Anthony writes:

For well over 100 years, microcephaly in South Asia has been more frequent than elsewhere.  Though often thought to be caused by abuse, investigation has not shown that to be so.  A genetic cause is often mentioned.  Might microcephaly in South Asia actually be due to a virus?

Take Aim at West NileJosephine writes:

Dear Twivologists,

First a huge thanks for this and all the TWIX podcasts.  I am looking forward to more of the latest in the TWIX family of podcasts.  I am usually one of those listeners who rarely, if ever, steps out of the background. I have listened to every single podcast of the TWIX family (some more than once) and also to Urban Agriculture.  They are superb.

My new year’s resolution was to send in a letter to TWIV to express my appreciation for your efforts.  You have provided me with many hours of enjoyable learning – like having my own personal portable journal club.

I thought you might enjoy a painting my husband, George Kush, did a number of years ago as West Nile virus was spreading across North America.  Usually the subject matter of his art is western Canadian frontier, American Civil War and American Indian War periods.  On this occasion he strayed from these themes and touched on a bit of virology.

Best regards,


Fernando writes:

Hi TWiVases,

I found your discussion of the JNK paper fascinating. But even with the excellent additional details that Kathy (thanks, Kathy!) got from the lead author, it was really hard to keep track of the various constituents of the relevant pathways, and their positive (activation) and negative (inhibition) relationships. I’ve struggled with this with other papers you discussed before. I wonder if it would be possible for the team to just sketch a drawing with the names/abbreviations for the various pathway elements and arrows (marked with + for activation and – for inhibition) linking them appropriately, scan it and add it to the show notes. I suspect it would not be so difficult to do while reading the source paper and preparing notes for the show, but unfortunately this paper is not open access so I can’t try to do this myself.


— F

PS1. Regarding the text mining letter and your question about PLOS’s text mining policies, see this I quote “Furthermore, PLOS is one of few publishers who enable and encourage text mining research by providing an open API to mine our journal content.”
PS2. Kathy, thanks for the Google Ngram Viewer! Some of its advanced features were developed by my team at Google. In particular, you can try queries like “*_ADJ virus” or “virus *_NOUN” to get relative frequencies for different ways “virus” is described/qualified in the corpus.

@MatthewLalonde on twitter:

TWiV 370 gives a great, albeit incidental explanation for passive voice in scientific writing #anthropomorphizing

@aolsz on twitter:

Access is not just a convenience or courtesy, it is essential. Without access, it’s not science, it’s authority.

Matt Frieman writes:

I sent Lipsitch the link to the TWIV with Ralph and Vineet after his comments on not understanding how it was approved during his NSABB presentation.  After several back and forth tweets his response is great.

“…Will listen despite not enjoying the ad hominem style…”

Rohit writes:

Dear TWIVaholics,

Wish you a very happy 2016!

In TWIV #365, at t = 56:25 min, during introduction to the “Origins of Hepatitis A virus paper”, Vincent said “This is about Hepatitis A virus, which, of course. we have talked about because, as Kathy mentioned, it has a miR-121 target sequence in the 5’-noncoding region. It’s a cellular microRNA, a liver-specific microRNA, that’s required for its replication.” Given that I did my PhD with Stan Lemon and my PhD dissertation was focussed exactly on this topic, it is incumbent on me to point out and correct multiple, (unintentional) errors in the above statement.

First, the liver-specific microRNA in question is miR-122 and not miR-121. Second, miR-122 is required for replication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and not hepatitis A virus (HAV). We looked for miR-122 target site in hepatitis A virus genome, but did not find any. Third, HCV genome has two, not one, miR-122-binding sites in its 5’-noncoding region.

Listeners can find more on HCV-miR-122 relationship in TWIV #180 and 324.

Thank you so much for providing great scientific material in TWIV, TWIM and TWIP. These podcasts help me learn beyond what I would, otherwise and gives me company during my experiments and tissue culture.


