Steve writes:

Hi Vincent and all the Fellowship of the TWiM,

I enjoyed the interesting discussion on persisters this week, and was pleased with the way the team instantly saw the potential for a new antibiotic delivery strategy presenting, with chemicals that ‘wake up’‎ and render detectable, cells in a condition that currently enables them to avoid detection and elimination.

With the antimicrobial resistance‎ thus in mind, I soon came across an interesting piece in ‘The Conversation’, from Andrew Singer, who, with colleagues is trying to encourage the setting up of an international non profit, to ensure the delivery of, currently unprofitable, new antibiotics. Singer et al also have a current Lancet paper that goes into more detail, so I thought it might be an good idea to pass the details to you, to see if you can give him and his idea, a TWiM boost (if you agree it’s a good idea, that is.).

Best wishes,

Steve Hawkins

Luton, England, where it’s wintery dark, but, otherwise, not too bad, at the moment (Though there was flooding in the north of the country last week).


 Our proposals here are focused on developing new broad and longterm approaches to international antibiotic development. The cost of research efforts, the global scale of AMR, and ongoing access issues necessitate an international, integrated, and equitable approach to drug research, ownership, and stewardship. Although a short term intensification of public–private sponsorship is necessary to protect existing investments and prevent a global loss of antibiotic R&D expertise, we believe that public ownership of antibiotic R&D is a more attractive, sustainable, and equitable medium-term to long-term solution to refilling the stalling antibiotic pipeline. Boosting public investment and (inter)nationalising antibiotic development infrastructures will improve health outcomes and maximise the societal yield of spending on antibiotic compounds and expertise. Anti microbials remain essential tools for the functioning of global health care and food production systems. Ensuring that humanity retains access to a sustainable pipeline for new drugs requires us to think beyond conventional models of proprietary development.”

Carol writes:

Plague in China:

As of this posting 2 people are reported to have a plague according to the Washington Post article.

Ryan writes:

Dear Vincent and TWiM crew,

     I’m a recent graduate of the University of Washington’s undergrad microbiology program who got turned onto your TWiP and TWiV podcasts by my parasitology professor (shoutout to Dr. Wood!). I’m just beginning to venture into the TWiM podcast, starting from episode 1 “TWiM #1: Neisseria LINEs up“. I thought it would be interesting to inquire if you are aware of any updates on one of the topics you covered in that episode.

     You spent some time discussing a paper that demonstrated the mechanisms by which Copper acts to kill bacteria. There was some talk that solid copper or alloys applied in hospitals could be a way to reduce the spread of bacteria in hospitals. Are you aware of any progress in applying this possibility? I did some light searching and found a few studies from 2012-2015 on the application of copper in hospitals (see links below), but I know nothing about its more widespread adoption within hospitals.

Sustained Reduction of Microbial Burden on Common Hospital Surfaces through Introduction of Copper, 2012

From Laboratory Research to a Clinical Trial: Copper Alloy Surfaces Kill Bacteria and Reduce Hospital-Acquired Infections, 2015

Antimicrobial copper alloy surfaces are effective against vegetative but not sporulated cells of gram-positive Bacillus subtilis, 2015

     Cliff’s anecdote that the ancient Egyptian’s used to store water from the Nile in copper jars to make it safe to drink was also very interesting. I just applied for a research job in Thailand and wondered whether a copper water bottle would be a viable way to help neutralize some bacteria and help my microbiome adjust to the local residents (I would be loathe to contribute hundreds of plastic bottles over a year living there if I can avoid it). Do you think there is merit to this strategy? I only found one study looking at the ability of copper vessels to kill diarrheagenic bacteria in water (see below).

Storing Drinking-water in Copper pots Kills Contaminating Diarrhoeagenic Bacteria, 2012

     On a final, unrelated tangent I also recently finished applying to Ph.D. programs and wanted to ask your experienced perspectives on how you chose your directions of research (Ie Virology over Parasitology). Mainly, I am curious, has there ever been research you thought you would not be interested in that you ended up loving, or the opposite where you were excited to work on a particular subject and for some reason, it did not match your expectations? While I have some favorite topics, at this point in my microbiology career, I am quite open-minded and I hope that exploring some diverse fields in lab rotations will help decide my future direction.

Thank you all for your content and for indulging in my lengthy email. I would definitely understand if you are not able to read all of it into the TWiM record!


Ryan from Seattle