Ken Stedman writes:

Hi Vincent,

Thanks for the TWiV bump for my talk at ASV next summer, looking forward to it.  Also thanks for the plug for the Phage book (I wrote a “guest” chapter.), will you be in San Diego for the meeting? If so I’ll see you there.

Happy Holidays!



I am pretty sure that our “did it in the hottub” virus infects a eukaryote, but I’ll be talking about the archaeal viruses at ASV (see the cover of Virology, Jan 1, 2015).

and also:

Hi Rich,

Thanks again for your wonderful work on TWiV. I just wanted to mention that the Chlorella that are infected with phycodnaviruses (that I have worked on in my lab when not chasing hyperthermophile viruses) that you mentioned on TWiV 315 are green algae, not blue-green algae (which are an old name for cyanobacteria). There are also some really cool brown and red algae (the latter including Kelp, the largest algae known).

Thanks again for the great work on TWiV and beyond and Happy Holidays.



I’ll ask Jim van Etten about the Phycodnavirus that you discussed when I visit Lincoln in a couple of weeks.

Kevin writes:

Hi TWiV gang,

I want to commend you for taking up immunological topics, despite the intimidating alphabet soup and maddeningly complex cell subsets. Speaking as an immunologist, I can assure you that you’re not alone in your frustration.

You asked for your immunologist listeners to write in if you butchered anything. Well, you didn’t, but I wanted to write in anyway with some comments.

Rich’s point about the need to look at “Th17” knockouts was right on the money. In any inflammatory situation where you knock out IL-10, I would expect some additional inflammatory pathology, whether or not it was a problem in the wild-type disease. The immune system is a finely tuned instrument, and knocking out a key anti-inflammatory regulator is going to cause problems. In fact, these mice develop spontaneous colitis (inflammation of the large intestine), and gut pathologies can cause all kinds of other problems.

I also wanted to point out that In your discussion of this knockout, you seemed to get a bit confused between Th17 (the cell type) and IL-17 (the cytokine). This is an easy mistake to make, but I wanted to clarify: Knocking out the cytokine IL-17 (or its receptor) would not necessarily be the best experiment, since the Th17 cells do much more than just secrete this cytokine. A more straightforward experiment would be to use knockouts of the transcription factor RORγT, which as you mentioned is necessary for Th17 development.

As an aside, we’ve been slacking on our immunology podcast audiommunity, but we’ve got big plans for the coming year, hopefully we’ll be able to deliver – there’s clearly a need for it.

Thanks for all you do, and a happy new year to all!


John writes:

Dear information vectors,

On TWiV 317 at 25:10 one of your Brazilian guests referred to the “Culicoides mosquito.”

In English-speaking countries the word “mosquito” means a member of family Culicidae.  Genus Culicoides belongs to the related family Ceratopogonidae.  The word “no-see-um” describes the smaller species that fit through nets.

In Spanish and Portuguese “mosquito” is just the diminutive of the word for “fly”, and may have a broader meaning.


Reference: (University of Florida “Featured Creatures” page)

Abraham writes:

In the very first two episodes of TWiV, it was discussed how the mosquitoes that carry West Nile really prefer birds, so that they only go after humans in extended periods of hot and dry weather.

I’m curious how these results affect that assessment for future disease propagation:



Karie writes:

I had written awhile back about my TWIV bump in landing a job as the research coordinator at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. We have an undergraduate research program here that has been growing over the years. One of our requirements for our research students is to attend research ethics workshops. I decided that the topic of discussion for this workshop would be gain of function experiments. I had asked the students to read some of the articles that have been written and come to class prepared to discuss them. I also asked them to take a look at the arguments from the Cambridge Working Group and Scientists for Science Group. I had them write down what group they would support and then had them discuss the pros and cons for each side. For the final task, I asked them if the discussions had changed their opinions. I thought you would be interested in the results.

