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This Week in Virology

twiv

This Week in Virology (TWiV) is a podcast – or netcast, as some prefer to call them, since you don’t need an iPod to listen – about viruses. It was begun in September 2008 by Vincent Racaniello and Dick Despommier, two science Professors at Columbia University Medical Center. Their goal was to have an informal yet informative conversation about viruses which would be accessible to everyone, no matter what their science background. We wanted to eventually bring other virologists into the conversation, to make it more varied and interesting. Alan Dove, a science writer, joined us late in 2008, and Rich Condit, a poxvirologist, joined in 2009. We’ve had a number of guests on the show and we’re always trying to get more.

Why are we doing this? Dick, Rich, and I have spent our entire academic careers directing research laboratories, so we have a lot of knowledge to share. Plus, we both enjoy teaching. Put those two things together, and you have TWiV. If you want to learn about viruses in a relaxing way, then TWiV is for you.

TWiV 15: Deer mice, Spanish flu, measles, antiviral resistance


Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dick Despommier, and Alan Dovetwivlogo

Vincent, Dick, and Alan converse about hantavirus spread by large deer mice, why the 1918 influenza virus replicates in the lower respiratory tract, measles in Europe, and the growing resistance of  influenza virus to antivirals.

MMWR, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from CDC.
Larger, older deer mice spread hantavirus.
Viral RNA polymerase complex promotes optimal growth of 1918 virus in the lower respiratory tract of ferrets.
Measles in Europe: an epidemiological assessment.
Avian flu (H5N1) gaining resistance to antivirals.
Times article on resistance to Tamiflu and analysis by virology blog.
Angola widens border closure with DRC over Ebola.

Solutions, the iPhone/iPod Touch app to calculate molar solutions.
Vaccine, the iPhone/iPod Touch app to determine vaccination schedules.

Science blog of the week: Molecule of the Day
Science podcast pick of the week: Meet the Scientist by Merry Buckley
Science book of the weekThe Great Influenza by John M. Barry

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin - published 150 years ago.

Send your virology questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #15 (37 MB .mp3,  53 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 14: Common cold, H5N1 transmission, HIV denial, Ebola

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Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Alan Dovetwivlogo

Vincent and Alan discuss a viral upper respiratory tract infection, transmission of H5N1 influenza virus, death of an HIV denialist, and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

PLoS Pathogens paper on transmission of H5N1 influenza virus.
Ebola outbreak in DRC reported by ProMedMail.
Death of HIV denialist.
BioCrowd, a network for bioscientists.
Molecules, the iPhone/iPod Touch app to display molecules.

Science blog of the week: ViroBlogy
Science podcast pick of the week: Astronomy Cast
Science book of the week: The Cutter Incident by Paul A. Offit, MD

Send your virology questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #14 (37 MB .mp3, 53 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 13: Top 10 virology stories of 2008


Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Alan Dovetwivlogo

Vincent and Alan talk about President-elect Obama’s choices for his science advisors, SARS sensationalism, a new enteric picornavirus, and the top 10 virology stories of 2008.

Obama’s science advisors (Yahoo story)
CDC RSS feed on influenza
PNAS paper on a new enteric picornavirus

TWiV’s top 10 virology stories of 2008:

1. Nobel Prize in Medicine to Montagnier, Barré-Sinoussi, and zur Hausen
2. AIDS elite controllers partly explained
3. Cancellation of PAVE HIV-1 vaccine trial
4. Gut homing receptor for HIV-1
5. New Ebola strain
6. New mosquito virus
7. How mosquitoes survive virus infection
8. Mouse model for Chikungunya
9. Genome sequences of 150 avian influenza virus strains
10.  Understanding the RS virus vaccine failure

Science blog of the week: Aetiology
Science podcast pick of the week: biobytes
Science book of the week: Principles of Virology, 3rd Edition by Flint, Enquist, Racaniello, and Skalka. Details on how to win a free copy here.

Send your virology questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Have a great 2009!

Download TWiV #13 (34 MB .mp3, 49 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes (the problems are fixed!) or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 12: Prions, lemur lentiviruses, RS virus vaccine, H5N1


Host: Vincent Racaniello (Wikipedia entry, and photo with Hilary Koprowski)twivlogo

Guests: Alan Dove and Angela Rasmussen

Vincent, Alan, and Angela discuss Kuru, prions in milk, ancient lentiviruses found in the chromosomes of lemurs, a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine failure in the 1960s, and recent outbreaks of H5N1 influenza in chickens.

D. Carleton Gajdusek obituary in the NY Times. We forgot to mention that he won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on Kuru.

PLoS Pathogens article on prions in sheep milk.

