Anthony writes:

When I was looking for Fenner’s papers Online, I could not find any.  As luck would have it, someone soon after handed me a copy of the 1957 – 1958 Harvey lectures — one by Frank Fenner.  I put a PDF here:

I believe that the text answers Dr. Despommier’s question about mosquitoes in Australia.

BTW, the Australian government was planning to use the Tilapia virus studied by Dr. Lipkin to exterminate that invasive species.  I don’t know the status of that project.

Thank you.

Pete writes:

hi, lot to do so keeping this terse.

All of the hosts in 457 were pretty dismissive of labeling GMOs for consumers. Alan Dove even said (regarding salmon) it’s just economic motivation. But that is a very valid reason. If I work in the fishing industry, I should have the ability to boycott the GMO fish, and encourage others to do so.

I avoid GMO grains, not out of health concerns, but because I am opposed to enriching Monsanto, the farming practices their GMO products encourage, and the very idea of patenting genes. Can’t do that without labeling.

Same argument for milk; I care about the lives the cows lead, and I believe “organic” cows are treated more humanely. (They are tastier too)

Finally, a group of PHds saying the public should not be informed (don’t worry your pretty little heads) is bad optics. Saying you shouldn’t know just makes people suspicious, or angry.

Note to Alan about bio-terrorism:: How about these scenarios (and if you do think they are credible threats don’t read them on the air)

  1. Cross country trip visiting farms, and spreading hoof & mouth disease – the outbreak in Britain had a severe economic effect
  2. Might as well spread some bot flies while you’re there
  3. Release a box of Med flies in CA orchard country

Listener pick: Change Agent, by David Suarez. The projection of gene editing tech into the near future is very interesting. Especially the first chapter, where prospective parents worry that having un-edited progeny will leave them disadvantaged compared to modified peers. It gets pretty fantastic, but not more fantastic then the concept of editing genes was 40 years ago. I liked the discussion of caterpillars changing into butterflies. It’s also a great read. And to loop back to GMO food, Silicon Valley has moved to Singapore because of the anti-GMO climate in the U.S.

Thanks for all you do, and Dickson is awesome! Whether you’re nice to him or not.



Mark writes:

The TWIV Team

Reference: TWiV 457: The Red Queen meets the White Rabbit

Dear Team,

I am a long time listener and sincerely enjoy your show, everyone in it and am always fascinated by the topics you cover.

Just a thought on the naming of Myxoma Virus. I have (in my youth) shot (culled) rabbits for my brother-in-law on his property in Central Queensland. The Tumor like protuberances do look very ugly (bad, severe) and although I had an interest at the time I didn’t actually touch the lesions; however, (to my untrained eye) they did seem to be exuding a mucous like substance. I’m not sure if it was a mucous or perhaps pus?

The reason for my letter. I would like to ask for your advice (perhaps help) in regard to the Reference. Being an Australian citizen, I have been encouraged by your recent show, to write a letter to my Parliamentary Representative, in regard to the ‘fudging’ of the data, methods and outcomes of the joint Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; and the Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 paper entitled: “ Next step in the ongoing arms race between myxoma virus and wild rabbits in Australia is a novel disease phenotype”.

The problem I forsee is that once I pose a question, if it is not ‘framed’ in an exact and precise way, there will be answers given that will try to obfuscate the true intent of the question/s.

Just as a bit of background, here in Australia, (and I’m sure in America as well, of course); we have a way of addressing concerns through our nominated representatives. In my case I would write a letter of concern to my local Member of Parliament (MP) and he/she would in turn raise my concerns in Parliament on my behalf. Here in the problem lies. Being a layperson, and from seeing how these things go (we have live broadcasts of parliamentary sittings in Australia) in Parliamentary ‘Question Times’; if the questions are not framed ‘precisely so’ they will be ‘fobbed off’; ‘glanced over’ or as I said obfuscated by use of terminology and guile (I’m sure you get my drift). At the very least they will have to forward my concerns to the relevant agencies/people and they will have to address my concerns to my satisfaction (not a very accurate standard if I phrase the questions myself – ‘joke’).

I was hoping that someone on the team might make a dot point for me, of questions that I could ask (via my local MP) phrased in such a way as to give no ‘wiggle room’ for ‘interpretation’, thus; hopefully getting an accurate answer addressing my (our) concerns on such things as:

  • why weren’t wild rabbits used?
  • What was the thinking behind the press release, statements and conclusions,
  • who approved the release and why ?
  • pointing out (as was mentioned on your show) with the way science is under threat from all sides, did they decide to overstate the results and conclusions of the paper?
  • can the Australian Parliament please update the Australian people on the situation in regard to the Calicivirus in Australia and/or any other countries we are studying the virus in or on behalf of?
  • any other relevant points that need to be clarified in regard to this situation.

