Ben writes:

Dear Twimers,

I really enjoyed the snippet on TWiM 171 in which you discussed the mycobiome of stingless bees. It came only days after I read this report which suggests that the agricultural use of fungicides is among the leading causes of declining bumble bee numbers.

Mycologist Paul Stamets is using his observations of bees feeding on mycelium to developing fungal treatments that might help the bees survive some of the current pressures that they are under.

Given that bees evolved in forest environments and often make their nests in tree hollows where fungal species that grow on wood would also be present it make sense that they have developed intimate associations with specific fungi.

I think the fungal parasites that frequently infect insects, as discussed by Raymond St. Leger on that other ASM podcast, may also create a selection pressure for the bees to associated with beneficial fungi as a way to keep the pathogenic kind at bay.

I look forward to hearing more about bee fungi interactions,

Kind regards

Shishir writes:

Hi to all the TWIM presenters.

I enjoy the twim immensely and use the information in my teaching activities.

The discussion on  food washing was interesting as were other topics. This reminded me of one of our studies on coriander (cilantro) where we detected Salmonella and Shigella in unwashed specimens. The paper is under publication in BMC Research notes, soon to see the daylight.

The advantages of nano particles as vaccine vector will be an enormous boost to vaccination programs in countries like Nepal. We eagerly look forward to the development.

Keep the good things coming.

Shishir Gokhale

Dr S Gokhale, MBBS, MD

Prof and Head, Microbiology

Director, Basic Sciences

Manipal College of Medical Sciences

Pokhara, Nepal

Neeraj writes:

Dear Twimmers,

This is Neeraj, a long term listener of TwiM but first time emailer (have been more active on TwiP and TwiV, as far as writing to them is concerned). I just listened to the enlightened discussion on Flu vaccine, that you folks had on TwiM170. After hearing it, I too resonate Elio’s disappointment at the fact that even after years of toiling, we still don’t have a long lasting and effective universal vaccine against Flu. This year has been particularly bad and I have some close friends who have been really hit hard by it, which is quite sad. But even after reading about the recent developments and really novel approaches taken to make a more robust and broadly protective vaccine, it’s somewhat frustrating to note how poorly protective at times these vaccines are. I do realize that it isn’t a trivial problem to overcome, but given the experience and expertise and technical advancements, the scientist in me thinks that I am sure we can do better than what we have. And in this regard its absolutely great to listen to what’s being done in the field through the scrutiny of TwiM. Thus in addition to the paper discussed about the nanoparticle based flu vaccine, there is another study that recently caught my attention, which I am sharing in the link below (maybe you have already seen this too):

So unlike the story that was discussed circling around generation of nanoparticle based flu vaccine, the authors of this study did site directed mutagenesis to generate flu strains which are inept at suppressing interferon production, thereby helping in mounting an efficacious immune response. And in doing so, they have utilized all the knowledge we have gathered over the years in understanding the mutation landscape that the Flu virus scans to overcome immune surveillance in vivo. Although these studies are important and provide novel insights academically, often times the method of generation for them can be highly tedious and practically non-scalable. And this is something (being part of a vaccine development company), we constantly worry about. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to put a dampener on these efforts but just point out the reality and manufacturability of products, which takes a whole new dimension once you start engaging with it. Personally, I hope sometime in the near future we will be able to generate, if not one, then maybe a concoction of these vaccines that could help generate broadly neutralizing antibody.

In the end (even though I am obviously biased), I think vaccines are the most natural way to boost our immunity and confer protection. And being an eternal optimist, I am confident that similar to many challenges that the human race has endeared, Flu shall be conquered too. So with that,  

Here’s wishing everyone a fun weekend ahead (and hopefully the markets will settle down a bit too),

Stay warm and drink “Cold” beer,




Neeraj Kapoor, Ph.D.

Scientist II at SutroVax, Inc.

Anthony writes:

Was the Black Death caused by a virus?

This also argues against the spread by rats.  Quote by Lederberg at the end.


Jerry writes:

Greetings from Philadelphia!

i have been listening to TWiP for a couple years, and recently been lured over to twim.

last weeks show finally convinced me that i need to write in  first off, the snipet was interesting to me because i briefly worked on Co containing enzyme (dopamine beta hytroxylase).  Also I have a family connection to toxicology so the idea that an element that is both essential and toxic is fascinating to me.  But the main paper on extremophiles living in the arctic is what really stimulated the imagination.

I love it when different experiences overlap each other.  here is another example. yesterday i listened to a Ted talk by Karen Lloyd about microbes that live in the muck that is at the bottom of the ocean.  in her talk, she talked about the different energy requirements and multiplication rates of those organisms especially compared to ‘normal’ microbes that live on our planets surface.  You raised a similar point while talking about how the organisms seem to be spending all their energy just surviving and not multiplying. Dr. Lloyds view is that with such a small amount of energy available to these organisms they grow on a much slower (and longer) timescale.  where surface organisms need to grow relatively super fast to out compete their neighbors for energy, these organisms simply grow on a longer timescale since there is less energy to go around. Amazing food for thought. You should look at some of her papers too!

this might be a good companion paper,

I am a lapsed bench scientist.  While I no longer do basic science for a living, thanks to an amazing group of teachers in my academic career I still think like a scientist.  Thanks for a chance to once again have a journal club.

If you are giving a book away please enter me in the contest, I will enjoy the chance of winning.  But if I am lucky enough to actually win a book, please sent it to another deserving winner. All I need is bragging rights.


Jerry Salem


Jerry Salem, Ph.D.

Sandi writes:

Hello! I recently started listening to the TWiM podcast and am now obsessed. I don’t have a background in microbiology; I didn’t find out until about a year ago that it was my long lost love. Better late than never!

I’m wondering what you fine crew can tell me about Ethanoligenens harbinense, which, according to a recent gut sequencing test from the company Viome, is the most abundant bacterium taking up real estate in my gut microbiome. (See attached list of all my wily microbes if you’d like). Any idea where it may have come from? I can’t find much information on his guy on the internets. Any input greatly appreciated!



Chandler, AZ