Richard writes:

Dear Professors,

I am a huge fan of all of your programs, but I have to take exception to a comment you made in last week’s This Week in Microbiology that “medicine is a training program and a PhD is an education”.  My undergraduate degrees were in molecular biology and biochemistry, I then went to medical school and then began a PhD program in molecular biology at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and found that my medical school education was superior to any other teaching I have ever received in any area.  I have done a bit of science on this side during my career as a practicing physician, and science is my religion, philosophy and world view. I live by the principle of falsifiability. Any physician who is worth his salt is at least in part a scientist. Any physician who cannot read a scientific article should not be a physician.  I’ve attached my publications in hope that you think they qualify as science. I am no David Baltimore, but have tried to make a small contribution. I have heard the argument that surgeons are mere mechanics, but the process of operating with my hands was a great joy, and I had the privilege of operating with the great Bill DeVries who put the first artificial heart in a human, and central to this procedure is the underlying science of the clotting of our blood which we have yet to completely figure out.  I have also repeatedly heard the put down that medical school is only rote memorization, but would you not call the first anatomists scientists? You can’t possibly hope to understand processes going on in an environment if you are not even familiar with the landscape.

Incidentally, I find the dissection of scientific papers the best part of your podcasts and would like to hear that on This Week in Parasitism as well.

Many thanks for the great effort you put in to these shows.

Rich Whitten, MD

Andy writes:

I just got around to finishing listening to TWim Episode 209 this morning on my way to work.   I was very gratified to find that fate chose me to win the Spore book. According to Dr. Schmidt, my employer must be one of the “better ones” since we have a library where I will donate the book after I have a go at understanding some of it.  

That was my first time writing and trying to win something.  Maybe this is my reward for catching up on TWiM over the past two years or so.  TWEvo got me into TWiX. I’ve kept up on TWEvo and started at the beginning of both TWiM and TWiP, but was falling further behind current, so I concentrated on TWiM until, I can now (sometimes) eagerly await your next episode.  What about TWiV? I guessed when I started this, that TWiV would be ultimately the most interesting to me, but also the most challenging to grasp. I’m about to start TWiV at the beginning soon. Please pray for me.

I am excited to get a look at the book.  Thanks for that, but especially thanks for the education and entertainment you and your friends have provided me and so many others.   And a big preemptive thanks for all that’s to come!

Ryan writes:

Here is a good read on antibiotic resistance.

There have been talks for years that antibiotics will not work within a few decades though given various studies on certain types of bacteria finding ways to avoid getting killed by antibiotics. 

Shane writes:

Hi TWIM team,

I am an Agricultural scientist and drive a great deal for work.  I look forward to the driving since I began listening to your podcasts.  In particular I love Elio’s turn of phrase.

I do come across glyphosate in my work of course and while I look forward to the day when we can use no toxic herbicide at all, in my opinion it is a less harmful option than many others.   What I believe has changed is the area of roundup ready crops around these days. As you raised on the show, glyphosate has been around much longer than 10 years, however the bees have declined only in the last decade. Roundup ready crops were introduced in 1996 but might have taken a while to reach an area that would have an impact.  

Bees would never normally be exposed to the glyphosate as the sprayed plants die, usually pre flowering, but even if flowering would not produce pollen or nectar for long after being sprayed.   Now however these plants not only not die but go on to flower and produce pollen with glyphosate chemical present.

Glyphosate is also out of patent and very cheap.  If it is banned by public opinion over science as I have seen with other chemicals the farmers will pay much more for likely less effective, likely higher toxicity chemistry.  I have seen this with insecticides. Unfortunately there is a lot of poor science around reasons to ban this chemical, I have seen quite a few times the chart of glyphosate use and autism incidence. There are many other curves that fit this same line.   

On that note I am disappointed with the slow reaction of the medical community to act on episode 131, 193 and 65 which all relate to stomach biomes of mice and how correcting these can reduce autism like symptoms, obesity and social defects.   This ties in quite well with the work of Dr Martin Blaser, “The Missing Microbes”.  

 Do you know if there is much activity in human medical research on the potential impact of  inappropriate antibiotic use, or potential trials of faecal transplant for autism treatment ?

Keep up the great work,

Regards Shane Qld Australia

Alex writes:

Microbial comrades, 

I am rather new to this domain, but I already feel at home. My name is Alex. I am a 16 year-old high school Junior currently taking classes at the University of Georgia. I am double majoring in Genetics and Microbiology. I used to listen to the Nature and Science podcasts, but they rarely, if ever, spoke about the infinitesimally small (stars are cool too I suppose). I typed in Microbiology in my Podcast app and stumbled across you lot. I am very thankful that I did. I listen to TWiM every morning on my commute from my high school to an Infectious Disease lab I intern in.

I am currently working on a theory of mine that the Bordetella Virulence Gene Regulon and its two states are mediated by an auto-inducer peptide quorum sensing-like mechanism. I know I’m still young, but I am eager to follow the paths you four have paved (not so long ago). Thank you for providing me a lens through which I can discover more about my passion each and every morning!