Paul writes:

To the TWIVers

Really enjoyed episode 337 Steamer. Follow up question: isn’t a tumor or cancer by definition derived from local cells? So wouldn’t Hemocytic leukemia be classified as an infection?

Unseasonably cool 14 C with light showers failing to alleviate the local pollen alert in Philadelphia.

Neil writes: 

I enjoyed this episode and I like the idea of looking for Steamer sequence in ocean metagenome data. I made an initial attempt – the results are not too convincing, but here you go. Feel free to pass it on to your guests.

Et writes:

Hi TWiV folks,

I’m having a blast listening to this podcast (coyotes have sushi)

Wanted to drop you a quick factoid re: mosquitos :

“It may interest you to know that the deadliest organism on planet earth is the mosquito. These creatures can kill something up to 5000 times it’s size.”

From my handy book: The Biology of Science Fiction Cinema, Mark C. Glassy. Macfarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina and London. 2001. pp.212

yours truly, Et

Alan writes:

Coleoptera: beetles (most successful animal order)

Hymenoptera: wasps, bees, and ants

Jean-Laurent wrote:

Many warm thanks for your interest in our little story !

I don’t think we can say that germline IRF7 mutations predispose to leukemia. Homozygous and heterozygous individual with known variations in IRF7, including the family we recently reported, do not seem to be prone to leukemia.

As per somatic mutations in IRF7, I’m not familiar with the literature. They might indeed be drivers of passengers of certain malignancies, including leukemia. Again I’m not familiar with these studies.

Michael Ciancanelli wrote:

I was flattered to hear you and the TWiV team cover our paper. Your discussion was fantastic! Many, many thanks!

I think the reference to leukemia in your podcast was to other research that defined a role for IRF7. Our work obviously focused on the involvement of IRF7 in immunity to infectious disease but I have found the papers that refer to the anti-tumor effects of IRF7. To our knowledge, our patient, P, has not developed any malignancies. However, in light of IRF7 suppression in several cancer models and tumor regression upon restoration of IRF7 expression or treatment with exogenous IFNs, she may be at an increased risk for some cancers.

Additionally, there is the connection of IRF7 with Epstein-Barr virus infected cell latency. Here, it appears that IRF7 is induced and activated by one of the viral proteins, LMP-1, and that this could drive the establishment of latency. I am unsure what would be the effect of the loss-of-function mutations identified in our influenza patient. But again, something that her physicians should monitor as she is seronegative for EBV.

All the best,

Piet writes:

Hi Team,

I recently found this article, which I thought was a rather interesting way that a virus manages to overwhelm a cell.

Kind Regards,


Jacob writes:

Dear TWIVers,

I just heard an interview with Michael Mina, the lead author of this paper on today’s Science magazine podcast, and it was fascinating. I thought it couldn’t hurt to suggest it to you all for even more analysis. The title of the paper is “Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality.”


Fernando writes:

Hi TWiVeratti,

This deserves at least a snippet, including as it does so many favorite story arcs.

Cedric writes:

Dear esteemed TWiVers,

An article just published in Science discusses the phenomenon of children having much less mortality from all infectious diseases after receiving the measles vaccine. The authors say that the measles virus can cause an “immune amnesia” for two to three years after infection. This would seem to be yet another reason getting a measles vaccination is a critical step in childhood health care.

We’re currently enjoying 18°C (64°F) weather with clear skies here in Munich, Germany. It would seem that spring is now in full swing.

Thanks for all of your hard work on the TWiX podcasts; they’re always a highlight of my week.


Alice writes:

If you discuss the Mina paper (PMID:25954009), I think it would be really great if you can get someone like Natalie Neu or Lisa Saiman to give you the perspective of a pediatric infectious disease physician. (In general, I would be so excited if you could find an ID doc to join your discussions).



Alice I. Sato, MD PhD
Assistant Professor
Albany Medical Center

Anthony writes:

What We’re Afraid to Say About Ebola
“The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. ”

# # #

Change in pattern of H5N2 spread raises questions

“Another infectious disease expert, Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, said the changing transmission picture doesn’t necessarily mean the virus has mutated. He is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which publishes CIDRAP News.

‘There’s been evidence of transmission like this before, in the Netherlands, so I’m not sure this necessarily means that,” he said. “It could, but we need the isolates tested to find this out. It could be just acting like any other highly pathogenic [avian flu] virus we see, with wind-driven virus transmission. It just hasn’t been stopped by the current level of biosecurity.'”

# # #

I’m not sure what Michael T. Osterholm, PhD means by “evidence of transmission like this before, in the Netherlands.” The cited study found virus material in the surrounding air, but “did not detect any infectious virus …, perhaps due to the sampling procedure.”

My understanding is that Influenza is sensitive to drying and to UV. It was distressing that the press was being told that wild birds were the cause of the current poultry epidemic, as there was no evidence for that. If investigators are now in a check every and any possibility mindset, that certainly is an improvement. Is that what’s going on, or are platitudes being replaced by wild speculations? Ebola did not “become transmissible through the air.” Is it any more likely that Bird Flu is blowing in the wind?

