TWiV 125: TWiV infects FiB

March 20, 2011

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson DespommierAlan DoveRich Condit, and Marc Pelletier

This Week in Virology and Futures in Biotech join together in a science mashup to talk about a virophage at the origin of DNA transposons, and unintended spread of a recombinant retrovirus.

Click the arrow above to play, or right click to download TWiV #125 (59 MB .mp3, 81 minutes).

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Links for this episode:

Weekly Science Picks

Marc – JotNot
Dickson – New bunyavirus in China (NEJM)
Rich – Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment (LIDO) recording of the Hatsushima earthquake (ScienceDaily article) – thanks Bridget!
Alan –Walter and Ina: A Story of Love, War, and Science
Vincent – Icosahedral light fixture (thanks, Eric!)

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18 comments on “TWiV 125: TWiV infects FiB

  1. Dtollycapform Mar 21, 2011

    That was really cool to see the gang, plus Marc. Big FiB fan but TWiV will always be tops in my book. Informative, interesting topics presented by a cast of gifted, well educated characters (I mean that in a good way) what more can one ask for? Thanks so much for the hours entertainment and precious knowledge, I could never get enough TwiV/P/M!

  2. Paul Watton Mar 21, 2011

    Alan Dove : How can you be so confident that a potentially slow developing / long latentency retroviral contaminant of a vaccine would be “picked up” in the population ?
    Is this not actually a major flaw in the current vaccination safety net, especially when “deep sequencing” of existing vaccines for adventitious agents is proving otherwise ?
    The evidence would suggest that your confidence in the existing system for screening vaccines for undesirable “adventitious agents” is misplaced and there is actually a great deal to be concerned about.

    • Alan Dove Mar 21, 2011

      Of course we can never absolutely exclude the possibility that an adventitious agent is posing a danger, and I apologize if I said we could. I do, however, have confidence in the safety of vaccines. As the techniques to detect new viruses improve, companies are using those techniques to search for them in vaccines and other biological products. When they’re found, the FDA stance is that the vaccine production system needs to be re-tooled to eliminate them, even when there’s no evidence that the adventitious agent is a threat. People who received SV40-contaminated polio vaccine in the 1950s and 60s number in the millions, but even in that enormous sample size and over that significant time frame there’s zero evidence anyone was harmed by it. Nonetheless, current OPV and IPV batches are screened to ensure they’re SV40-free.

      There is no such thing as absolute safety for any product. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that our current set of vaccines provides vastly greater benefit than risk. My family and I are all up to date on our shots because the real, unquestionable risk of morbidity and mortality from measles, influenza, hepatitis B, and all those other nasties outweighs the entirely hypothetical and at most infinitessimally small risk of unspecified damage from some yet-to-be-discovered adventitious agent. The oatmeal I had for breakfast might also contain some still-unknown toxin, but I’ll take my chances on that rather than starve to death.

      However, there’s no question that these contaminants can cause havoc for basic science, which was really what the paper we discussed demonstrates. Had those cells been used to produce a vaccine or other biological product for humans, the FDA would likely have asked for some studies on the strange vesicles the cells seemed to be budding, at which point the would-be product seller would have found this contaminant. For basic science, though, nobody does those checks. If you’re going hunting for novel viruses, that’s a huge problem – you have to know whether the ones you find are real pathogens or lab artifacts, and it seems that the latter are much more common than we realized.

      • Wiruhl Mar 22, 2011

        I have CFS. So does my son. Hypothetically lets say there is a connection between contaminated vaccines and CFS: If I could go back in time and skip the vaccines, I would. I would take my chances with any other illness. This is no life to live.

        • Alan Dove Mar 22, 2011

          Hypothetically let’s say there is a connection between eyesight and CFS. Would you poke your eyes out based on that hypothesis? We need to base our actions on what is, not what we can possibly imagine might be.

          Every large study that’s compared vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations has found an enormous positive impact of vaccination, dwarfing the few risks we’ve been able to uncover. Even if there are still more risks to be discovered, they can’t possibly be very big or they’d have reduced the net benefit in those studies. In other words, we’ve looked, and the effect you’re hypothesizing just isn’t there. Meanwhile, there isn’t a shred of positive evidence or even a believable mechanism to link vaccines to CFS. I can’t tell you why you have CFS, but I can say with a pretty high degree of confidence that it’s not because you were vaccinated.