I know you will all be extremely busy and normally I wouldn’t be bothered to pursue this sort of thing, however; I listen to and read a lot of science articles and there is a point when you feel like you have to help? take a stand? and this is as good a ground to stand on, as any. I also acknowledge that it will take us both a considerable amount of time to form such a letter; I would have to do a lot of research on the actual topic (and still not be able to ask the ‘right questions’ perhaps) and research into how I go about representing myself (with the questions) with regard to channels, standard/s of assuredness (in regards to the answers I am given) and the course for redress if I am unhappy with the answers I am given.

So, even better than a dot point, maybe a form letter that I could circulate to my friends, that they could in turn send to their Local and Federal MP’s asking these sorts of questions (that would in turn make sure all the sightings and credits were correct) and allow for larger ‘representation of concerns’, thereby, making the chances of it being addressed in question time even better (as I said, broadcast to thousands of Australians live).

It’s funny, I started this letter full of “Fire and Brimstone”; but now I’m nearly finished I’m wondering if I’m just wasting everyone’s time. I know you’re busy…Is this the right fight…etc, etc. Anyway, please let me know what you think.

Sincerely and with warm regards,


Victoria, Australia

Paul writes:

Dear TWiVians

Firstly, my apologies for writing twice in one week! A result of missing your podcast last week and listening to them both this week.

I am writing with a listener’s pick that relates to your rabbit plague – myxomatosis story that you covered in episode 457. It refers to a little known (at least outside Australia – come to think of it, maybe somewhat unknown here as well), late 19th century story of the rabbit plague and our first attempts at biological control, some 70-80 years before the myxoma virus trials. It is all laid out in a swash-buckling story in the book “Pasteur’s Gambit”. You can still purchase this great piece of history through Amazon. I thoroughly recommend it.

It’s a story that involves Pasteur himself and a million dollar prize, his nephew Adrien Loir, their rivalry with Robert Koch and the scientific biases that came with that, corruption at high levels, a romantic fling with a beautiful actress, Sarah Bernhardt who was visiting Sydney at the time of the story, political intrigue and surprisingly, the first introduction into Australia of the process for making Belgian style lager! I won’t ruin it for the potential reader by spelling out all the details, but it is truly an amazing story and one that would stretch belief as a fictional movie, if it wasn’t all true!

It also recounts the establishment of a Pasteur Institute on an island in Sydney Harbour (Rodd Island) – several years before the Paris Institute itself was built. So the first Pasteur Institute in the world was actually established in Australia, although it only lasted for around 11 years. Most of my Pasteur colleagues still don’t believe me when I tell them this story!

An abbreviated version of the story was published in Australian Heritageattached for your interest and a brief taste. But I would strongly recommend reading the book as well.

It’s still sunny out there this morning in Brisbane – temperature heading for about 25degC.

Best regards

Paul writes:

To the TWIVoli Gardens:

Thanks, as always for the spectacularly informative content.

“Explicit [organ donation] opt-out laws have long been among the major interventions in countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. …Countries with opt-out laws have rates 25 to 30% higher than those in countries requiring explicit consent. However, presumed consent appears to be only one of several influential factors.”

However, the Spanish organization credited with bringing that country to a world record organ donation rate over 40 donors per million (50% above the US rate and nearly double the average EU rate) attribute most of their success to a complex of personnel, policies and procedures within the tertiary care infrastructure, not opt-out:

2017 American Journal of Transplantation Article

2015 Newsweek Article

On the role of Spain’s transplant law, which presumes consent unless otherwise stated, [Dr. Rafael] Matesanz is … dismissive, …. “What we have brought to this area is organisation. Following a philosophy that states that donors do not simply fall from the heavens, we have provided organisation and professionalisation.”’

More importantly, these lifesaving efforts still leave us far behind the need for lifesaving organs.

The US organ donation list (for lifesaving transplants) runs about 117,000 (360 people per million population). UNOS Data The list grows by about 140 people per day. About 95 transplants are performed while every day 20 people per day on the list die without a transplant.

The need for lifesaving organs will outstrip supply under any and all conditions.

Sign up to be an organ donor—save up to 8 lives with your decision; but do not stop pursuit of artificial and allograft technologies to save even more lives.

18 rainy “C”-grees  in Philadelphia.  Not the nicest day of summer.

Thank you.

