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Getting Started with MicrobeWorld

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My virology course at Columbia University

The third annual installment of my virology course at Columbia University, Biology W3310, has begun, and all the lectures will be available online. Read More

New Elsevier Slogan: “It’s All about The Benjamins”

Rich Condit found an article highly critical of the original Wakefield study (claiming a link between MMR vaccine and autism) which was published in the same issue of Lancet. He asked the publisher, Elsevier, to open up the article to non-subscribers so he could recommend it as a pick of the wee... Read More

A mad cow in America

A dairy cow in California is the fourth known American case of mad cow disease, which is caused by prions, infectious agents composed only of protein (the story hit the press the day after my lecture on this type of illness). Unlike viruses, prions have no nucleic acid and no protective coat. Bu... Read More

Are there viruses of arsenic-utilizing bacteria?

A salt-loving (halophilic) bacterium which can grow in medium containing arsenic instead of phosphorus has been selected from the microbial community of Mono Lake in California. Arsenic (As) is a chemical analog of phosphorus and is usually toxic because it can enter metabolic pathways in the pl... Read More

TWiV 152 Letters

Atila writes:


Dear TWiVers,


I have heard recently that some types of herpes virus may protect us from bacterial infections. This made me remember of myxomavirus, viral oncotherapy and how tumor cells have a compromised immune response. Do you think it is possi... Read More

TWiV 163 Letters

Ronnie writes:


Hello Professor Vincent,


First of all, thank you for your wonderful podcasts! I'm a CFS sufferer and also a student Applied Science so I'm interested in many of the topics discussed for those two reasons and always learning new things.


I... Read More

The Lazarus virus

There is an excellent question in the comments to “Are all virus particles infectious?“: if the particle-to-PFU ratio for a virus stock is 10,000:1, and I infect 1,000,000 cells with 10,000 particles, how many plaques would I expect to observe? Answering this question provides insight into the p... Read More

Is Vilyuisk encephalitis a viral disease?

A type of human encephalitis – an infection of the brain – has been known to affect the indigenous people living in the Sakha Republic of Russia since the mid-1800s. The available clinical and epidemiological evidence suggests that the disease is caused by a pathogen, but proving this has been d... Read More

TWiV 162 Letters

Sarah writes:


Hello to the TWiV crew,


Here are a couple of picks I thought would be good for provoking thought and generating discussion...


While working on a project, I came across some papers attempting to define what "critical thinking" means. I app... Read More

A new target for hepatitis C virus

When infection with hepatitis C virus goes from acute to chronic, severe liver disease may occur which requires organ transplantation. Nearly 200 million people are chronically infected with HCV, necessitating approaches to preventing and treating infections. No HCV vaccine is available, and cur... Read More

Virophage, the virus eater

A second virophage has been identified. The name does not signify a virus that infects another virus – it means virus eater.
Read More

Frank Fenner, MD, 1914-2010

Australian virologist Frank Fenner, MD was born in Ballarat, Victoria in 1914. He earned a Doctor of Medicine in 1942 at the University of Adelaide, and from 1940 – 1946 he worked on the malaria parasite in Egypt and Papua New Guinea as an officer in the Australian Army Medical Corps. He subsequ... Read More

The Human Lake

Science writer Carl Zimmer writes a masterful blog piece tracing the history of the study of ecosystems, from lakes to the human microbiome. Just one interesting fact: In their lifetimes, individual humans will produce about five elephants worth of microbes. Read More

Norton Zinder, 1928-2012

Norton Zinder made two important discoveries in the field of virology. While a Ph.D. student with Joshua Lederberg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison he found that viruses of bacteria (bacteriophages) could move genes from one host to another, a process called transduction. Later in his own ... Read More

Genome Wide Manipulation of the Bacterial Chromosome in Vivo

On the Small Things Considered blog, Michael Schmidt, Professor and Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, reviews a recent paper entitled "Precise Manipulation of Chromosomes in Vivo Enables Genome-Wide Codon Replacement" by Church and colleagu... Read More

What Happened to Our Friendly Enterococci?

Enterococci had been generally regarded as benign commensals, a part of our healthy intestinal microbiota. They were even invited in, being used as probiotics. But then, in the late 1970s, the first multiple drug-resistant strains appeared, and vancomycin-resistant strains followed in 1981. In r... Read More

XMRV and CFS – It’s not the end

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune published my reaction to the four papers on the retrovirus XMRV published this week in the journal Retrovirology. I was quoted as saying ”These four papers are probably the beginning of the end of XMRV and CFS”. I wish to retract this statement and explain my reason... Read More

10 Genes, Furiously Evolving

This is a great article by Carl Zimmer in the NY Times (@carlzimmer on Twitter) about the evolution process of viruses.

"Some viruses use DNA, like we do, to encode their genes. Others, like the influenza virus, use single-strand RNA. But viruses all have one thing in common, said Roland Wolk... Read More

Microbial Movers - A Small Things Considered Post

Elio Schaechter of Small Things Considered has authored an interesting post today about the motility of bacteria, specifically Paenibacillus, although he does highlight several other strains that swarm, glide or twitch.

"Microbes get around. They can be carried by the wind, by insects, or by ... Read More

Building the perfect bug

This past February I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Company on the topic of the Fouchier and Kawaoka experiments on avian influenza virus H5N1. The video, Building the Perfect Bug, has been released by Journeyman Pictures and includes interviews with S.T. Lai, Laurie Garrett, Mic... Read More
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