Cambridge Working Group (CWG) pre-discussion 18 student supporters

Scientist for Science (S4S) pre-discussion 34 student supporters

CWG post- discussion 15 student supporters

S4S post-discussion 32 student supporters

A total of 2 students changed from S4S to CWG and total of 5 students changed from CWG to S4S. Five students were left undecided after the discussions.

I heard some good discussions and I hope this prompted our new and upcoming scientists to put some thought into proposed topics of research and implications whether they be real or perceived that they may have to defend.

I credit your podcasts for inspiring this topic for me. Thanks for all you do keeping the young and old minds stimulated.



Research Coordinator

Gonzaga University

Ruth writes:

Hello, my favorite virologists!

Could you tell me if it’s time to start worrying about MERS yet?  I’ve been following news about it for over a year but I don’t remember any cases where there was NO contact with camels until now:

Thanks for responding when you have a chance!  

Have a very Happy New Year!  Ruth 🙂

Johnye writes:

Dear Life-long Teachers for life-long learners,

Happy New Year and THANK YOU for your gifts of continued generosity of time, knowledge, parsing, vetting and passion for virology and rigorous science. You teach and inspire by example, and I am most grateful.

And, Professor V, am I correct that you also celebrate January 1st, as B. D. E. D.: Birth Day Eve Day? Even if I’ve gotten that wrong, special wishes to Kathy, Alan, Rich, Dickson and you for health, happiness, and more unrestricted funding than you need for as long as you want.

Continued energy for 2015 and beyond!


Check out this video on YouTube:

Johnye Ballenger, M. D., FAAP

West Cambridge Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Daniel writes:

Dear Twiv,

I am trying to investigate the quarantine science for Ebola.  I have your blog “Nobel Laureates and Ebola virus quarantine“, but I have not found anything else yet. I think the quarantine for asymptomatic individuals is not supported by scientific research, but I still want to know the science for support of the asymptomatic quarantines, if it exists.  If you have any ideas or sources, please direct me.

Geoffrey writes:


I may have misunderstood the situation but I believe that I noticed a small error in one of Dr. Karst’s statements about norovirus infectivity as read in episode 313. At ~5 min 50 sec, she stated that, during a phase of the study, the bacteria were heat killed and that those heat-killed bacteria no longer facilitated infectivity by noroviruses. She concluded that this implied that live bacteria were needed to facilitate the infectivity. This may not be the case. It may simply be that the chemicals involved in facilitating transcytosis are heat labile.

I suggest this because, by coincidence, I was just this day glancing through

“The Safety of Bacillus subtilis  and Bacillus indicus as Food Probiotics”. H. A. Hong, J.-M. Huang, R. Khaneja, L. V. Hiep, M. C. Urdaci, S. M. Cutting. Journal of Applied Microbiology 105 (2008) 510-520. DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2008.03773.x.

In this article, they were looking at several potential indicators of Bacillus hazards that might invalidate their use as probiotics. Since one of the features that is generally considered useful in probiotics is the ability to proliferate in the GI tract, there was a focus on adhesion to the GI tract’s mucus layer and biofilm formation, a situation that I believe was similar to the bacteria in the norovirus paper. Anyway, since I can’t claim to have studied this paper very carefully, I’ll just reproduce a small part of the discussion that I thought particularly pertinent to Dr. Karst’s point:

“Invasion was also measured, and it was surprising that in the case of Natto {ed., a popular and generally-considered-safe food fermenting Bacillus subtilis}, significant levels of invasion to Caco-2 and HEp-2 cells could be observed and at levels greater than Listeria monocytogenes that was used as an invasive control. A low level of invasion was also observed with strain {Bacillus subtilis strain} PY79. It is conceivable that the lipopeptide surfatic, produced by Natto could facilitate entry into cells by rupturing the phospholipid membrane. On the other hand, our results showed the complete failure of any bacterial strain to invade HT29-16E cells which might result from the mucs layer secreted by these cells. Cytotoxicity assays showed that the cell-free supernatants of Natto were able to lyse all three cell types. This activity however is unlikely to be surfactin as this lipopeptide is heat labile.” p. 518

While a small point and Dr. Karst could certainly be correct, I thought that it might be helpful to point out that proactively preventing (or at least discouraging) norovirus infectivity might be possible by looking at heat labile chemicals produced by the noroviruses’s enabling bacteria and focusing on ways to block those.