          • Twiv Listener Mar 23, 2011

            I listen in regularly to TWIV but I have to say I really have had enough of Alan Doves glib, imperious and condescending comments. The standard Vincent sets for his podcasts is very high and I appreciate his work but I have sat back for too long and declined to comment on Alans attitude but this time I really have had enough. Just as credit is due when credit is due…also sometimes one has to make a negative comment when something needs to be said!
            I am sorry to Vincent for making a negative comment on his site but someone needed to say something

          • Alan Dove Mar 23, 2011

            Exactly what have I said that was glib, imperious, or condescending? In the thread above, I’m just trying to explain why finding a lab contaminant affecting basic virus hunting experiments is not related to the issue of vaccine safety, and why I still have confidence that vaccines are safe. If you’d like to criticize, please do so specifically and constructively.

          • Twiv listener Mar 23, 2011

            Alan your comment to a sick patient who asked a reasonable question was answered thus,

            “Hypothetically let’s say there is a connection between eyesight and CFS. Would you poke your eyes out based on that hypothesis? We need to base our actions on what is, not what we can possibly imagine might be”

            this is glib and condescending, you have basically slapped him down without considering his main point by talking about “imagine what might be”. The fact is in science no one will find anything without looking! if people dont look they wont find, so it is very easy to form a bias, even without realising becuase unless the studies are balanced then its easy to say “ohhh they are safe” or “oh there is no xmrv correlation” but this disregards the fact that as a scientist one should also note the caveat “this is a very one sided arguement becuase the studies havent been done”.

            I have had worries about your reasoning for a while and feel you do have quite a lot of bias in regard to certain subjects, xmrv and cfs being one. In fact I wrote a personal letter to you becuase on one of your blogs you basically summed up an argument citing a wikipedia page, essentially saying “ohhh I believe this cos wiki says so”, thus missing the point that wiki is very easily biased depending on factors such as the subject matter, the editor or editors, or who can be bothered to argue a point the longest on the talk page, but sadly you didnt reply so I had to pick you up on this in this rather public forum.

          • Alan Dove Mar 23, 2011

            I don’t think that was glib or condescending. I was simply explaining that the original comment wasn’t based on a rational reading of the evidence. I then summarized some of that evidence and explained why it doesn’t support the notion that vaccines cause CFS. We have looked at vaccine safety – intensely. That the data don’t support the conclusion you clearly prefer doesn’t mean the studies were biased.

            Meanwhile, you’ve chosen to post a total caricature of what I said on my own blog, which tells me that further discussion with you on this subject isn’t going to be very productive.

          • Twiv listener Mar 23, 2011

            Alan Dove please dont tell me what I believe or dont believe, using statements such as “doesn’t support the conclusion you clearly prefer” is neither warranted nor scientific nor even rational, in an intellectual debate, you should know that and if you had stuck to the facts you would see no where have I pinned my bets on either camp, I follow facts but I want the facts to be truely investigated not just one side of the argument investigated.

            I do not understand what your reference to a “total caricature” means, I wrote my letter to you pointing out what I saw as some flaws in your reasoning or logic and you chose to not reply, fair enough. But I brought it up becuase it is an example of how it seems you let emotions and personal biases (intentional or not) cloud your scientific reasoning. I used the wikipedia example of how in the past you have thrown in throwaway comments to back up an arguement and I am just confused how you can justify that as scientific or intellectually sound.

      • Jillba Mar 27, 2011

        I have to disagree with that statement that companies are using new techniques to check for viruses in vaccines, etc. It was an outside laboratory that bought vaccines to look for viruses in them and discovered a porcine retrovirus in the rotavirus vaccine. Instead of reporting it to the CDC, they went to the manufacturer instead. Granted, the manufacturer did report it to the CDC eventually and then it turned out that the other manufacturer had both versions of the porcine retrovirus in the vaccine. Obviously, they did not test or check their own vaccines before distributing.

  3. Rebecca Mar 22, 2011

    These cell lines that are passed from lab to lab, are they the same cell lines used in making vaccines and flu shots or do they use something else?

  4. Ccaprice Mar 23, 2011

    I wish TWiV would stop talking about XMRV all together just so these cry baby CFS “patients” would go away… what a bunch of sticks in the mud.

    • Alan Dove Mar 23, 2011

      If you don’t like our discussion of one of the hottest current stories in virology, you should find some other virology podcast to listen to. And if you want to spew medical bigotry onto the show’s blog, you should at least have the backbone to do it under your real name.

