Roger writes:

Do you think it is wise to bring ebola victims to the US and other ebola free areas for treatment. Yes it is noble and we have the facilities to take care of them safely without risk to the public.  There seems to be so much we don’t know about vectors and transmission with this disease.  Without knowing all the facts it just seems risky.  My question is, do we need to worry about mosquitoes transferring the virus to people or establishing a reservoir in some local animal.

thanks for your time.

Stephen writes:

In TWiV 298, Vincent wondered if someone could make a TWiV coffee-table book.

This would be doable in Apple’s iBooks Author.

You’d break a TWiV episode up into logical audio chunks, and also add breaks whenever a blog post is mentioned, for example, or when the reader should pause and study a figure from the paper under consideration.

The “book” would appear as illustrated text, but where most iBooks have video interspersed, TWiV would often have audio.

iBooks author is pretty easy to use, but a project like this would probably take a huge amount of time. The reader would have to have an iPad.

Russell writes:

TWIV folk,

In TWIV #298, you wondered how long administered antibody remains in the blood.  IV immunoglobulin (IVIG) is commonly administered chronically to children with antibody deficiency.    It has a  logarithmic  decay curve with a half-life of about 20 days, so low concentrations can persist for months.   Replacement therapy IVIG is generally administered every 21 to 28 days to maintain adequate levels.    How long a particular antibody persists depends on the dose and concentration of the antibody in the IVIG. As an example, after a single large dose of IVIG,  persistent measles antibody from the IVIG can inactivate the  live attenuated measles vaccine for months, making it ineffective.   (cue the discussion on whether viruses are alive…)  So we wait for 11 month after a large dose of IVIG before giving the measles vaccine.

Thanks for the show.  I encourage my students to listen.


Russell Van Dyke M.D.

Section of Infectious Diseases

Department of Pediatrics

Tulane University Health Sciences Center

New Orleans, LA

Yegor writes:

Dear Twivers,

The use of passive immunization for protection against viruses is a hot topic in HIV research due to the discovery of broad and extremely potent neutralizing antibodies against HIV. At least three groups started Phase I trials with such antibodies, and others are closely behind. The antibodies are being developed for prevention, therapeutics, and for cure applications. Therefore, the questions of administration frequency, efficacy, and costs are being actively discussed. The half-life of each antibody cannot be predicted and has to be measured experimentally. Half-life of 2 weeks is what is often found in literature and that’s what at least one group has seen with their anti-HIV antibody in healthy people (it’s less in infected). The required frequency of administration will depend (obviously) on the dose administered, but also on the potency of the antibody. If an antibody is extremely potent and continues to have antiviral effect at very low concentrations, then you don’t need to inject it as often. This also explains why maternal antibodies in infants last longer against some pathogens than others (it depends on what level you need to mediate protection). Also, in infants the half-life of antibodies is extended because they have Fc portion that binds to FcRN receptor, and antibodies from adults can be genetically engineered to mimic this. Here is a recent paper showing how the half-life of one anti-HIV antibody was extended 3-fold in macaques:

Your discussion at the end, building traps for viruses reminded me of this (unsuccessful) attempt to crowd-fund a project along these lines:–2 The idea of the project was to turn erythrocytes into traps (or sinks) for HIV in an infected person. Take out CD34+ pluripotent cells from a patient, transform them with a CD4 gene under the erythrocyte-specific promoter and put them back into the patient. Erythrocytes from these cells will express CD4 and will act to trap all free-floating HIV virions and the virus can fuse with the cell, but it’s obviously a dead end for the virus. There are so many erythrocytes in the body that they will effectively soak up all HIV and effectively cure an HIV infection.

It’s a cool idea although not without some challenges. First, in addition to CD4 HIV needs a co-receptor. Erythrocytes supposedly have some co-receptors for HIV, but the data for that is rather weak (e.g.: Second, it assumes that having all this CD4 molecules on erythrocytes is not going to wreak havoc on the immune system. There’s one paper that claims it should not be a problem:, but I’d like to see more evidence from animal models before it goes into humans. Still, an interesting idea.

Thanks for your podcasts,


P.S: I personally like the all-email episodes now and then.

Yegor Voronin, PhD

Senior Science Officer

Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

New York

Jim writes:

Hi All,

In response to Simon’s email about origami and nanoparticles, there is a presentation by William Shih on iBioseminars.

He gives three talks on the work his and other labs are doing and gives some indication of how this work may progress.

These can be found at:

If iBioseminars have not already been a pick of the week I would like to nominate them.  Presenters are at the top of their areas and they go back 8 years for those who want the history of current work.  You can find them at the above link or on iTunes.

Best to all,


Robin writes:

Exponential Ebola

Mention was made in an email of a levelling off or even a decrease in the number of Ebola cases preceding the exponential increase.

This would suggest the importance of saturating the limited medical resources. As long as they were not overwhelmed, the situation did not get “out of hand”.

Now, it is increasingly dependent on factors beyond medical and societal control. To the extent that these factors have changed since previous Ebola outbreaks (increased population density, decreased sanitation, etc.), they will alter the course of this outbreak.

Caleb writes:

Drs of TWIV.

I am a 2nd year graduate student at the University of Texas @ Austin, and have been listening to your pod cast since my former boss (Dr. Welkin Johnson TWIV 91,122, 168, 218) turned me on to it. I really enjoy the balanced discussion of viruses and the science that goes into studying them. Congratulations on reaching 300 episodes.

Recently in the news there have been several laboratory incidents as well as an Ebola outbreak in West Africa that have brought up the issue of Potential Pandemic Pathogens (PPP). The Cambridge Working Group came out with a statement regarding research into PPP in july. More recently Scientists for Science published a statement as well. The media has made this seem as one side agains the other (NPR This may be true, and if so it demands objective discussion. However i believe that both sides have the best intentions toward PPP research, the scientists that carry it out and humanity as a whole.

