Johannes writes:

Dear TWiV Team,

hereby I want to inform you of a little flaw in your knowledge about Ötzi the iceman.

This summer I visited the museum where Ötzi is stored in a cooling chamber and saw him with my own eyes through a 25×25 square centimeter big window. This museum is in Bolzano, the capitol of South Tyrol, Italy. He is there because he was found in Italy exactly 92.56 meters away from the Austrian border (they resurveyed the border between those two countries to clarify Ötzi’s “nationality”).

So Switzerland was never in the game of being Ötzi’s site of the find .

Here is the link to the museum’s website:…

Kind regards and please go on with your awesome show,


gsgs writes:

(I remember Kawaoka on TWiV saying he didn’t understand why people still were opposed after he had explained why the research was useful. I didn’t

understand that.)


As I understand it, the GOF-argument is, that those methods may also be used by evildoers to create more dangerous flu-viruses. While those people (Kawaoka and earlier also Wimmer’s de-optimization) are doing this for vaccine production, it is clear that these methods can also be used to create worse viruses. Evildoers may learn from it.

thanks for replying here. I think open internet discussion is more productive than the typical debating in conferences or writing papers or articles. You can rethink,edit, correct,add links and there is direct feedback and discussion.

I’m missing this in the important GOF-debate, the main “players” (Osterholm-term) won’t do this.

profvrr wrote:

> How do you know that these methods can be used to create ‘worse’ viruses? Worse for whom? Where is the evidence? There is none – it is all threatening, apocalyptic scenarios created by the anti-GOF crowd which can only think of fear.


## I “know” — it seems likely from what we know. (There is much evidence, I’d bet, that most experts would agree )

## “Worse” — more virulent, more transmissible in humans. Greater pandemic risk,

## Worse for — mankind, global health, global economy.

13,000^4 = 2.86 E16

## evidence –We know, that these pandemic flu viruses are out there in the giant search space of 13000^4 combinations and are found by nature every ~40 years with an evolutionary algorithm of point mutation and reassortment, purely step by step, one at a time. We know, there are better algorithms for such “problems” and computers are more powerful than nature for that. We also know that (many) viruses can be assembled from just knowing the sequences. This is becoming ever cheaper and easier. And we know, that lab-reassortment and passaging can often create more transmissible better host adapted and sometime more virulent viruses in the lab, starting from some other (artificial) virus. Luckily probably we didn’t yet get pandemic-capable viruses from that. (so far) Worse viruses have been created by these methods, viruses that are being generally (including you, afair) considered more dangerous than the original, unmanipulated ones and require higher safety levels. There is evidence that they are more dangerous, although they didn’t yet create a pandemic. There are legal hurdles to fully create these, so we don’t really know what is currently possible. There could also be some fundamental problems, which however I don’t see and which have not been outlined yet. There is “no evidence” for fundamental problems using your language.


## apocalyptic scenarios created by the anti-GOF crowd —

I remember how the apocalyptic scenarios were “created” in 2005f by the “H5N1 crowd” (WHO,UNO,CDC,Webster,Osterhaus,etc.) The “GOF-crowd” then just applied it to lab-viruses. I think that without the H5N1 crowd there may not have been an anti-GOF crowd. (too small for a crowd)


But for a reasonable risk estimate it doesn’t matter so much which crowd thinks what and how they spread it, what media and headlines they use. I’m not happy with the GOF-crowd either, FVR etc. Both sides in the controversy are party agenda-driven, they have professional interests in the decision. How safe current American labs are, what happened in 1977 or whether GOF-research is useful, that’s not the main point, IMO. The main point is estimating the risk created by current technological non-GOF advances.


## GOF-crowd —

By calling them “crowd”, you presumably want to compare them with the (uninformed) “anti-vaccine crowd” (another term used by TWiV) or the “climate-change-denier-crowd” or such. But it doesn’t work. There are many renowned and accepted scientists, nobel-laureates and such, in the crowd and indeed most non-flu experts are reportedly against those GOF-experiments.

Steve writes:

Hi TWiVareae,

Just a very brief observation:  I admit that I’ve not read the novel itself, but in various film adaptations of the Frankenstein story, the creature ends up sailing northwards into the icy wastes.

In some of the ‘return of’ derivative films, the ‘monster’ is retrieved from a block of ice.

This would make ‘Frankenvirus’ quite an apt name, except it’s not made of lots of spare parts, as far as I know.

All the best,




Where it is grey and overcast after a wet night.

sj writes:

Hello Twiv team!

Just a quick note: a physician asked me recently whether or not HPV testing was available for a male patient of his. Turns out that the only two options (at least as far as our reference lab, which is a major national chain, is concerned) include rectal/genital biopsies with a DNA probe/in situ hybridization, and a rectal swab for nucleic acid amplification method. Unfortunately, this isn’t super useful for determining whether or not a heterosexual male is likely to infect a female partner, unless there is already obvious evidence of HPV in the genitals. Kudos to our patient for wanting to be responsible, unfortunately not a practical option at this time.

