Emily writes:

TWIV hosts!

I wanted to suggest a new paper to discuss on the podcast, published last week in Nature Medicine, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence” (http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.3985.html).

It has stirred up plenty of press about gain-of-function studies and the risk/benefit (although mainly the risk) of doing this kind of research (also made it to some tabloid news sites that have completely overblown what the research says in exchange for a flashy headline) (links to some of the coverage at the end of the email)

Maybe Matt Frieman (your go-to coronavirus co-host) would be a good guest to have to help discuss it? (his previous time in the Baric lab might give him some good insight too)



Here is some of the coverage:

Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research (http://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787)

SARS-like virus in bats shows potential to infect humans, study finds (http://www.statnews.com/2015/11/09/sars-like-virus-bats-shows-potential-infect-humans-study-finds/) (probably best one actually looking at the benefits of this kind of research, but I shouldn’t be surprised, Helen Branswell is fantastic)

New SARS-like virus can jump directly from bats to humans, no treatment available (http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/11/09/new-sars-like-virus-can-jump-directly-from-bats-to-humans-no-treatment-available/) (original UNC press release that has been reworked on many news sites)

UNC Scientists Find SARS-like Virus; Worry Federal Research Ban Will Block Vaccine (http://wunc.org/post/unc-scientists-find-sars-virus-worry-federal-research-ban-will-block-vaccine#stream/0)

Ethical Questions Arise After Scientists Brew Super Powerful ‘SARS 2.0’ Virus (http://motherboard.vice.com/read/ethical-questions-arise-after-scientists-brew-super-powerful-sars-20-virus)

Uncaging the Animal: Concerns Rise Over Scientists Tests on SARS 2.0 (http://sputniknews.com/society/20151116/1030161234/sars-virus-tests.html)

Lab-Made Coronavirus Triggers Debate (http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44469/title/Lab-Made-Coronavirus-Triggers-Debate/)

New SARS-like virus can ‘jump directly from bats to humans without mutating, sparking fears of a future epidemic (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3314247/New-SARS-like-virus-jump-directly-bats-humans-without-mutating-sparking-fears-future-epidemic.html)


Emily Gallichotte, BA

Graduate Student

Laboratories of Aravinda de Silva and Ralph Baric

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Secretary, Science Policy and Advocacy Group

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Seema writes:

Dear Vincent,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your question.  I got your email after 1 pm on Friday and wanted to make sure I had the correct answer from our collaborators, Drs Ram Sasisekharan and Akila Jayaraman, who performed the glycan binding assay shown in fig 2b before sending you a response.  After listening to TWiV yesterday I realize there were multiple concerns regarding that figure: 1) what does % binding signal mean and 2) what is the control that we are comparing the a2,3 pH1N1 222D revertant virus to?

First, in the glycan binding assay, Akila normalizes each of the raw binding signal by dividing it with the maximal binding signal obtained in that assay. Typically the maximal binding signal value is obtained for the strongest binder (at the highest viral titer) in an assay. I believe this as you suspected. Second, in the text we are comparing the revertant 222D glycan binding profile (shown in fig 2b) to the binding profile of the a2,3 pH1N1 virus (that had a 222G) that we had published in the 2013 Virology paper:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042682213004820 (fig 1e). I hope that answers the concerns you and your TWiV colleagues had regarding fig 2b. Please let me know if there are any further questions. Kanta and I are thrilled that you all picked our paper to discuss on TWiV and I was intrigued by your connection to the mammary gland transmission paper that came out recently.

Jesse writes:

Dear TWiV,

I’d like to submit a listener pick of the week: a book called Networking for Nerds, by Alaina G. Levine. It’s a great resource for academics and also those pursuing other career paths, and discusses what networking is (connecting with others for mutual exchange of value), promoting your own brand, how to interact with others and find people to interact with, and more.

For those at institutions with subscriptions to Wiley publishing, it may be downloadable as a PDF for free: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9781118663653

And for others, it’s available from Amazon in different formats: http://www.amazon.com/Networking-Nerds-Game-Changing-Opportunities-Everywhere/dp/1118663586

Keep up the great podcasting,

Jesse Noar, BacterioFiles

Russell writes:

If you haven’t done Worldmapper, you should


Great series of maps, including those showing the global importance of a large number of diseases, including infectious diseases, using a unique map format. The higher the prevalence in a country, the bigger it is on the map.  Really interesting to look through them. Look at disease and cause of death.


Russell Van Dyke M.D.

Professor of Clinical Pediatrics                   

Section of Infectious Diseases  

Department of Pediatrics

Tulane University School of Medicine