I noticed that several of your names are on the web page for Scientists for Science. I think it would be a great idea to have a discussion of both sides of the issue on TWiV. Not only would it help inform the public about the issue, but i think it would help break down barriers that cause the mistrust of the scientific community. The format of your show allows for Scientific guests and vibrant discussion that would only aid in the resolution of this complex issue.

TWIV has been an excellent forum for discussing scientific research in the past. You guys have even delved into issues regarding research and polio stocks before(TWiV 281). The issues surrounding PPP are going to be a big part of the microbiological community for a while. TWiV is very good at presenting both sides of the research, I think you will be well suited to tackle the ethical, political, and scientific issues surrounding PPP.

Both sides have called for a full debate, and while TWiV will not be the final forum for discussion i think that it would be an excellent starting point.

I look forward to seeing this debate unfold.

Waiting with baited breath,


ps. its a scorching hot 97º F 32ºC with not a cloud in the sky here in Austin Texas.

Robert writes:

I hope you don’t mind my writing.  In light of your recent coverage on the current west African EBOV outbreak,  I wanted to bring to your attention a current issue one of the major hospitals dealing with the outbreak is having in hopes that you might pass this information on to the listeners of your many online programs (TWIV, TWIP, ect…).  The Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone has been an epicenter for field work and treatment of Lassa fever for well over 10 years.  During much of this time, there has been much support from NIH and other US governmental entities to study the natural history and uncover potential routes for treatment for LASV and many other tropical viral infections.  Unfortunately, the group there has recently received news that their major funding support from NIH would not be renewed.  As you know, the grant writing and review cycle can take time from the point of submission to the final funding decision.  The highly collaborative group  that submitted the support grant, Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium ( ) submitted the request for funds prior to now expanding EBOV outbreak.  To date, this site has processed over 95% of the patients and samples from this outbreak, but despite this heroic effort the funding has still not been renewed.

In an effort  to seek help from the global community through crowd sourcing the much needed funds, a tax-deductible donation website has been set up through colleagues at the Scripps Institute.  Persons interested in donating to support this program can access this site through the VHFC website here .

I’m unsure if anyone else from the program has contacted you on this, but this is merely an effort to hedge our bets and get the word out for a cause that any virologist would be proud to support.

Many thanks for your consideration in helping to spread the word.

Kindest regards,

Bob Cross

Robert W. Cross, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Galveston National Laboratory

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

University of Texas Medical Branch

Galveston, Texas

John writes:

Needles in the NEIDL

Dear soft-skinned scientists,

I recently watched the NEIDL tour video.  As Professor VR clumsily handled a pipette I wondered, are there needles in the NEIDL?  Those suits don’t look very tough.

Lyle writes:

Read the following book:

Edward Hooper (born 1951) is a British writer best known for his book, The River, which investigates the origins and early epidemiology of AIDS and makes a case for the OPV AIDS hypothesis, which states that the AIDS virus was accidentally created by scientists testing an experimental polio vaccine. Hooper’s theory has been refuted using molecular biological and phylogenetic studies demonstrating the origins of HIV as a mutated variant of simian immunodeficiency virus that is lethal to humans.[1][2][3][4][5] (Wikipedia)

According to this book Albert Sabin chose to go to Africa to develop a vaccine through attenuation in chimpanzee kidney tissue. He did this because this development process specifically using chimpanzee kidney tissue was forbidden in the USA. Further, he tested his vaccine on hundreds of thousands of Africans with repeat use needles. As the story goes, he managed to at once, introduce SIV and transmit SIV, as well as untold numbers of other simian pathogens  to thousands and thousands of people. It is also argued that the SIV mutated to create HIV.  Colossal and tragic if true.

I cringe every time I hear Sabin’s name. You mention him often in your podcast.  His name for me is the epitome of arrogance; someone who believes that they are above the law, natural and otherwise. His example certainly adds fuel to the distrust of science in general and vaccines in particular.

Enough of my tirade. I would really enjoy a serious discussion by the TWIV hosts of the process of development undertaken by Albert Sabin. I’m not questioning the efficacy of the attenuated polio vaccine but rather the process of development and the lack of accountability. I prize science and I respect science and I am anxious that the behaviour of this one man could be so damaging to science. I respect your views and would very much appreciate your very carefully considered thoughts.

21C, mostly sunny in the beautiful Okanagan valley.

Liviu writes:


I’m a student studying microbiology at UCSB and am a big fan of the podcast. Recently I heard that a student who used to attend my middle school did some very interesting work using computer simulators of receptor-ligand interaction to find antiviral compounds against the PA protein in influenza (which “snatches” 5′ mRNA caps). I listened to your podcast about the effectiveness of tamiflu, and was wondering what your opinions were on finding new antivirals like this?

Are algorithmically based antiviral drugs the future of pharma? Do these present complications when moving from cell culture to human in terms of effectiveness or side effects? How easy are these drugs, and how accurate are the effects of designer drugs? Can they be used to specifically target other essential viral proteins across the viral world? Are there antimicrobial/antifungal/antiprotist avenues open to the same type of forward biochemical techniques, or are there complications when moving into higher organisms?

Sorry for the storm of questions, I realize some may be harder to answer than others.

Best Regards,

Liviu (Lance)

P.S. Here are some links to his poster, his proposal to google science fair, and some generic media thingamabob:

Google Science Fair 2013

Local student’s science research impresses President Obama

Trey writes:

can multiple viruses live in one host at the same time, like the big bad kingpin type viruses (AIDS CANCER HERPES) / also can a virus be emptied out and have something placed in it like a cure / can a virus be used to kill another virus

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