PNAS article on endogenous lemur lentivirus

Nature Medicine article on the failed respiratory syncytial virus vaccine.

December 18 was the 100th anniversary of the discovery of poliovirus.

Science podcast pick of the week: Skepticality.

Science book of the week: Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, a Massive Cover-up and the Dark Legacy of Robert Gallo by John Crewdson.

Send your virology questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Let us know what you think were the top virology stories of 2008.

Download TWiV #12 (30.8 MB .mp3,  44 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 11: Elite controllers, mosquitoes, and winter vomiting


Host: Vincent Racaniellotwivlogo

Guests: Alan Dove and Jeremy Luban

Vincent, Alan, and Jeremy discuss why certain AIDS patients, called ‘elite controllers’ or ‘long-term non-progressors’, do not develop disease, why mosquitoes infected with Sindbis virus remain healthy, and the continuing outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis.

Immunity article on elite controllers.

PNAS article on protected mosquitoes.

The word quarantine comes from the seventeenth century Venetian quarantena, which means forty day period.

Science podcast pick of the week: The Mr. Science Show

Science book of the week: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. Click here to see a page from my Mother’s marked-up copy. She was a high school English teacher.

Send your virology questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #11 (62.6 MB .mp3, 68 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 10: Bats, elephants, and AIDS


Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommiertwivlogo

Guest: Alan Dove

Vincent, DIck, and Alan chat about reconstruction of a bat SARS-like coronavirus, herpesviruses that are killing elephants in zoos, and a plan to eradicate AIDS in ten years.

The Virology Network at socialmedian.com.

The bat SARS-like coronavirus: scientific article in PNAS, and the Wired Science article.

NY Times Editorial on eradicating AIDS.

Herpesviruses killing elephants.

Science podcast pick of the week: Futures in Biotech.

Science book of the week: Principles of Molecular Virology, by AJ Cann.

Send your virology questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #10 (18.2 MB .mp3, 39 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 9: Fever! The discovery of Lassa virus


Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommiertwivlogo

Vincent and Dick recall the discovery of Lassa virus in Africa in 1969. A non-fictional account of the story, ‘Fever’, written by John G. Fuller and published in 1974, inspired Vincent to become a virologist. Part of the story took place at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital (now Columbia University Medical Center), where both Vincent and Dick are employed. Dick remembers many of the key players in this medical drama.

Click here to view to cover of ‘Fever!’

Buy a used copy of ‘Fever!’ at Amazon.

Science podcast pick of the week: The Naked Scientists (iTunes link).

Send your virology questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #9 (19 MB .mp3, 41 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 8: HIV resistance, Google flu, measles in Gibraltar, viral batteries


Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommiertwivlogo

Vincent and Dick converse about warfare preventing immunization of 120,000 children in Afghanistan, bone marrow transplant curing AIDS patient, Google tracking flu, measles outbreak in Gibraltar, using viruses to make batteries, and small mosquitoes and Dengue.

Article on using viruses to make batteries (PubMed: Virus-enabled synthesis and assembly of nanowires for lithium ion battery electrodes).

Science podcast pick of the week: NY Times Science Times (iTunes link).

Let us know what are your favorite science podcasts: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Download TWiV #8 (16.9 MB .mp3, 36 minutes)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 7: Viruses in video games

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommiertwivlogo

Guest: Aidan Racaniello

Vincent, Dick, and Aidan discuss how viral infections play prominent roles in notable video games. Three games are discussed: World of Warcraft, Pandemic II, and Bioshock.

An article on how World of Warcraft became a model for the transmission of virus infections was published in Lancet Infectious Diseases. The title of the article is “The untapped potential of virtual game worlds to shed light on real world epidemics.”

After we did the netcast we learned of a game for the iPhone called ‘Virus’. In this game your body is infected with a virus, and you must clear the infection by controlling white blood cells. The game is at the iTunes App store.

Science podcast pick of the week: MicrobiologyBytes.

TWiV is now part of Sciencepodcasters.

Download TWiV #7 (23.1 MB .mp3)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

TWiV 6: Latest outbreaks of polio, west Nile and eastern equine encephalitis, Hendra, and norovirus

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello and Dickson Despommiertwivlogo

Dickson was at Pop!Tech last week.

Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

US Geological Survey Disease Maps.

CDC page on Hendra and Nipah viruses.

The flying fox (Google image search).

Vincent’s virology course.

Vincent’s texbook is Principles of Virology, third edition, ASM Press (available December 2008).

Science podcast pick of the week: Brain Science Podcast.

Download TWiV #6 (19.8 MB .mp3)

Subscribe to TWiV in iTunes or by the RSS feed.

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