Brian writes:

Dick and Vincent, just wanted to say thanks for the time and effort that goes into TWIP, TWIM & TWIV. They have inspired me to go back to school for a graduate degree in parasitism. Thank you so much Vincent and Dick for an entertaining and informative episode each time.

Angus writes:

Dear TWiV,

In the beginning of episode 309 (Ebola Email), there was a discussion regarding quarantines and public officials. Something along these lines was stated: “Of the people who have overridden the CDC guidelines, which one has a PhD in virology…or public health….or epidemiology”. There seemed to be general agreement among the TWiV crew that the public officials in question were not qualified to make decisions regarding public health and that this was somehow attributable to their lack of a Ph.D.

While I agree with you that in this instance, the public officials in question should not have overridden the CDC guidelines, and that politics may have played too large a role in their decision-making. However, their lack of a Ph.D. is not really the issue at hand – it is their actual decision that should be scrutinized, not the letters behind their name

There are many people without a Ph.D. that are perfectly capable of evaluating evidence and coming to a reasoned decision outside their field of expertise. On the flip side, there are many Ph.Ds that are set in their ways, are unwilling to change their mind as new evidence becomes available, or may put politics (that is, personal and professional relationships with collaborators or competitors) ahead of just presenting the scientific facts.

I suspect that you agree with me on these points and I am not suggesting that you do not value the opinions and intellect of those without a Ph.D. I just want to point out that the language used could disenfranchise listeners without advanced degrees.

The general public already feels a sense of elitism coming from academics. TWiV is doing such a great service in making science accessible to more people that it would be a shame if your non-scientist listeners get turned off because of comments like these.


Angus Chandler

Postdoctoral Researcher

Microbiology Department

California Academy of Sciences

San Francisco, Ca

Dale writes:

Dear Dr. Racaniello,

This video on the Library of Congress’ You Tube channel may be of interest to TWiV’s audience.

Thanks for being a good interviewer.  Maybe you should take over for Craig Ferguson?


Cleveland, OH

8 windy degrees F

Worldwide Disease Surveillance & Media

Published on Nov 10, 2014

Lawrence Madoff discussed the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, an online network of more than 55,000 members who monitor the four corners of the world for emerging infectious diseases of humans, animals and plants.

Speaker Biography: Lawrence C. Madoff is professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Joy writes:


I enjoy your podcast, although most of it is over my head.

When I saw this article on Doubtful News I thought of you and wondered about your opinion. Seems awfully simplistic for such a dangerous virus. Why or why not could this be helpful?

Doubtful news is a fun site that turns a skeptical eye on current news stories. It might make a good pick of the week sometime.

Love the show and i’m learning at least a little.


Man claims to have invented hand lotion against Ebola

Ricardo writes:

Hello dear friends.

As a regular listener I’ve been educated about so many vector borne viral (and others) diseases. As controlling mosquitoes seems to be one of the solutions, please let me point you to a company producing their “2nd skin” clothes, which as they say are anti mosquito. A clever idea, I think.

Ricardo Magalhães

p.s. Please excuse the small size message

Scott writes:


After your comments on the last TWIM about the polio eradication problems, including Nigeria due to attenuated vaccine mutations, I thought you might find this story in The Nation to be rather interesting.  It seems that mutation of the attenuated oral vaccines is far from the only problems with eradication efforts in Nigeria.  As bizarre as all this sounds, I can assure you, having lived there, that I know for a fact that this is all true:

Regards from sunny Costa Rica,



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