Rohit Jangra

Postdoc Fellow, Kartik Chandran’s Lab

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx NY

Theodosia writes:

re: ebook readers

Same here, Rich. Being able to know how far I was through the book was something I missed when I first switched to ebooks. You may want to check out Google Play Books and iBooks if you don’t mind buying your books elsewhere. Both of them come with an indicator at the bottom that tells you just that. I like Google Play Books because it is cross platform (also accessible through web browser).


Frankfurt, Germany

P.S. keep up the good work, TWiVers!

Adam writes:

Dear Masters of the TWIXiverse,

Long time listener, first time emailer.  I know TWIV gets its fair share of adoring fans so I’ll keep the praise to a minimum.  Needless to say I love your show.  It hits that sweet spot of being accessible to someone who is not an expert in biology, yet still intellectually challenging to the casual science enthusiast.

I ran across an article in the New Yorker this week that I thought might make a decent Pick of the Week.  Michael Specter talks about the evolving world of CRISPR techniques, who is involved, and the public’s ethical concerns.  I know 95% of this material has been covered on the program before, but it looks like a good introduction to this exciting technology.  Radiolab also had a recent segment on CRISPR but I can’t recall if it was shared on TWIV already.

Your Halloween show also reminded me that I have a very elaborate virology/parasite joke.  Here’s the abbreviated version:

Q:  Why did Bruce Wayne throw a party at the Hoover Dam?

A:  He heard bats were great reservoir hosts.

It’s 14C in Peoria Illinois after two dreary days of 40 mph winds and 2 inches of rain.

Keep up the great work!

Ramon writes:

Dear professors. Recently I´ve send a link as Pick of the week ( that brings you some trouble (that I apologized for).

This is a complete image of The Milky Way from Atacama’st desert. It has been created by assembling 268 images taken in the last 5 years (by astronomers of Ruhr University, Germany) in a 194 Gigabyte file. As you have explained, you can move, scroll, zoom in any part. I also miss some instructions…

Ramón Canet, MD

Ibiza, Spain

” Let´s be careful out there” (Hill street Blues- Phil Esterhaus)

Andre writes:

Hi Vincent,

I’m a final year PhD student in Michael Linden and Els Henckaerts lab in London and work on gene therapy with AAV vectors. I only recently discovered your amazing TWiV podcast and now listen to it every week. Thank you very much for doing it! I was wondering if you would have recommendations of similar podcasts on neuroscience?

Keep up the good work!


Justin writes:

Since Vincent loves open source: American Chemical Society Dives Deeper Into Open Access With The Debut of ACS Omega | Chemical & Engineering News

Chaim writes:

Hi Professor Racaniello,

I had a dream last week that you had won the Nobel Prize and I had to explain to everyone I know that your name is pronounced to rhyme with “black-and-yellow.”

Happy TWIVing!

Karen writes:

Dear esteemed TWiV team,

After listening to a recent podcast, episode 368, I felt compelled to write in with a few comments and corrections. Here in SE Pennsylvania it finally feels like winter with a temperature this evening of 16 F (-8 C) with gusty winds. Brrr!

I am a pediatric infectious disease specialist so the subject of immunizations always gets my attention. In episode 368 in response to a listener email, you briefly discussed hepatitis B vaccine. Allow me to clarify a few points. Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants, children and adolescents through 18 years of age. Ideally, the three dose series is begun at birth with subsequent doses given between 1-2 and 6-18 months of age. Most pediatricians follow this schedule. (Incidentally, pediatricians provide care for infants in the newborn nursery not obstetricians.) Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is a marker of acute or chronic infection due to hepatitis B. It is also detectable in those who have been immunized, but only for up to one month following receipt of the vaccine. Antibody to HBsAg (Anti-HBs) is a serologic marker of immunity after immunization or resolved infection. Infants born to HBsAg positive mothers should receive hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) within 12 hours of birth, those born to HBsAg negative mothers may receive hepatitis B vaccine prior to discharge from the hospital.

On the subject of newborn care, the eye ointment given to all newborns, fondly referred to as “eye goop” by pediatric residents manning the newborn nursery, prevents neonatal ophthalmia caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, not syphilis infection.

