damage one or two unscientific articles affected many people to question real science, and in your case you don’t have the resources of giant corporations that might have something to gain if vaccines were rejected by the public fighting against your cause (or maybe there are, please educate me on that point if there is). We share a common problem even though we are in different fields. I value your collective opinion on how to best deal with this problem and your reaction to science PR. To a degree you folks are doing what this article advocates, your audience is wide open and you do a great job of taking the science to the lay-person’s level. But to what extent do we go? and what is the best way to reach those who have open minds before they meet the entity that has an apparent agenda to coerce their beliefs so they will perhaps vote a specific way in the next election that might very well have a bearing on research funding for basic science?

I value your comments, candor, and intelligent discourse; I always look forward to listening to your show during my daily commute.

Recently you gave away a Drobo after judging essays entered for the competition. As one who submitted an entry, I would at some point enjoy learning the desired essay response (if I missed the episode in which this was divulged, please share, but I only recall the announcement that there was a winner). Maybe I could learn from my mistakes since the lack of a Drobo on my desk is evidence I didn’t “get it right.”




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