Clarissa writes:

I’m listening to TWIV 1095 and I think the virus name needs clarification. It’s still referred to as monkeypox virus. The ICTV poxvirus group opted to keep it as is. However, WHO changed the disease name to mpox, mainly because of discrimination issues. WHO cannot decide on virus names only disease names. 

So it’s still monkeypox virus that causes mpox.  

 I´m attaching some references below if the TWIV team wants to read more about it. The most important is the one by David Ulaeto and the WHO technical lead for the mpox outbreak Rosamund Lewis.

BTW: great episode!


Bob writes:

Hi Twivers,

Another couple of great episodes. (TWIVs 1090-1091)  Just to note from 1091, that the last name of Dire Strait’s OBE guitarist is pronounced “Naw-fler”.  Silent K Silent P.   

Further to the OBE:  I can’t remember the precise recent TWIV episode, but I was yelling at my computer speaker when your team did not recall one famous OBE microbiologist you even had on the show within the last couple of years.  Dame Sarah Gilbert. (technically DBE, Dame of the British Empire).  I do see on Wikipedia she plays sax, so skeptics might challenge the source of her regal fame.  Was it for he

r music or scientist fame?  Further wiki details about her having to practice sax in woods so as not to disturb her fellows had me pretty certain the “Dame” name is more attributable to the production and distribution of a couple billion COVID vaccine doses, which she oversaw.

Back to work… thanks as always for the great work you do.



Steve writes:

TWIV team,

As a long time listener and postal carrier I want to thank the team for the support on episode 1091. I listen faithfully while delivering on my route of 660 homes. 

We have been under funded and in need of an overhaul for many years. In fact the vehicle I currently drive is over 33 years old and 10 plus years past its expected usage lifetime. 

Keep up the good work and please keep those episodes coming. Science rules!


West Palm Beach, FL

PS Let Vincent know we receive no discount for stamp prices so he’s going to have to pay like the rest of us.

John writes:


Re. your Star & Sphere kit in 1083, I don’t know whether this ever crossed your window, but at least in the case of the lambdoid phage HK 97, assembly of which that Roger Hendrix et al worked on for so many years*, at least one capsid protein mutant is capable of blocking pentamer formation yet still assembles. That could be reflected using the kit by filling in all the hexamers with, say, paper. You would then have a capsid with open pentamers, resembling a Whiffleball. And that is exactly what the Hendrix lab called the structure.

*If you go to ref. 26 there, you’ll find the publication reflecting my tiny contribution to the whole effort – confirmation of the cross-subunit crosslink between a Lys and Asn sidechain pair. But this raises a question – do you know of any other viruses that have naturally covalently crosslinked capsid monomers? I suspect that there are others, but that few viruses are studied with scrutiny sufficient to detect crosslinked capsid monomers. Whenever I try to search for something like that, all I get is phage capsids with introduced chemical crosslinks.

1090: In comments about Alabama, it should be noted that there is intelligent life there, in Huntsville. Besides the Space Center, there is also the HudsonAlpha Institute, which, in just a couple words, is a genomics institute. It was founded by two entrepreneurs who made it big and wanted to give something back. You cannot imagine all the projects that they support. The campus is awe-inspiring, too, and they run workshops in the summer to bring secondary science teachers up to speed with modern biology. If you ever find an excuse to have a podcast from there, I would put in a vote for it.

1091: Obelisks: I expected that you would take them up, and thanks for that. I was counting on a better understanding via TWiV. I didn’t hear it mentioned, but someone must have proposed that these things may represent primitive units of evolution. With the self-complementarity presumably helping to protect them, then with something that melts them and an agent of transcription they could replicate. That primitive agent would presumably be sloppy, so mutations would be rampant, introducing variability, which once in a lottery cycle might produce something with better function once translated, and whenever that got assimilated into some microorganism, that bug could become more fit. Once inside the bug, too, it would no longer need the self-complementarity for protection and be free to gradually shed that aspect, with the redundancy of the code aiding in the shedding while retaining any beneficial pieces of the encoded protein.

Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you see my name on an abstract @ VoM describing the use of phage for clinical diagnostics. I won’t be there – on my only trip to the Antipodes (1994, to NZ, which was great) I came back with what I strongly suspect was a coronavirus, courtesy of the Swedish contingent that picked it up in Bangkok, that nearly gave me pneumonia and took several months to return to normalcy from. I can’t take that chance again, but you will likely run into my colleague Rob Edgar there. I also saw that my old dept’s former grad student Heather Hendrickson, now from NZ, is one of the organizers. If you don’t know her, she’s a big fan of TWiV, and is also a science communicator who has made TV appearances in that role down there.

From a dismal but temperate (18C) morning in Greater Braddock, where the grey sky almost has a yellow tinge. Thunder and lightning yesterday and this morning, and headed for schizophrenia late with wind and sharply dropping temps, just like what’s headed your way.


Darach writes:


In episode 1087, I believe the topic of “creatine” was broached. This is a fascinating little molecule, and one of the very few supplements that do anything at all. (Excepting steroids of course, because to paraphrase Eric Trexler: “we can fix anything with steroids”.)

Creatine’s major role is thought to be not in any sort of proteinogenic capacity, but rather as an intracellular buffer/carrier for phosphate groups. Creatine kinase loads up this phosphocreatine system, such that it’s ready to recharge ADP to ATP when there’s sudden demands on the cellular energy system. This is especially true in skeletal muscle, where phosphocreatine outnumbers ATP several times over. Here’s a review of the ATP, phosphocreatine, anaerobic glycolysis, and oxidative phosphorylation energy systems’ contribution to sustained skeletal muscle performance: 

Your body synthesizes creatine. Omnivores also get a lot of creatine from meat consumption. This may explain that vegetarians often “respond” better to creatine supplementation. It doesn’t make you stronger, but it does help you sustain a little bit more effort in a sprint, a series of jumps, or that 5th rep. No, creatine is not bad for your kidneys. You can buy creatine monohydrate online ( code “SBSPod”). It’s a sorta chalky powder but it goes down easy in water.

Works for me (probably). Good times.

Be strong, keep moving,


Peter writes:

Dear Vincent,

It was awesome to listen to your podcast last week. The first response from my co-workers was “He perfectly pronounced our names – wow”. We were absolutely delighted that our circRNA study got your attention.

Cytoplasmic splicing/circRNA generation? We looked high and low whether the UPR is involved – but no, the IRE nuclease is not. We are looking at a cytoplasmic version of Drosha that is known to cleave pre-miRNA-like structures in mRNAs. Ligases? There are tons of tRNA ligases in the cytoplasm. We are checking them out.

More recently, we found a super-super-abundant 130 nt viral circRNA in EV71. It spans the VP1-2A sequences where there is a hot spot for intra-typic recombination. Hmmm!!!

We were also lucky that Koonin wrote a commentary (attached).

Of course, my work will never reach the NYT like yours, but you made my week.

All the best,

Peter Sarnow