Thank you,


Ken writes:

Dear TWiV,

Thank you for your fantastic job discussing my article in episode 313 “With viruses like these, who needs enemas”. I first found out about TWiV when a colleague here at NYU told me that you guys discussed this paper from my lab, and I have been listening ever since. I am particularly delighted to see your enthusiastic coverage of the virome and the unappreciated effects viruses have on the host, which brings me to the reason why I am writing to you.

Not too long after I started listening to TWiV, I was asked to write a review article on the virome for the journal Immunity. In one of your episodes, you discussed how the immune system doesn’t make sense without viruses – a variation on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous quote “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Although I think you guys should still learn what a Th17 cell is, I took inspiration from this and other discussions that arise during your podcast, which I believe comes through in the article I wrote.

I’ve attached the uncorrected proofs of the review article, which I hope you will find interesting as virome enthusiasts. The emphasis is on the role of mammalian viruses on complex diseases and the relationship between the virome and the microbiome. Most importantly, I acknowledge TWiV in the acknowledgements section. The service that you provide the scientific community and lay public is much appreciated.

The article is scheduled to come out in the May 19th issue.


P.S. In case you were going to mention this on the podcast, note that the article shouldn’t be discussed until it comes out online or in print in about a week.

Ken Cadwell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine

Thomas writes:

Dear TWiV amici,

During the listener e-mail segment in TWiV 335, Justin wrote in suggesting that we should consider doubling the grad student stipend, which would limit the number of graduate students that graduate programs and PIs could afford to train. With this proposal, Justin acknowledges a major issue in science: the significantly greater pool of trained PhD scientists compared to available jobs. Alan rebutted with almost the opposite proposal; a training model that is similar to that of medical training in the U.S. and requires the student to pay tuition and all living expenses.

Full disclosure, I am a graduate student at the University of Michigan, working on preparing a manuscript, and originally was not going to write in on this matter but was convinced to do so by Kathy after her and I discussed the points brought up during the aforementioned segment. I am also Canadian and I am familiar with the Canadian system of graduate training. Finally, I am an MD/PhD candidate that is not part of an NIH-funded MSTP program and paying for my MD training, so I am quite passionate about any discussions concerning funding of physician or scientist training programs. With that, I would like to leave you with a few points to consider and possibly discuss.

1) Decreasing the number of PhDs seeking jobs after graduate school should allow for a situation similar to that in medicine where graduates are almost guaranteed employment. With regards to the repayment of graduate or professional school debt, Alan assured us that physicians are able to eventually pay off their medical school debt and live comfortably. Physicians are; however, also guaranteed, on average, much more in pay than most scientists can ever dream of earning. Considering that the cost of tuition and living expenses for both medical students and graduate students are comparable, this begs the question whether such a model could ever be fair or successful in research.

2) Just as increasing the pay of graduate students is a circuitous route to a more selective admissions process and decreasing the number of trainees, so is eliminating the pay. We should just accept fewer students Moreover, one can imagine a situation in which graduate studies are to be paid for by the trainee, thereby providing institutions with not only free labor but also a financial income. Unless strict regulations also accompany such a model, I would be concerned that some institutions may take advantage of this situation, be less selective and, irresponsibly, admit many more applicants.

3) Finally, how do you all feel about a model where candidacy in a PhD program can only be achieved after completing a Master’s degree or transferring from a Master’s program due to outstanding performance and recommendations? Such a model would require students to pay for their Master’s education (with scholarships for those unable to financially afford but academically apt to do so of course) but then see a fraction of those students transition into a PhD candidate position if they felt inclined and were competitive enough of a candidate to do so. This model is already in place at several institutions around the world. I would be interested to hear what you all think about this model.

So much for writing a short letter and getting back to work…thanks Kathy.

Thank you for all of the time and effort you all devote in order to produce this podcast. It has been a significant influence in my early career, as it seems to be for so many other listeners.

Best regards,

Daniel writes:

Hello All!

I started listening to your podcasts at TWiV #6 and I’m still loving the ‘cast and all the spinoffs. I’ve listened to every episode of all 4 ‘casts at least once and my only wish is that you could make more or do them more frequently. I’ve never listened to one of your podcasts and thought that it was too long. I love the science. I love the banter. I love the puns. I love creating new TWi* disciples and I have about a 85% success rate if I can get them to listen to one

Other than the customary sycophantry, I just wrote in for a couple of listener picks. These are along the lines of “don’t provide links to anything you don’t want people to re-share.” (

Thank you again for your wonderful ‘casts and all the time and energy
that goes into making them.

-Dan L.


PS It is 77 °F (23 °C) and partly cloudy in Socorro New Mexico.

Ken writes:

My son’s fiance pointed me to a new “citizen-science” project she is involved with on Kickstarter. It is called Birdbox Science( and is a module of sensors you install in a birdbox to gather nesting data (such as temperatures, entries/exits, and video). Then the data are uploaded to a crowd-sourced database for anyone from researchers to educators to individuals to view and use.

This seems like a great project for science-minded bird enthusiasts (sounds better than bird-minded science enthusiasts), parents, and educators!


Snohomish, WA


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