Chaim writes:

Brand new paper on SARS-CoV2 evolution:

Please and thanks 🙂


Anthony writes:

SARS CoV 2 has achieved the virus version of the American Dream — ease of human-to-human transmission (requiring no intimate or even direct contact), a/pre symptomatic carriers and the hosts most likely to die are those less/least likely to reproduce / less/least fit.  The last feature for most of human history would have been inconsequential to populations, if not beneficial at that level.   

As a speculation, SARS CoV 2 is such a perfect fit, I wonder if this is not truly a recently emerging disease.  Analogous to HIV, might it have spilled over to remote populations (perhaps with tigers as an intermediary) long ago?   

I’ve not yet finished listening to TWiEVO 53.  Maybe the answer is there already!


Tia writes:

I’ve loved subbing your TWiEVO podcast for so many reasons, but thought I should share one you might not hear often. 

I teach homeschooled high school students social science, anthropology, and honors biology. I give them bits of your podcasts and bring up episodes in lecture and our seminar-style discussions. What began as me trying to keep up with science news and fill in the many gaps in my own knowledge has really benefited my students.

Besides content and skills, I try to keep a conversation going about science as a “way of knowing” and also a culture. Some of my students have a powerful attraction to science from the “get go,” but others are drawn in when I point out connections to their loves, such as painting, dance, drama, or literature. Several students have become fascinated with viruses, for example, because they started by crafting from paper or air-dry clay trios of enveloped, helical, and polyhedral models. Art can suck them into our shared wonder of how the heck a bit of nucleic acid that does not even have a metabolism can highjack cellular machinery and undergo natural selection.

Anyway, especially for the ones who probably won’t go pre-med or become researchers, we talk a lot about other jobs related to science, from informed portrayals of Neanderthals to cover art on journals. I try to help my students visualize many possible futures for themselves. Yet for some, science can seem like a remote, alien world — certainly not a place they might fit in.

When you two chat about this lab and that, run through genealogies of who taught or worked with whom, contextualize preprints, joke about editors, discuss funding problems, and recall conferences, you are not just making enjoyable conversation on your podcast. You’re painting a vivid picture for non-scientists like me, and for my students, of how modern science works.

As insiders, you might not know how uplifting this is. Getting a glimpse of a world in which meritocracy is so valued is a beautiful antidote to a lot of negative stuff in the world today. When you mention names of every ethnicity and nationality, discuss the work of male and female colleagues with unquestioning equal respect, and otherwise just do your normal thing, it is a balm. 


Nels did not write this.


Alexandria, VA

Randy writes:

A colleague at Biofire said the test just granted through an emergency use authorization takes 45 min, not 30 sec.

Too bad it isn’t just 30 sec.


Joel writes:

Hello Vincent, My name is Joel Mark and I am a huge fan of both TWiV and TWiEVO. Thank you so much for bringing this high level of information to the public.

I was just listening to the TWiEVO55 podcast in which you were saying that there’s no evidence that the virus escaped from the wuhan laboratory.  Instead, you’re more comfortable with the idea that the Wuhan wet market was ground zero.  I believe that so far, there is no sufficient evidence for either the lab nor the wet market as being the origin of the infection.  Although there is good reason to investigate both the lab and the market:

The wet market is a candidate for the origin of the infection because it was selling many different species of live, wild animals some of which could have had the Sars-CoV-2 and it could have jumped to humans.  However, most reports indicate they did not sell the Horseshoe Bat nor the Pangolin which are the two likely host species for Sars-CoV-2 .

The lab is also a candidate for the origin of the infection because it was studying many different species of Coronavirus derived from wild animals. It is possible that someone in the lab accidentally got infected by this novel coronavirus (although labs are skilled in preventing such accidents, they are not perfect).  

I think the origin of this infection remains an open question and that there has been no convincing evidence for either the market nor the lab. Do you think that there is good evidence for the wet market as the origin?  Should we study the lab to see if this could have been the origin of the infection? 

Thanks again for all your good work.. Joel (Santa Monica)

PS There seems to be sufficient evidence that the Sars-CoV-2 is not genetically altered/engineered. 

Ben writes:

Good Afternoon, 

I am a lab technician working for the Department of Defense in Washington, DC, and your content has been keeping me sane.

I will start out with my question: with all of the talk of possible antigenic drift and mutation, does the fact that the spike protein is the only readily available antigen on SARS-CoV2 lessen the likelihood that there will be antigenic drift? The spike glycoprotein is extremely specific in its function and binding to the ACE-2 receptor, and any mutation in this is far more likely to be deleterious than beneficial, since the significant changes in protein conformation needed to prevent antibody binding would likely reduce affinity for the ACE-2 receptor.

I also wanted to make note of an issue I had with the way that Vincent has been arguing against those saying that SARS-CoV2 is mutating to become more virulent or pathogenic. Please let me know if there is something here that is incorrect or that I am misunderstanding. I agree with Vincent’s conclusion that there is no evidence thus far to support the claim that the virus is changing in any biologically or functionally significant way. However, when Vincent says “It’s doing pretty well, so there is no reason for it to change”, he (or depending on who is reading this you) seem to anthropomorphize the virus, and begin to think teleologically about selection. Compared to others, like Measles or Norovirus, SARS-CoV2 is pretty bad at spreading between people. This means that there is plenty of room for increased virulence, which makes Vincent’s argument a bit off target from an evolutionary viewpoint. To be clear, there is no evidence that the viable population of virus has undergone any non-neutral mutations, so the end conclusion Vincent is making is correct, but I think the way he argues towards it does not really hold up. As I said before, please correct me if there is anything here that is not right.

Thank you for everything you do in improving scientific communication, and in making the lives of those of us who don’t have time for the full lit reviews every day much easier.