Ken writes:

Hi Vincent and Crew, 

Thanks for the shoutout in TWiV 1039 and LOVE to hear about bacteriophages on TWiV. (I finally met Jolene in person at the Viruses of Microbes meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia in July. The meeting was co-hosted by the Eliava Institute who have been researching and performing phage therapy for over 100 years.  Nina Chanishvili would be great to have on TWiV.)  The reasoning for using “archaeal viruses” instead of “phage” or “archaeophage” is to emphasize the differences between Bacteria and Archaea.  As far as I know, the person most responsible for this was the late Wolfram Zillig, who was a pioneer in the isolation and characterization of both Archaea and archaeal viruses. Wolfram was an early and vocal supporter of Carl Woese and Archaea being different organisms than Bacteria. (Full disclosure, I was a postdoctoral fellow with Wolfram at the end of the last millennium.)




Prof. Kenneth Stedman, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

Extreme Virus Laboratory

Center for Life in Extreme Environments

Biology Department

Portland State University

Salvatore writes:

Dear Dr. Angela Mingarelli:

Don’t do free diving. Not even for fun. The documentary itself specified that the lungs are squeezed to the size of a human fist from the multiple atmospheres at depth. This is unnatural. The body was not made for this.  And did you notice the thin body types, that is also likely a part of the repeated pressure at depth. 

The documentary scared me, and I was not even in the water, but I knew what they were talking about. Particularly when, as you said, the diver reaches about 40 to 60 feet and you begin to sink unless you adjust your BC.  You are floating in space, but you must keep your eye on the depth meter. 

And thank you for all your input to the show.  When is the best time to visit the Azores? 

Been listening and learning since March of 2020. The show is/was a light in the storm of misinformation. Also thank you all for occasionally explaining to us layman when the show gets deep into the weeds of science. 


Salvatore J. (Sam) Cucinotta, Esq.

A Philadelphia Trial Lawyer for over 50 years.

Larry writes:

RE: Freediving with nanobodies and interferon

None bio trained retiree listening since Ebola.

I was worried about the source of nanobodies from camelids. The sacrifice of the monkeys makes me cringe although I am grateful for them.  I asked Google’s Bard so I am not sure how correct this is but it sounded like no sacrifice is required. Maybe not correct???

Larry in the midwest USA

(vr: Bard mentioned Phage display and synthetic biology. No camelids need be harmed, you can immunize them or make a nanobody library and select those that bind your antigen.)

John writes:
Hey TWIV podcast, 

   I’m John – a new listener from MS.  My pediatrician mentioned your podcast, and I decided to check you out, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how interesting, informative, and accessible your podcast is to a lay person with a cursory science background (Bachelor of science, physics. Computer Programmer.  Wife – bachelor of science – biology. Quality Control – Pharmaceuticals, CSI, Seafood import [so much cooler than me]).  

I wanted to comment on the loss of confidence in the institution of medicine, because I suspect you would attribute that largely to vaccine misinformation, and the RFK-types you so handily debunk.  I just want to give voice to the less talked about more powerful explanation for this distrust.  Because despite having nothing but respect and admiration for scientists and doctors, I have a lot less faith in our healthcare system as a whole these days, and that is because our healthcare system sucks.  The root cause is quite simply capitalism.  I haven’t heard enough of the podcast to know how often you get political. But I’ll quickly lay out my case.

We have worse health outcomes in the US than Cuba.  Just stop and think about that for a second.  That is an absolute embarrassment. The richest nation, which spends 4 times more on healthcare than its European counterparts, has worse health outcomes than a communist country we have demonized and cripplingly embargoed for decades.  We have a decreasing life expectancy due to deaths of despair (could this be due to capitalism I wonder) and that comes from before COVID hit.  

Now my personal frustration. I just wish I heard more doctors comment on this. Everytime I convey this frustration to a doctor here in MS hoping to illicit a response of solidarity, because after all we are both stuck with this shitty system, I get some recycled talking points about how “actually universal healthcare isn’t as good as [our system]” with anecdotal evidence in support.  If our healthcare system is so much better we wouldn’t have worse health outcomes.  If it is better for the people that have access to it, but when including those who don’t have access the aggregate is pulled below countries with universal healthcare, then that really ought to give us pause. Do we want to endorse a caste system where your health and value as a human is entirely dependent on how much money you have?  At this point, even conservative think-tanks like the Rand Corporation are publishing studies that say universal healthcare would save us trillions of dollars.  

Provocation. It seems like Doctor’s ability to think systemically evaporates when considering the economy or politics. Systemic thinkers should be able to see that social ills are a result of material conditions – money, access to healthcare, public spending etc.  If people struggle in these dimensions enough they look for an explanation. Then demogogues seize on the opportunity and blame immigrants, Muslims, Trans people etc.(pick your news cycle)  When people don’t regularly see a  doctor because they are can’t afford it(many of my neighbors in MS), and their only experience with doctors are in medical emergencies, this is veritable engine of mistrust of the institution of medicine.  An average citizen, perhaps lacking in nuance or time to be nuanced, who never hears doctors bemoan the healthcare system, or the bad incentives in the healthcare system, can be forgiven for coming to their own conclusions.  People who can’t afford insulin because pharmaceutical companies jack the price up can be forgiven for painting “The Healthcare System” as a whole with a broad brush, and calling the whole thing a grift. Facism arises in the absense of class consciousness.  Said another way, If you don’t give people sensical answers, they will settle for non-sensical answers.

