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TWiV 141 Letters

Lance writes:

Many thanks to all of you for such an excellent podcast. I think you all do a really fantastic job. As an ID physician and postdoctoral researcher working on flavivirus immunology in my case you are "preaching to the converted" as I am already an enthusiast for all things virological, but I hope as this podcast grows in profile you can reach an increasing number of people as you are so easy to understand and so good at explaining things and I am telling as may people as I can about it! I am really learning alot.

I have just been listening to TWiV 129 and Rich I think was talking about reverse genetics of viruses - I think one group of viruses for which this has been particularly difficult is the Flaviviruses and Japanese encephalitis virus in particular, which still doesn't have a working cDNA infectious clone despite many attempts and several reports in the literature. The clones seem to be either very unstable or toxic to the cells used to grow them. That said, there is an interesting report in last months J Virol where the authors show this is because of E coli promoter sequences in the JEV and dengue-2 genomes which result in viral protein expression and toxicity during the cloning process.

Successful Propagation of Flavivirus Infectious cDNAs by a Novel Method To Reduce the Cryptic Bacterial Promoter Activity of Virus Genomes. S.Y Pu, R.H Wu, C.C Yang, T.M Jao, M.H Tsai, J.C Wang, H.M Lin, Y.S Chao, A Yueh. Journal of Virology 2011 vol. 85 (6) pp. 2927.

Also relating to japanese encephalitis virus, some time ago on either TWiV or TWiP Dixon made a interesting comment about Japanese encephalitis virus transmission via worms of some kind; I think they might have Trichuris or Ascaris, I can't remember. Could you elaborate a bit on this please? Transmission between which species? Pig to human? What's the evidence for this, and do you have a reference? I'd be intrigued.

I'd like to recommend something to you all on the subject of vaccination - a book by a British family doctor called Mike Fitzpatrick - "MMR & Autism, what parents need to know." It's a great and easy to read review of the evidence (or lack of it) that MMR causes autism. What is particularly interesting is that Mike himself has a severely autistic son. He's a great guy - I met him because my wife did her family medicine training in the same practice.

Your podcasts are keeping me going as I grapple with setting up a Flavivirus immunology study in South India which can be challenging at times! Anyway please keep it up I am throughly hooked and I really look forward to it each week - TWiM and TWiP also. I am slowly catching up with past episodes.

Best wishes,


Wellcome Trust Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow

Ian writes:

Hi Guys,

I was listening to TWIV 112 and heard Brent’s letter asking about an old film he remembered watching in school that had animated white blood cells attacking viruses. I remember watching that same old film and was able to find it pretty quickly, YouTube never fails, and if it hasn’t already been found, here’s a link:

I particularly like how the viruses all meet up around a campfire at the beginning and conspiratorially develop their plan of attack, complete with evil cackling. They’re a pretty nasty bunch! Luckily the white corpuscles have laser guns.

My question is more focused on the future of Virology. I’ve always been interested in how scientific knowledge ‘grows’, it’s always exciting to look at the history and see how it is rarely a linear accumulation of knowledge, but rather it is often a battle of competing theories and ideas with different schools of thought vying for followers and influence, until eventually over time and with enough evidence, an accepted theory arises. And then sometimes there’s a radical breakthrough that reshapes everything. Do you think that in the next 50-years there will be such a radical breakthrough regarding virology/immunology? Some sort of new technology or discovery that will challenge what we currently hold to be true and reshape the field? Thanks, as always.


Mitchell writes:

Check this out:


Amit writes:

I am a pursuing research in immunology, working on immunological aspect of virus infection. I am lucky to discover your podcasts recently. I have listened some epidoses and found it really interesting. You guys are amazing and make science real fun. I can only imagine the effort you guys must be putting to make these episodes as I also came to know that there are TWIM and TWIP as well. I heard all of your TWIM episodes.Thanks for all the efforts from you guys. I though want to add here that it will be icing on the cake for me and people working in immunology if you pick some papers with immunological aspects. You can add one infection immunologist to your group to discuss immunological aspects of microbial infections as well. It is just a suggestion and not to say that I don't enjoy your podcasts in present form. Once again, thanks for your efforts.

Best regards,


Leo writes:

Although I am an Electrical Engineer and my work is to develop Cellular Phones, I have been always interested in Biochemistry, Toxicology and Virology. Actually, I have listened all your episodes, and you both make me think that in my next life, I would study to become a virologist. J

One of my favorite hobbies is to run simulations on the computer about protein folding, I recommend you to take a look to the project Folding@Home if, you have not reviewed this project recently.

I am writing you because I was looking for information about our tiny friend The Tasmanian Devil, after I watched a TV show about Australia/Tasmania, and they commented about this kind of transmissible cancer which is

Killing the whole population of TasDevils. Some reports consider that if not controlled, all the Devils will be finished by 2030 or so.

I would like to know if you may have some time to cover this disease in one of your future episodes. Do we know if its originator is a virus ?

Thank you very much in advance, thanks for your achievements on divulgation of sciences !!!


Dave writes:

I came across this article on the possible future role of mathematics in virology: I have heard you and your panel members mention in past episodes that many viruses are icosahedral. However, I don't recall any discussion of the possibility of attacking viruses by modifying their geometry. Is the stuff on viruses mentioned in this article for real or is this just wild speculation? I'd be interested in your thoughts coming from the perspective of a virologist.


Stephanie writes:

In TWIV #124, Dr. McFadden says that pox viruses have the ability to steal genes from the host. In fact, this is precisely how they acquired the genes similar to those for MHC class 1 and different cytokine receptors that were discussed in the first part of the podcast. However, if pox virus doesn’t need to go into the nucleus to replicate because it carries/makes all of its own replication machinery, how and when does this pick-up of cellular genes occur?




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