Robin writes:

Achromatopsia – a male problem.

Colour vision is an X-linked dormant. Most – almost all – achromatopsia in humans is in males.

from KRS via Bert Semler:

Multistate outbreak of HAV:

Save podcasting from a patent troll:

Chris Condayan writes:


Can you help us get to 1,000 subscribers on by encouraging listeners to subscribe. We have just over 600 people and we need 1,000 to get a live YouTube streaming account.

This would be awesome for us for many reasons.



Felicity writes:

Dear TWIV team,

Having done as suggested and just rated you on itunes as I believe your podcasts are a must for anyone studying the world of the very small. I learn through osmosis by submerging myself in the podcasts, it is helping my scientific language just as those living in a foreign country would pick up the local language quicker than those in a classroom situation. I was shocked to see only 27 Ratings and 11 Customer reviews (at the time of writing this e-mail)! I wanted to write to thank-you for changing my life. Although I am not old (33 years), I did think it was a bit late for me to embark on a science career. I live in Devon in the UK and have three boys. I have always enjoyed science especially biology. I did well at secondary school (11 – 16 years old) and then went on to do ‘A’ levels (16 – 18 years old) taking Biology, Chemistry, English and Theatre Studies. I wanted to be a to be a paediatrician (although when I was in primary school I quite liked the idea of being a nit nurse but that profession had died out unfortunately). At 16 I took my first term of Chemistry and it was mainly maths, I struggled as I had a fear of numbers and no good mentor to tell me it was only a language mathematicians used as they don’t like writing in full sentences, which is how I view it now and I get on with numbers a lot better. It was at this point that my tutor said I was too stupid to do chemistry, would never get into medicine and maybe should do something else. Suffice to say my university degree was in Drama, Theatre and Television Studies. Student debts took over and ended taking a job as a Prison Administrator for the summer and stayed behind that desk for 11 years.

However, my love of science, mainly diseases stayed with me and I started a science degree with The Open University in 2006 (two more modules to go until I finish). I have always loved it, except my brush with a Physics Module which I managed to pass even though I took the exam three days after a C-Section (as if physics exams are not painful enough). Anyhow, I had my first taste of a real lab on one of their residential schools. One week of experiments, lab books and a little beer at Nottingham University. One of the best weeks of my life, still refer to it affectionately as Chemistry Camp. Then our Government changed university funding and most of the practical residential schools are now no longer, my longing for practical science experience seemed dead in the water. Then I started using YouTube to help with my studies and discovered Khan Academy, TED and Kevin Ahern, (his lectures are amazing and they always have a song). My module this year is infectious diseases and googled lectures on viruses and found Vincent’s lectures and from that point onwards I was an avid TWIV fan.

That’s not the end of the story however. I have been so inspired by the podcasts I sent my CV to a food testing lab and got offered a post. It smells, it’s minimum wage, it’s long hours but I absolutely love it. Still finding my feet and whoever would have thought that sticking labels on things could be so complicated (my first shift did not go too well, but I am now an expert in reprinting labels). I know that to a lot of your listeners food testing might not be very exciting and I am always in awe of the people who write in. Would I have made the same decision if I had not discovered the podcasts? Probably not. I have learnt, always go for your dreams and only listen to good advice. My dream is to some day be mashing up cancer cells in a lab somewhere (and maybe for TWIP to be once a week?).

To conclude, jump on your computers and rate the podcasts so that they are more visible, it could change someones life. From changing a career to getting more people vaccinated.

Could I suggest a pick of the week which I discovered on one of Kevin Ahern’s lectures? The book is Survival of the Sickest The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity by Sharon Moalem, really interesting read and I just love it.

Yours sincerely


(Weather: Sunny today, 15 Centigrade).

Kyle writes:

Dear TWiVians,

First off, let me just say I love your podcast. I have been listening since mid 2010 when I was introduced to it via a virology course I took at the University of Colorado, Boulder and have been hooked ever since. I did my undergrad in Molecular biology and have yet to decide where to do my graduate studies. I am currently working for a pathology lab that is an hour away from where I live, meaning I can finally work through all the past episodes(woo!), I’m currently on episode 65, so still a little ways to go. This is my first time writing to you, but I am hoping to start writing in more often now that I actually listen to your episodes the day they are released (again due to my commute).

Anyways, I recently came across an article that I found interesting and I wondered if you guys (and gal) thought there was any merit to it. Unfortunately I am blocked from reading the whole thing by the subscription wall so I couldn’t see any data. The abstract basically says that recent studies suggest looking at pictures of sick people increases IL-6 production in turn boosting your immune defense. If this does indeed seem plausible does that mean that I should look at sick people during flu season? haha I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Thanks again for the wonderful podcast, I look forward to hearing your responses.


PS: I was hoping I could go to the ASM meeting this year since it is near me, but seeing as how I am neither a student any longer nor a member yet I do not think I will be making it this year. Perhaps I will get to go (and meet some of the TWiV team) next year. Until then though, I will just listen to the ASM TWiV episode when it comes out and pretend I was there.

Link to article:

Josh writes:

Hello Twivizens,

Caught this abstract ( ) and wanted to hear you opinion. I happened to see this right after listening to TWIV 184: Reforming Science ans it seemed in contrast to many of the points raised. I love the sly editorial: “This collegial nexus has been extended – some say disrupted – by … PubMed Central.” Some say? Who, exactly? Anyway, thanks for a great podcast!

Bill writes:

Hey Vincent,

See NASA’s “original idea” on YouTube.!