This in response to your Emailer who asked why men aren’t screened for HPV.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

Wink writes:

I have a large HIV practice. My patients’ biggest problem from HPV is anal cancer. I offer a yearly anal Pap smear and have found many carcinoma-in-situ, an easy stage to cure. I also offer HPV vaccine under the age of 26. Thought you might be interested.

Wink Weinberg, MD



Nate writes:

Howdy doctors

Love the podcast.  I came across this recently and thought I might pass it along.

Additionally, an idea for those who successfully determine the case study of the week I know that I would love a magnet or something similar that said “this case is parasitic”.  Just a thought and I hope that this email finds you well.



Anthony writes:

Dengue Fever live this Sunday [Sept. 20, 2015] 5-7pm ET on Gaylord Fields’ show! Now a decade-plus group keeping true to their origin as Southern California’s premier ’60s-Cambodian-rock-influenced band, they have further integrated their varied and sympathetic musical stylings into their already potent musical mix of Khmer-language pop — as vocalized by the incomparable Chhom Nimol — with psychedelia, surf rock, and now a wider palette of pan-Afro-Caribbean-Asian influences, just for starters!


Robert writes:

Greetings TWIV team. It’s a beautiful day in the Chicago suburbs today after a line of storms came through overnight.  73°, 68% humidity, and breezy.

In a recent episode you were discussing a novel metagenomics application; unfortunately at this point I can’t remember which one it was since I was driving in my car at the time. Anyway, I wanted to bring your attention to a really cool application of bioinformatics used to find a novel phage. Here is the paper:

I’ll try to summarize the story here. The data set in question contains fecal samples from twelve individuals from four unrelated families, each of which is a mother and a pair of twin daughters. The samples were sequenced with Illumina technology. The twelve combined samples were cross-assembled into a single set of 7584 contigs.

The researchers examined the correlation of depth profiles across these contigs, and reasoned that the correlated contigs corresponded to a single organism. They created an assembly for this organism that turned out to be a novel 97KB phage that was then validated via standard sequencing techniques. Searches of the phage sequence in the metagenomics samples in the standard databases found numerous hits to human gut metagenomes and few hits to other metagenomes.


Anthony copied TWiV on this email to Harmit Malik:

Through the great opportunity of Dr. Racaniello’s TWIV, I was able to hear your talk on that Podcast. TWiV 205 Harmit Malik

One of the innovations in the original IBM PC was the open slot – both in terms of architecture and physical access.  My understanding is that IBM implemented this design because they were well aware that as a large company they were beset by inertia.  There were all sorts of applications for a personal computer that they might never become aware of or just not ever get around to developing.  Also, I believe that it was estimated at the time that for IBM the internal cost of the paperwork alone to authorize a new product was one million dollars.  Making a million dollars would be a dream come true for some guy in a garage, but a debacle for IBM.

What I’m getting at is that I’m wondering if through horizontal transfer, do “higher” organisms in effect similarly informally outsource research and development?  If so, then virus infection is an engine of evolution like sexual reproduction.

Just a thought from the sidelines!

Thank you.

Dennis writes:

Hi Doc,

This article says that a new robot kills Ebola, if so probably any virus.  I hadn’t heard of this.  I wonder if the media got this right, supposedly 250 deployed nationwide in the UK? (DailyMail).

If so, wouldn’t this work for bacteria too?  Doc Michael might have heard of this in his fomites work (autocorrect wanted to insert “vomits” haha).  Btw I’ve had the hardest time incorporating the word fomite into my dictionary.  Anyway, thought this interesting.



Anne writes:

Maybe this isn’t an area of concern for your podcast, but I know you (and likely Alan Dove) have an opinion on it.  At the least, I think you and your team should be aware of this.  So don’t feel obligated to include it in the podcast, if it doesn’t fit in.

I’m willing to bet that any support the concerned scientific community can show Kevin Folta, and dissemination of this information, would be appreciated.  He goes out of his way to respectfully debate the issue of GMOs and is getting lies written about him by the anti-GMO crowd.

I find this both frustrating and annoying, that anyone with access to the Internet can publish this kind of stuff.  When will it stop?

Kind regards,

Addendum:  if you can’t talk about this on the show, can you at least spare a science podcast/blog bump to Kevin Folta? – he has a blog called “Illuminations” (<>), and his podcast (which I find absolutely fascinating) is called “Talking Biotech” (<>)

Jacob writes:

Hi all,

A new part of the “Australian Rabbits” arc is about to emerge. To combat the resistance of our wild rabbit population to the currently circulating strain of rabbit calicivirus (rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, RHDV) a new strain of calici  (RHDV K5) is being released.

The current vaccine strain for domestic and food rabbits is effective against this new strain, but immunity from the currently circulating strain is not protective.

All this talk of rabbits reminded me of a TV ad from a few years ago that is relevant and funny which I’ll submit as a listener pick. The article I link to has the video embedded but also has some (short) discussion on the origins of calicivirus.



Sydney, Australia (20°C and sunny)

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