So Here is my call to action.  DOCTORS HAVE TO LEAD THE WAY ON THIS ISSUE.  Doctors know better than anyone how stratified health outcomes are if they merely pay attention. Doctors have to sound the alarm. It makes your push back on people like RFK more credible when you can acknowledge the healthcare system has become so bloated with costs, and exploitative it is reasonable to feel disenfranchised.  People are disenfranchised. We need medicare for all. Maybe you could loudly support physicians for a national healthcare plan every episode until we get there –

Rant over.  I hope I’m talking to a sympathetic audience.

Hope y’all have a good day,


P.S. – I wonder if y’all have read Michael Lewis’s “The Premonition” on the US response to the COVID pandemic. It wonderfully illustrates these problems with a more intimate view of the more systemic problems.  It paints an obvious picture of how a 50 disparate and unique healthcare systems leaves us woefully underprepared for the cooperation and resource/information sharing required in a pandemic.

John writes:

Drs TWiV:

I thought you might like this. If the image doesn’t transmit, just let me know and I’ll copy/paste. Rob Rogers as you may know was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s outstanding cartoonist until he was sacked by the uber-rightwing Block Family owners of that paper that Pittsburgh could once be proud of.   Because of that I refuse to subscribe to the P-G anymore.  Meanwhile, Rob is now freelancing and his patrons get his cartoons.

(How rightwing is the Block family?  Have a look: 

Meanwhile, here in Greater Braddock the heatwave broke yesterday.  I think that event is just reaching you now.  



Alan writes:

Foolish premise: :’If scientists don’t go and look for a virus in the wild, the public cannot be harmed by it. ‘  My real fear is that this decision will leave us blind to the next potential pandemic vector. U.S.  Army Major Walter Reed and Surgeon General William Gorgas must be turning over in their graves at this foolishness.

Washington Post, 9.7.2023 9:11 EDT

The Biden administration has halted funding for a research program that sought to discover and catalogue thousands of exotic pathogens from around the world, officials confirmed Thursday 9.7.2023,  effectively ending a controversial virus-hunting endeavor that opponents say raised the risk of an accidental outbreak.

A USAID spokesman said the funding was halted following a reevaluation of the “relative risks and impact” of various government-backed efforts to prevent future pandemics.

The U.S. Agency for International Development quietly notified the program’s main contractor in July that the $125 million project was being terminated less than two years after its inception, amid opposition from lawmakers as well as a number of prominent scientists and public health experts.

The program, called DEEP VZN — short for the Discovery and Exploration of Emerging Pathogen-Viral Zoonoses program — was led by researchers from Washington State University with the aim of collecting nearly half a million biological specimens from wildlife, and from those, isolating at least 12,000 novel viruses for further study. Set to run through 2026, it was the latest in a series of federally backed research projects that sought to identity previously unknown or exotic viruses that might some day spark a new pandemic in humans.

The decision to shutter the program was first reported by the BMJ, a publication of the British Medical Association.

While it terminates DEEP VZN, USAID is expanding other initiatives intended to facilitate a rapid response to emerging diseases in more than 50 countries around the world, including fostering the development of new vaccines, the agency spokesman said. “The covid-19 pandemic has led USAID and the U.S. government as a whole to assess priorities and approach to pandemic preparedness,” the spokesperson said.

Supporters of DEEP VZN had said they hoped to be able to provide an early warning about wildlife pathogens that could someday make the jump to human beings. Scientists believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that sparked the coronavirus pandemic evolved from similar strains endemic in bats in southern China and Southeast Asia.

But opponents argue that the research was as likely to trigger an outbreak as it was to prevent one. The search for exotic viruses creates opportunities for accidental infections and transmission, as scientists encounter wild animals in the field and then seek to isolate and grow previously unidentified viruses back in the laboratory for testing.

DEEP VZN (pronounced “deep vision”), launched in 2021, was the successor to earlier U.S.-backed virus-hunting programs such as STOP Spillover and PREDICT, which also focused on the search for exotic viruses. Such practices have come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington Post reported in April that USAID officials had ordered DEEP VZN’s managers to halt all virus-collection efforts pending an extensive safety review. The Post reported that the program had become controversial within the Biden administration. Some of the White House’s science advisers argued that the mass collection of viruses was a poor tool for forecasting future pandemics and that the risks outweighed any gains in scientific knowledge.

Thomas Kawula, one of two Washington State University leads for the project, said he was disappointed with the decision but intended to continue working on programs to strengthen preparedness for new disease outbreaks.

“Our commitment to global pandemic preparedness remains,” Kawula said. “There is a need for the U.S. to take a lead in investing in disease surveillance and national security resulting from proactive research in global health.”

–Alan Caroe, M.D


David writes:

Hello TWIV Crew,

I am interested in your thoughts on the subject article:  

“The US quietly terminates a controversial $125m wildlife virus hunting programme amid safety fears”

Perhaps there were valid concerns regarding how the collected samples were being handled and processed, but at the very least, collecting and cataloging samples of concern seems like a wise investment.

What do you think?



Asal writes:

Hi Vincent and TWiV co-hosts! 

I’m sharing this as a listener’s pick. Pretty sure  Dickson would like it the most.