Ya gotta wonder … when NASA needs to carry a payload …. what will they put it in (tsk, tsk)?

btw .. I’m really enjoying your virology class on the net this semester.

Kind regards,


Robin writes:

On a geological timescale the eradication of one or more contagious infectious agents is a given: either the agent or the host (or both) WILL become extinct either physically or through genetic drift.

The parasite-host dance is but a certain zone in the spectrum of interaction of all biological organisms. The dance is dynamic and can lead to many outcomes, if our shrew-like or reptilian ancestors had the technology to “contain” and “eradicate” viruses, then many of the retroviral sequences that constitute 40% of our genome might instead be confined to BSL-4 facilities.

The lacrimal apparatus is recognised by medical folks since forever (as far as I am concerned, which is before I went to med school in the 1960s) as a portal for the viral infections of the respiratory tract. Most common colds are transmitted through two of the “F”s, fingers & fomites: doorknobs, keyboards, and wiping/touching the eyelids.

The reason everyone does not have epiphora (constant leakage of tears) is because the Meibomian glands secrete a lipid layer that forms a dam along the lid margins, keeping tears in. Shampoos wash away that dam.

If you need a password manager for IOS, minikeepass will do it. It is freeware, has a Windows freeware app, and clients for other platforms. You can keep several encrypted, password protected databases of passwords, with other information, such as URLs which it will open for you in the default browser. The passwords copied to clipboard are erased from the clipboard memory in about 30 seconds, and the IOS app reverts to locked requiring the PIN after a similar time interval. After five unsuccessful tries with the (wrong) PIN it will erase its databases. All these features are user-customisable. It will demand or remember the password for the databases if so customised. And a database can be dropped into Dropbox or SecureSafe and retrieved elsewhere to synch another device.


It is a common error to assume that the intellect is the controller of behaviour just because it is in the driver’s seat. It is the chauffeur. The reptilian brain, which is non-rational and non-verbal, manifests in emotions (short-term) and values (long-term). it is the back seat passenger that controls what the intellect does. The intellect seeks, processes, filters, and acts in accordance with the guidance from the reptilian brain.

Telling the chauffeur that vaccination is logically appropriate is quite nice, but not quite effective. Pictures of dying and dead unvaccinated children speak non-verbally through emotion to the reptilian brain, and are more effective than petabytes of statistics at communicating the desired message. Ministries of propaganda, advertising agencies, priests and preachers, etc. all know this, and are aware that their own survival depends on it.

TEDxPugetSound – Simon Sines – 9/17/09:

– Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action:

Robin also sent this:

Basel writes:

Dear Drs. Racaniello, Condit, Despommier, Dove, and Spindler,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the wonderful TWIV series. Since I completed my PhD last year, I’m now progressively unable to catch up on my virology reading. Listening to your podcast covers my shortcomings and keeps me properly informed. So I immensely thank you for that.

In the last episode of TWIV 227 and while the group were discussing the ethical question for publication of HeLa cell genome, Alan contributed that “these are issues that come up in more than genome sequencing, gene therapy. Are you giving informed consent for all of your descendants for a gene therapy that could modify your germline?”.

While I’m sure 99% of listeners, including the discussion panel members, didn’t pay attention to this sentence, I thought this would be my great opportunity to contribute to this program.

Although there is no rule against germline transmission of gene therapy products, the position is that “Regulatory authorities represented at the ICH agree that based on current scientific, ethical, and legal arguments gene therapy trials that are intended to allow direct germline integration should not be conducted”, and that “the risk of inadvertent germline integration should be minimised because of the potential for subsequent transmission of vector DNA to progeny.” the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee has multiple publications on this issue going back to 1997-2000, which I will glad to provide.

Taking a detour here, the reason I picked on this is because I’m currently working on the safety evaluation of viral vector-based gene therapy products. I spent the past 10 years working on viral pathogenesis and I enjoy utilizing my virology experience in a non-vaccine context. Viral biodistribution is viral biodistribution, whether you do it to understand the virus natural history or to evaluate its safety; it’s the same logic and the same tools. The field of viral vector-based gene therapy is intriguing and unique in that you actually don’t want the virus to exert any immunogenic effect, completely opposite from that when you design a vaccine candidate.

The interesting observation I found however is that not many virologists work in this field. I wonder if you agree with my observation, and I wish, and hope, and kindly request if you can dedicate an episode or a segment of an episode to discuss the role of virologists in the field of gene therapy.

I would like to contribute Pick of The Week choosing an interesting letter published recently in Science.
This article describes observations made from animals that self-medicate. The authors raise a great point of how we can learn from insects’ and animals’ new choices of medicines to treat disease we currently don’t have treatment for. I wonder if some insects or animals know of natural antivirals out there in the jungle.

I apologize for the lengthy email, but I wanted to thank, contribute, and ask a question to this marvelous podcast.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. It was too confusing hosting both Drs. Condit and Despommier on the same episode. Their voices are almost identical and it was confusing at many times to tell them apart. Don’t believe me? Host them again and have them do one-on-one conversation.

Sheryl writes:

Hi Vincent and folks! I’m not a scientist but I’ve been listening to TWIV, TWIP, and TWIM for quite some time (I think I started on TWIV around episode 9). My actual day job is pretty far from microbiology, I’m an artist and jewelry designer but science has always inspired my creations. TWIM actually inspired a line of jewelry based on cell cultures that I make using petri dishes and resin. I think your listeners might be interested if you would like to mention my jewelry on the podcast. my shop is at



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