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TWiV 111 Letters

Scott writes:


I am based in Hong Kong and there has been a local outbreak of dengue among the international community here. This is the first local transmission of dengue in 7 years! Several students at my children's school have taken off of school with apparent dengue symptoms such as rash and muscle pain. After listening to Twiv #3 I feel much more informed about dengue. Even though you are now in the '100s' it would be great if you could continue to occasionally produce educational podcasts. I really appreciate these episodes as well as those of Twip.


Peter writes:


I thought this might be interesting for you, since Chikungunya was at least glanced at a few times in twiv. Sadly, though, the blog post itself is in German. It seems that many factors are at work here: Travellers brought Aedes albopictus to southern Europe, The Chickungunya virus successfully adapted to that new host, Climate change opens up new habitats for the insect. This should be an interesting progress to watch.

Here's the google translate that is, in most parts, not all that bad:

and an older publication on ChickV in Europe:

Before I found twiv (that is: before Twiv #1) I didn't know much about virology. Yes, I knew that it's an interesting field, but accessible knowledge was't widely accessible for a layman like me. Now, not only do I know about the virus, I also know about the vector and can watch it get closer to where I live.

I havn't seen Aedes albopictus here, close to Frankfurt in Germany, but according to the maps, it's creeping up the Rhine valley, which is no surprise since the upper Rhine valley is the warmest part of the country.

It's going to be interesting to see, how the distribution will change in the next 10 or so years.

Thanks for the education you provide, there's so much in it, from beautiful intricacy of the biochemical interaction between virus and host to the real life implications of an insect carrying it to new parts of the world.

Keep ut the good work, I keep looking forward to a new TWIV every week (and, I have to say, I do look forward to a new TWIP every week, too).

Jim writes:

I found your podcast several weeks ago on iTunes. I really enjoy it. I learned to love science, biology and more specificaly immunology back in the late 1970s and early 80s. I had a very heavy dose of microbiology because in those days immunololgy was a part of the microbiology departments where I studied. Anyway, your podcast reminds of that time and my abiding respect for those who can do science. I was too impatient. I loved the ideas of science but not the doing of science. The book that got me interested in science was titled "The Eighth Day of Creation". I am on podcast number 8 or 9 and look forward to many interesting hours ahead. I did skip ahead and listened to your last podcast yesterday and was pleased to hear that you had discussed retroviruses in one of your previous podcasts. I do not know whether it is appropiate to describe retroviruses as "way cool", but the idea of them certainly is to me. My coworkers think I am a bit nuts when I start telling them about the polio vaccine and why there was an outbreak recently in Africa (as you guys predicted) and also congratulations in predicting the avian virus would not be the cause of the next flu pandemic but that more likely H1NI would be the cause.

Thanks a lot for your work and your contributors.


Alfred writes:

TWIV gang:

A bit behind on my listening, but the question came up a few episodes back of why an endogenous retrovirus does not seem to become active and replicate.

My question would be the opposite, is there any advantage to the virus becoming active again? If the goal of viral infection is to propagate it's genome then what better way to do it than to incorporate it into the genome of a successfully reproducing organism. Once the genome is in the germ cell line, each time the organism reproduces the genome is reproduced.

Any activation of the genome in that organism is going to lead to an infection in the organism. This will force the organism to divert resources to support the growth of the virus and to the development of an immune response to the viremia. Both of these may decrease the organisms chances of successful reproduction and decrease further passage of the virus's genetic material.

I can think of two instances that might justify activation of the virus.

1. If having the ERV's genome leads to a mild infection then activation and communication of the virus might weaken competitors without the ERV and give the organism with the ERV a reproductive advantage.

2. If the ERV has some type of monitor to recognize when an organism is dying (or stressed beyond reproductive capacity) the virus would benefit by becoming active again and transmitting its genome to other organisms through more traditional means. I know of some trees that only go to seed when the tree is stressed but I'm sure there are other examples of infectious processes that bail out when their hosts no longer appear viable.

You guys are still the best podcast on the web. Keep up the great work.



Ken writes:

Dear TWiV,

Your netcast is one of the highest quality science netcast available, and my favorite. I was wondering if you have any advice for people in science who would like to follow in your footsteps.

Netcasts are an amazing tool for education, both to a expert audience and the general public. However, I have noticed that there is a distinct lack of health related netcasts that are both evidence based and accessible to non-experts.

Several popular health netcasts are dedicated to naturalistic or homeopathic medicine, complete with stores selling their cures, and a general disregard for science. Scientists and physicians need to use this form of media to provide a rational voice that is friendly to lay people and covers pertinent topics.

I will likely be attending medical school next year, and was thinking of starting a netcast and interviewing available experts. Thoughts or suggestions?

On an unrelated note, I will be interviewing at Columbia P&S. Any chance I could meet either of you? I do not have an exact date yet, but it will hopefully be in late October.


Judi writes:

Hi guys - nice to have the 3 of you back together again!

You were discussing textbooks.... A pet peeve of mine. I am a high school science teacher in California. Our textbooks are large, expensive, poorly written doorstops that don’t even really follow the California state standards, so if the publishers are cow-towing to us in California, I feel really sorry for teachers in the smaller states.

But there is an interesting change coming - the Common Core Standards

The state governors started this mvoement, supported by ideas of change with the Obama presidency. 40 states have ratified that they will adopt and use the common core standards, unifying what information students should get in k12 education.

Once kids are all to be taught the same thing, publishers will put money into online and virtual texts and classes.... It is moving that way now - but.... To have digital texts and online classes, kids need to have ipads or netbooks. Right now, the only thing we can spend textbook money on is BOOKS – physical paper books - so laws will have to change to bring education into the 21st century.

I was listening to NPR – Freaknomics radio podcast, I think, and I heard the following.

If we went back in time 100 years, we would recognize very little, except the classroom with one teacher and 30 kids.

Scary. I have hope we will apply all the thing we know now about how the brain learns and the conditions we need for learning to occur.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."

— Maya Angelou

Thanks for all I learn from you - and all the bad puns!



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