I’d love to hear the TWiV team’s thoughts on the use of rapid identification PCR panels in clinical settings. My hospital recently began using a GI PCR panel which identifies a number of bacteria, viruses and parasites from stool samples. On the one hand it’s gratifying to know what’s causing a kid’s diarrhea but on the other hand, I now find myself having to spend a good deal of time interpreting the test results for other practitioners. For instance, we just had a 2 year old who returned from a trip to SE Asia and tested positive for 2 viruses (astrovirus and sapovirus) and 3 bacteria (enteroaggregative E. coli, enteropathogenic E. coli and Campylobacter)! Treatment is recommended for only 1 of the 5 (Campylobacter) although any one of them (or all of them!) might be the cause of his symptoms. Maybe it’s a case of more information not necessarily being a good thing? It will be interesting to look at our data and see if there are any demographic or seasonal trends and it is useful for infection control purposes but beyond that, I’m a bit skeptical.

I also listen to TWiM and TWiP and greatly enjoy all three podcasts. I have recommended them to many colleagues, trainees and students, keep up the great work! Here’s a suggestion. Maybe you should consider adding a clinician to the discussions on TWiM and TWiV as you’ve done for TWiP with Daniel Griffin. Clinical case scenarios really help bring the bench and bedside closer together. Clinicians have a lot to offer, especially us infectious disease docs!

Thanks again for the great discussions, keep those podcasts coming,


Keith writes:

Dear esteemed doctors,

I want to add a little something in regards to your discretion regarding hepatitis B vaccine at birth.  The push for the Hep B vaccine at birth is correlated with the effect of hepatitis B on an neonate versus an adult. I had researched several years back and my understanding is a essentially about  5% of adults progress to develop chronic infection whereas in neonate the number is about 90%. A much smaller but real number will go on to develop occasionally fulminant, hepatitis and some  progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

The easiest way to prevent hepatitis B in the newborn is vaccine starting at birth.  If we know for a fact that the mother is hepatitis B free and immune then I believe a very reasonable  argument could be made for delaying vaccine initiation.  I think the value of an excellent physician is that they individualize the care as it applies to your particular situation and don’t apply some sort of broad safe brush that works well for the population as a whole but perhaps not for you.

A quick excerpt I plucked From Up To Date:

The infection rate among exposed infants with infected mothers who do not receive any form of prophylaxis is as high as 90 percent. Clinical manifestations and course — Newborn infants with HBV infection rarely show clinical or biochemical signs of disease at birth. Affected newborns remain asymptomatic, and develop chronic antigenemia with mild and often persistent liver enzyme elevations beginning at two to six months of age (immune tolerant phase).

Prevention — Universal hepatitis B virus immunization is recommended for all infants. The optimal intervals and need for HBIG are determined by the mother’s HBsAg status and the infant’s birth weight.

Management — There is no specific therapy for infants with acute HBV infection, since antiviral therapies have not been tested in this age group. In the rare infant with fulminant hepatitis B, off-label use of these compounds (nucleoside analogs) may be considered.

I love your shows, especially TWIP with the case studies. Thank you so much.

Kevin writes:

Dear TWiVisphere,

I’m a relatively new listener, having only been listening for about a year now, but I noticed that you regularly discuss how to best convince people to vaccinate. In addition to TWiV, I also entertain myself with late night comedy, and I notice that John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” uses a comedic platform to bring serious issues to a large number of viewers. Perhaps if the scientific community pushed television shows to normalize the idea of vaccination (Grey’s Anatomy and House M.D. come to mind), a large group of the American population might be more amenable to vaccines.

Here’s my listener pick, with Oliver discussing poor regulation of nutritional supplements:

It’s 2°C in New York, but of course you already knew that. Stay warm!



Jim writes:

Episode 836 at this link is an hour-long video with nice graphics and lots of Q/A.  Previously I’ve only seen brief descriptions and single photos of various accelerator facilities.  This is the first time I’ve seen an in-depth visit.  Dunno where it might fit as a suggestion in one of your podcasts, but wanted to point it out in case it’s of interest.

Happy New Year, too!



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