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TWiM regularly receives listener email with corrections, comments, suggestions for show topics, requests for clarification, and additional information. A selection of these is archived on this page.
In the discussion of copper, it should be noted that copper has long been added to marine bottom paints as an anti-fouling agent. Now however there is concern about deleterious environmental effects from its leaching out into the waters.
Barbara Hyde, MBA, CAE
American Society for Microbiology
First of all, thank you so much for providing myself and other microbiologists with this excellent podcast. Your very first episode was extremely fascinating to me, and I will be avidly waiting for all of the future episodes. I hope you and your friends can maintain this caliber for your podcast.
I am an analyst in the microbiology laboratory at a modest-sized pharmaceutical manufacturing company. For those of you that are familiar with pharmaceutical microbiology at a sterile manufacturing site, you would understand why the discussion of the laboratory studies on copper as an actual self-sanitizing material would be interesting. For the most part you talked about possible applications in hospitals, but I would love to hear Michael Schmidt's (and others') opinion on possible manufacturing design changes if the FDA were to ever support them. Currently, Laminar Flow Hoods, Isolators, and most equipment in a sterile facility seems to be made out of 316 stainless steel. You already mentioned that stainless steel can easily harbor bacteria on its surface, but would using copper as an alternative really be that much more effective? Stainless steel can be polished smooth enough to ensure no bacteria hide in cracks or irregularities in the surface when sanitizing agents
are used. Speaking of sanitizing agents, could you even hope to sanitize a copper material with a strong oxidizer like bleach or hydrogen peroxide? Even an autoclave would be brutal on copper utensils such as forceps or hemostats. You would almost be making disposable metal materials. I would love to see what the minimum concentration of copper you would need in an alloy in order to keep a 10^3 or possibly even 10^6 reduction in microorganisms! Also, I'd be very interested in seeing how a spore-forming organism reacts to contact with copper. Is the spore-formation process quick enough to save a Bacillus species organism from certain death? These are the kinds of questions that popped into my mind immediately, and I'd love to hear your take(s) on them.
On an unrelated note:
I'm a 25 year old analyst at this company with slightly over 4 years of industry experience. I would be ecstatic if you could take some time in an episode to describe the differences between industry and academic microbiology, focusing on some of the progression (or hierarchy) in those different fields. In my undergrad my classes were entirely pre-Med focused, and it was only by chance that I ended up in the industry. Now knowing what I do about pharmaceutical manufacturing, I wish that I had known more so I could have prepared a more efficient method of getting further in this field. An MBA would make becoming a manager/supervisor so much easier, and a PhD would make a Senior Scientist level more tangible to me. As it stands now I have no idea how to get further ahead, but a 5 year break from college keeps me reluctant to go back to school and start all over again.
Thank you once again for all you do, and best of luck in your research and with this podcast!
Hi, I'm a new student of microbiolgy at UBC, working in the Redfield lab. I found your podcast very informative and am looking forward to future episodes. If you are looking for interesting people for I'd like to suggest my supervisor Rosie. Among other things, she has a lot of interesting things to say about the recent arsenic bacteria issue.
Please say hello to Prof. Despommier for me, I've never met him but a few years back we talked about an unfruitful venture to get vertical farming going in Vancouver.
[Rosie Redfield blogs at http://rrresearch.blogspot.com/]
As a retired diagnostic radiologist, I have recently discovered twiv, twip, & twim, I greatly enjoy your discussions.
Don’t know how many students and graduate students who listen are aware of Layhe Bread, but all should be. The bread is better tasting than any bakery bread, incredible easy to make, doesn’t require a bread machine, and costs less than $0.50 a loaf. Because the dough doesn’t require kneading, my super-duper Zojirushi bread machine sits unused.
For most breads, the most expensive ingredient is the yeast, but Layhe Bread requires only a half teaspoon of yeast per loaf. The only other ingredients are 4 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Nothing else!
Believe it or not, the secret to making perfect loaves of bread every time is neglect and patience. Unlike other bread recipes, anaerobic bacteria begin working on the dough, imparting a slightly sour-dough flavor to the bread. The yeast are activated later. Don’t have clue what specific bacteria are involved. If one were asked to describe Layhe Bread in one sentence a good description would be cave-man bread.
It seems that there are many modifications and further simplifications of the Layhe technique. One of my own simplifications was doing away with wrapping the dough in a towel.
At any rate, Layhe is a baker who has a recipe book on how to make his bread. It would be probably a worthwhile investment for a group of students to go together to buy and to share one of his books.
Very interesting podcast! I loved the last one, too. I re-started the last one 5 times when I realized I was being too distracted by kids and life to pay close enough attention. It took me all week to find a quiet enough time to listen but I didn't give up.
When my oldest daughter was a baby and I was reading everything parent related I could find I ran across several articles mentioning that western countries tended to deal more with colic than some other societies. Mostly they tended to come to the conclusion that this was caused by parenting styles. I wondered at the time if there was a connection between colic and our microbe populations. I'd bet that if someone could show that inoculation with H pylori was correlated with a decrease in colic you'd have parents begging for a way to give it to their infants :-)
Thanks for the podcasts!