      Both CFS and prostate cancer are serious diseases, and patients with either deserve to hear open discussion about a virus that some studies implicated in their conditions. We’ll keep talking about this story until it’s over, which it isn’t yet.

    • Et_tu Mar 23, 2011

      Those “cry baby CFS patients” are suffering greatly. Many have been suffering for many years and only want answers. I pity you your heartlessness.

  5. KatMT Sep 7, 2012

    I got sick in 1989. I was diagnosed in 1990 with CFIDS. At that
    time,and even now Dr. Nancy Klimas an Immunologist at the University of Miami
    was one of the leading researchers. She also talks of XMRV being positive in CFS
    sufferers. Well , I have waited for 23 years for a cure just in time in my old
    age, right ? It took the best years of my life away .I was a very successful
    salesperon back in those days, and now have to pace myself in everything I do.
    They were testing people for XMRV ,and then they stopped and said it was NOT the
    cause . Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada was where you could go to get
    tested. Somebody was fired from there, and I just looked on their website and I
    can not find anything . So when I started to look for the XMRV virus online ,
    I found this . I am surprised they did not delete the page. There was an
    engineered “synthetic ” XMRV that was spread in the 80’s .. So how would you
    treat a synthetic virus, and why did they make it ? I don’t know ,and I don’t
    care anymore . But all hope is gone for me. A day at a time is all I can do now
    , until I die. 🙁

    Unintended spread of a biosafety level 2 recombinant
    A, Petrasch-Parwez
    E, Brandt
    S, Dermietzel
    R, Meyer
    HE, Stühler
    K, Liffers
    ST, Uberla
    K, Grunwald

    Department of Molecular and Medical Virology, Ruhr-University Bochum, D-44780
    Bochum, Germany.

    Surprisingly it was neither identical to MuLV nor to the novel xenotropic
    MuLV related retrovirus (XMRV) but showed 99% identity to a synthetic retrovirus
    which was engineered in the

  6. KatMT Sep 7, 2012

    I will gladly trade my health , for yours. Is it a deal , Ccaprice ????? If
    you would like a vial of my blood, I will glady overnight it to you ! Hows that
    ! You can even do your own test on yourself…see how you feel 🙂
    Just kidding, I wouldn’t even  do that to someone I disliked ! 🙁
    In 1990 my bloodwork was sent to a lab in California, as they were the only
    ones working with Aids and other retroviruses. I was positive for all of them
    that they would test for CFIDS . EBV-1:1280,EBNA-Positive,EBEA-Positive, T-cell
    suppressor Low: T-cell Killer High CD4-CD8. HHV6 Positive,Anti-candida -High
    positive, ANA- Positive ,Anti-thyroglobulin =High, Anti-Microsomal antibody
    If you would like a copy ,I would be happy to send you one . My doctor told
    me not to ever donate blood because at that time they were not sure about how I
    got it or how it was transmitted. So I never had ,and never will . My husband is
    fine, so its not contagious through contact other than blood I would feel safe
    to say. Although whole families have gotten it , they may have been exposed to
    the same thing.

    I agree that many people may have jumped on the bandwagon, saying they are
    sick. Unfortunately this happens .

    My support group decided to send out a survey. What the occupation was of
    these people getting sick ? (Was called the “Yuppie Flu”at that time ) . We sent
    out 300. #1-Healthcare workers (Doctors/Nurses), #2 Teachers ,#3 Salespeople, #4
    Bankers …..OH, and don’t forget ONE HOUSEWIFE ! These were all professionals,
    who did not go down without a fight.
    I was making 55K a year in sales, and sometimes worked from my bed calling my
    customers or following up because I was too tired to get up. Believe me ,when I
    went to the Doctor I told him FIX ME…. NOW ! I don’t have time for this !
    Thought I had the flu. A fever that would not go away . At first he said I
    had Mononeucleosis after testing my blood. I already had it with the rest of my
    family when I was about 11….so I took the pills ,but they never worked . That
    was in 1989. So I pushed and pushed until I finally went to a Doctor that knew
    what it was .
    Even being sick ,I continued to push …until 1996 I gave in. I never gave
    up….but now that I am 61 I really don’t care that much. I doubt in my lifetime
    they will ever find out the cause .
    Kathy Gummere