From @virusninja (Ben TenOever):

@Profvrr Recent papers showing lack of evidence for RNAi in mammals -Relevant to #TWiV 450 … &

Paul writes:

Dear Twivians

Thank you, as always, for the wonderful TWiV podcasts that I listen to on my way to and from work – informative and fun. Just like the old tea room discussions that I remember from my earlier post-doc and junior faculty days. They don’t happen as much anymore as everyone now seems almost permanently hunched over either their benches or computers – SAD.

I wanted to add to comments Vincent made about his encounter with shingles. Like you, I didn’t get the “old man” vaccine but got classic shingles instead a few years ago. A vesicular rash spreading across my back, following the relevant dermatome. But unlike you I did something about it – I got my wife to photograph the vesicular spread and have shown that picture to my med students in subsequent classes when we talk about herpes viruses – no better exemplar than a personal one.

There must have been something about that year because I also got an eye infection that was clearly not bacterial. I went to my GP who diagnosed a likely viral infection but wasn’t sure which one. I was reassured that there was not much that could be done and it would resolve. But when I got back to the lab, I swabbed it and sequenced it. When I went back to the GP for a follow-up visit I was able to advise him that it was an Ad5 infection 🙂

Guess what? I got my wife to photograph that as well – and it features in my “Pathogenesis of viral infections” lecture to the medicos.

I have to say, I do limit my personal demonstrations to naturally acquired infections.

We have just hit spring in Brisbane and it’s going to be fine and 32degC today – definitely short sleeves finally.



Professor Paul R Young | Head of School |

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (SCMB) | The University of Queensland | Brisbane | Queensland | Australia |

Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre (AID) | The University of Queensland | Brisbane | Queensland | Australia |

Maureen writes:

In this anti-science atmosphere, there is an important series which I recommend you binge on and promote to keep our scientists involved and funded. The series is “First In Human”, a Discovery Channel program which follows four patients who have no hope and are given the first trials of never before tried treatment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The series is stunning and riveting and highlights the need for continued basic and bedside treatment for those least fortunate in health. You will not be able to turn it off. I am a Clinical Research Nurse who cares for these patients at NIH/NIAID and works with these doctors and sees the day to day successes and failures. It is heartbreaking when we fail but overwhelming when we succeed and send these patients back to a real life. The series can be gotten on-demand or the 6 hours can be purchased at Amazon for $6 and better spent money than on any 2-hour movie.

Discovery Documentary First in Human

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment on “TWiV 458 letters

  1. Chris Sep 14, 2017

    This is in response to Pete’s email regarding the discussion of labeling GMOs. I am proud to say that I am a listerner from the very first episode of TWIV and try to catch every episode of all the TWIV, TWIM and TWIP podcasts. Thank you all for your work on this informative and often entertaining program that is doing so much to make lifescience and infectious disease information available to all. It is with heavy heart that I have to disagree with the opinions of the hosts expressed in this podcast. I strongly believe that GMO labeling is important and necessary for individuals to make informed choices on the foods they buy and consume. I am not against the technology of GMOs, however, there are risks associated with this technology. One concern is the origin of the gene that is transposed into the target organism. If the gene is for a protein such as a nut and it is placed in a fruit to help extend shelf life, there is a potential that a person with nut allergies may have a reaction if they unknowingly consume a GMO fruit with a nut gene. The inserted gene is often coupled with an antibiotic resistant gene to help the selection process on which plants have aquired the gene, which could create problems for those sensitive to that antibiotic. There is also the very real problem of pesticide residues and the unfortunate reality that the most common GMO crop contains a gene to make it pesticide resistant. Glyphosate and the various formulations have been advertised as safe, however, recent studies have disputed that claim (article below). Glyphosate is not just use on GMO crops (most of which are for livestock), it is also used as a preharvest desiccant for many human consumed crops, and residue levels have been detected in many foods. Since labeling requirements are not required for pesticide use in conventional crops, it is difficult for the consumer to avoid products that might have pesticide residues. One can always choose to buy organic, however, that is not always available or affordable in many communities. Labeling of GMOs could make customers aware that the product might have an allergy triggering gene or have been exposed to high doses of systemic herbicide, more that just a pre-harvest dose. It is important to give consumers an informed choice and labeling is one effective tool to accomplish that goal. Thank you again for all you do. Please do not consider this hate mail, since I love all the podcast, I just strongly disagree with the hosts opinion on this subject.

    Aloha (yes, I’m in Hawaii.. a state with the largest production of GMO corn, sigh),

    Vandenberg, L. N., Blumberg, B., Antoniou, M. N., Benbrook, C. M., Carroll, L., Colborn, T., … Myers, J. P. (2017). Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 71(6), 613–618.