Peter writes:

Dear TWiV team

Regarding Steven’s letter to TWiV 353 about possible lab leaks caused by damage to buildings.

There was a foot and mouth outbreak in the UK in 2007 due to contamination from a research lab, this was not a result of damage to the buildings, but rather a bureaucratic dispute over which of two labs on the site had responsibility to pay for maintenance of the ageing drainage system.  

The Health and Safety Executive  concluded that heavy rain had overloaded the leaking drains, washing  muddy effluent onto the ground where it  contaminated vehicle tyres which spread it to the road where it  contaminated farm vehicles.


Fernando writes:

Missing Alan repartee…

Hi TWiV Talk(ers),

(yes, some issues you sound like a virus-themed Car Talk rebirth)

When Dickson gave as his pick “The Ph.D. Movie”, and “The Post Doc” sequel was mentioned, Alan unaccountably failed to note that it would not be a sequel, but a whole series “Post Doc N” for N from 1 to infinity…

Kathy writes:

BPF!  Jonathan Coulton did “a thing a week for a year” – wrote songs, covered songs, etc.  Scroll down to see the lists for the 4 “thing-a-week” albums

Thad writes:

This topic might make an interesting topic of discussion on TWIV.


Grant writes:

Hey Vincent et al:

I know you guys all know this, but the flu GOF ban lumbers on and nobody in the wider media seems to report on the growing harm it has caused.

This report at least indicates why flu GOF research can provide still-needed advances:

I’m not sure if you have interviewed Yoshi in the past on TWIV, but even if you have, perhaps it might be a good time to let him articulate again why this research matters?



Professor, Dept. Molecular Genetics & Microbiology,

College of Medicine,

University of Florida

Heather writes:

Dear Esteemed Doctors,

Apologies ahead of time for the length of this email, I tried but succinctness was never my strong suit. If you would prefer to edit or summarize it for the show feel free to do so.

I have been listening to and enjoying all of your podcasts since Dr. Kiki of This Week in Science suggested TWiV to her listeners during the ferret/flu kerfuffle. Thank you for providing such an entertaining and informative show. I am not a scientist by trade, regrettably. I work at a laser manufacturing company in a low level position that keeps my hands busy but not my brain. Science podcasts such as yours get me through my work day.

I was recently adopted by a feral tomcat who ended up being FIV+. Imagine my vet’s surprise when I began asking a barrage of questions directly inspired by your show! After we confirmed diagnosis with PCR I dove into the literature and found it fascinating. The parallels between HIV and FIV make it a potential animal model for translational research. I even saw a few tantalizing abstracts suggesting that FIV could be a potential new viral vector for targeted human gene therapy. Of course I’m most interested in the disease at it relates to its feline host, and here again I’m deeply intrigued by what little I’m able to read for free. *Shakes her fist at Elsevier*

Perhaps if the good Doctors of TWiV find this as interesting as I do an episode on the topic might be in order. I could send a few open access papers your way to aid the discussion if it would be helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not we could give FIV the (zinc) finger or in what applications it might be useful as a therapeutic vector. Why don’t we have antiretroviral therapy for cats? Seemed to work in the papers I saw but it never made it to market. And why is an article from 2002 locked behind a pay wall?! Oh wait, we know the answer to that one…

Thanks again to the entire TWiX team. I am deeply enriched by your sharing of knowledge and the delightful rapport of the hosts makes each show feel like a cheerful discussion among friends.

With deepest respect and admiration,


PS- Currently 24.5°C (76.1°F), 50% humidity, scattered clouds at 12,000ft mostly cloudy at 20,000ft and generally quite lovely in Golden, Colorado.

Anthony writes:

re: virulence of avian influenza in poultry and industrial farming

If I understood correctly, Alan Dove speculated that the virulence of Avian Influenza in poultry could be caused by the population size and density of industrial farming.  In the wild, waterfowl can be found in large flocks.  Plus, these birds generally will be drinking water contaminated with virus-laden droppings.

Paul Ewald’s hypothesis on virulence,

provides a key. In nature, birds’ (and bats’) only defense is quite literally flight. They have high energy requirements. They won’t be sick for very long.

When to any degree they lose their edge, they quickly die or are killed. In the wild, virulent avian influenza quickly loses its means of production and transportation.  For wild waterfowl, viruses tend to be persistent. Domestic animals are protected from predators and provided with food. People move sick birds and their droppings to distant locations, providing fresh opportunity for virus spread. Viruses so can increase in virulence.

The wet markets of the cities of south China are a very different situation.  Here, chickens, waterfowl, and exotic animals from a variety of sources are kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. The customers looking over the animals exchange their human flu viruses with those of the birds. Perhaps coughing tourists provide novel influenza strains.  Wild birds perch on the cages, defecate in the water, and then fly off to their roosts.  For those worried about gain of function experiments, here’s the laboratory out of a nightmare.

Thank you.

Dennis writes:


This is about a Yellow Fever epidemic in southern U.S. During 1878-79. I’ve been reading Ulysses Grant’s memoirs covering the Civil War. This led to reading a Wikipedia page on General John Bell Hood. After the war, Bell married. Subsequently they had 11 children including three sets of twins. Here’s how a Yellow Fever epidemic affected them: “His insurance business was ruined by a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans during the winter of 1878–79. Then Hood himself succumbed to the disease, dying six days after his wife Anna succumbed and on the same day their eldest daughter Lydia died, leaving 10 destitute, orphaned young children. They received support for over twenty years from the Texas Brigade Association and were ultimately adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, and New York.[45][46].”

In our lifetimes few of us have had to live through killer viral epidemics except for Polio, HIV, malaria (and maybe measles?). I’ve probably missed some. But few of us in the US and in Europe have lost multiple nuclear family members to all viruses, much less to one virus. We’ve come a long way. Although there is much further to go, the accelerating rate of knowledge acquisition and application will bring huge health benefits over the coming years.

Thanks again,


Brian writes:

I saw this great article about the tasmanian devils getting immunized against the virus that’s killing off their species with cancer. Thought you might be interested.

On another note, this is my first email. I’ve been listening for at least two years now. LOVE the Podcast, got into it after I found Vincent’s class on iTunesU and he mentioned the podcast at the end of the course. Thank you for putting in the time to unveil a previously mysterious and scary profession. It’s now fascinating and I can’t get enough of it. It helps get me through my long days at work manufacturing boring stuff. 🙂

Finally, I do have a question (keeping this brief in case you read it on the show). Have you done an episode on HPV? I’d really like to know more about it. For instance, why, as a 37 year old adult, does it seem they don’t want me to get the vaccine? Why don’t they test men for HPV, only women? If you’ve got one of the serotypes of HPV, wouldn’t it still be worth getting the vaccine that covers the others?

Brian in Fall City, Washington

Currently 27c, down about 8 degrees from the weekend. Not sure if it’s cloudy, or it’s just smoke from the wildfires.

Amir writes:

Hi Vincent,

I was recently invited to join Publons to get credit for peer-review and referred to an article in Nature for more information. Below are the links.

I thought it could be a Weekly Pick

Best regards,


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