Hey guys, Imma avid listener to TWIV, TWIP and TWIM, and i would suggest a possible collaboration with another podcast i subscribe to: Star Talk Radio.
Its an astrophysics podcast hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. The topics covered in this podcast are vast but they often touch on the topic of life on other planets. They have suggested that if we do find life in the planets nearby, it'll most probably be microbial life.
That's when i thought of you guys! and i thought you guys are the experts on this and could possibly conjure up a magical conversation that will excite and stimulate biologists and astrophysicists alike. I know the tag line of your show is "the podcast that explores unseen life on EARTH' but i'm sure your listeners wouldn't mind an intergalactic detour.
I'm also gonna write a similar email to Star Talk Radio to tell them of your awesome podcast and lets all hope to benefit from a possible love child between biology and astrophysics.
Just a thought, keep up the amazing work
I've been listening to the evolution of TWIM, week by week, and want to say that I am delighted by the direction it has gone. I listened to #11 yesterday and found the format especially informative and interesting. By format, I am referring to the selection of, in this case, two papers, both of which were introduced well to orient the listener to the context and the topic. In each case there followed a real discussion among the co-hosts that was accessible to listeners with varied backgrounds. Acronyms and specialized terms were defined, or replaced by more common words.
As if that weren't enough, the viewpoints presented this week were particularly relevant and important vis a vis our microbiota, allergies, antibiotic usage, agricultural practices, and such. This information needs to be widely disseminated, and TWIM make an excellent contribution to that process.
All the best,
Hello there Vince and friends!
I'm Jennie - an RN who has very much enjoyed your work (or is this play?) through TWIV, TWIP and now TWIM. Thanks for making fascinating subject matter approachable and fun. I've listened to your programs while traveling & caring for ill & dying family members - your voices helped me use the solidity of science as a kind of ballast during difficult times.
You'll probably pick & choose from this email what to discuss since I know I'm asking too many questions. Enjoy the choice!
Going back to TWIM # 5 - perturbation of Arctic soil using nanoparticles (gives me the willies) - one of your guests mentioned a thought - spraying human skin with nanoparticles to stop MRSA - yikes - another shiver of concern.
BUT WAIT! Way before I had a foundation for pro and pre biotics I quietly theorized that skin infections were an imbalance in the living systems that are usually on our skin - or that imbalancing the microbes there may be a prerequisite to skin infection. Also, I understand that when some pathogens invade the gut, one of the first tasks is to launch an attack on the commensal microbes that hold territory there.
Back to the skin & nasal mucosa. I understand now that the Human Microbiome project has identified many, many bacterial species on the skin that live in a complex interdependence on us. I believe a current CA-MRSA therapy is judicious use of antimicrobials & topical intranasal mupirocin - and that limiting use of mupirocin to avoid drug resistance is a concern for this treatment as it is for all antibiotic therapy.
So, let me make my case for this idea I have for a study - and perhaps personalized medicine. Attempted transplant of a cocktail of known NON-resistant commensal skin organisms to the skin (and nasal mucosa?) of person with CA-MRSA - perhaps after a reduction in bacterial numbers using a method that does not linger - so that the reduction method wouldn't interfere with the colonization of the new commensals. Perhaps drying? Perhaps phage?
Of course, not being a microbiologist, I don't understand the niche selection pressures for microbes, nor do I get why some colonize & why some are transient.
Related questions - I understand that, in some cases, simply by going for a while without anti-infectives, some people clear MRSA because of the lack of selective pressure for resistance - but that its not at all a sure thing - wonder what the odds are on that clearance - and what the factors are? Wonder how important it is that we have resistant microbes in our gut - is this a super complicated world of many kinds of plasmids - & are those plasmids in communication with our skin & nasal mucosa organisms?
Related questions on Triclosan & surfaces: do you think that Triclosan use in households selects for resistant microbes? What can you tell us about what you know on Triclosan in our homes & environment? I also wonder about the surfaces that we touch now - so many modern plastic or plastic coated surfaces instead of metal, wood & cotton. I was very much interested in your discussion on copper surfaces and know that wooden cutting boards are better antimicrobial surfaces than plastic after wash & dry.
And I leave you with a crazy idea. Of course I teach people to wash hands just before leaving work. How about washing, carefully drying - then recolonizing them with complex normal flora on their way out the door every shift - kind of like a handshake...? I can imagine one problem with this crazy idea might be - the complexity of microbes can't live off the human body long enough. I suppose there is nothing like a human handshake to transplant human commensals.
Alternatively - after washing & drying - apply a solution that selects NOT so much AGAINST MRSA etc. but provides conditions that FAVOR commensals - kind of like a pre-biotic for the skin. We would want to know what conditions make it a little shaky for pathogens while providing the best chance for beneficial commensal recolonization. Then, that recolonization might happen next time you touch another person - like your child when you come home...
Thanks for listening to my silly questions!