Rich writes:


It is the morning after recording TWiV 368. In Sunriver it is 30 F (-1 C) , overcast with some sun expected, and thankfully very little additional precipitation in the forecast. I just finished listening to TWiV 367: Two sides to a Coyne, the episode where my audio spazzed out; I had not finished listening to it in advance of our 368 recording. In the quiet of this forest home (anticipating an invasion of family for the holidays), listening to your (our) conversation, I got all warm and fuzzy about what a privilege it is to be able to share this experience with you every week. Thanks to all of you, especially Vincent, for maintaining this activity and being part of my life. (*snif*)

I have two (delayed; maybe I can pull rank here) follows-up including a pick that maybe could be aired on Christmas or New Year’s or when I return (hopefully) for 371. First, though I heard most of the Cas4 nucleocapsid discussion, I was too distracted with audio issues to put my two cents in. Rather than do it here, I would like to claim a brief spot upon my return to revisit the issue of what is a nucleocapsid. This is an area of interest to me and it is not entirely black and white, I don’t think. (By the way, Vincent said the approach was entirely bioinformatics. Eugene would bristle. It is computational biology.)  Second, the discussion of Vincent’s pick, the movie “Ex-Machina” about sentient robots, brought to mind Issac Asimov’s Robot Series, a collection of short stories and novels written over Asimov’s lifetime that explore precisely the issue of the role of sentient robots in human civilization. The whole collection is available as a package at Amazon.

I had a penetrating conversation with a geek at Best Buy yesterday and he assured me that my audio issues are related to a crappy router. Inspired by listening today, my plan is to cram for TWiV 371 on the redeye returning to Florida early on Jan 8, install a new router and join you for the recording. Tight schedule but I’ll try to make it work.

Thanks again and my apologies for the length of this email.


Clarissa writes:

Hi TWiVers,

Nice episode about Zika virus infection and microcephaly. Just a brief comment: Three arboviruses transmitted by Aedes aegypti are currently circulating in Brazil: dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Although the last one is not a flavivirus, the symptoms are quite similar. So I guess we still have a lot to learn here…

Clarissa Damaso

Robin writes:

Skip the cowbell, go for the cow…

Suzanne writes:

[re Hep B vaccine etc]

My original experience was 12 years ago, so things may have changed at least once since then. But when we were interviewing pediatricians, we were told it would be offered at the hospital, but our doctor recommended waiting until the 2 month well check, since I tested negative and no one else who would be around the baby had it, either. Originally the vaccine was only given immediately to babies born to Hep B positive mothers. Once the newborns of positive mothers were regularly getting the vaccine, and kids from non-positive mothers became a bigger population to catch Hep B (this info was on pro-vaccine papers I no longer have), the CDC’s decision was kind of like their decision to recommend the flu vaccine to everyone because so many people fit into the categories of people it helped that they might as well. As someone wrote to you a while back, in Britain it’s still (or at least several years ago) only recommended right away for at-risk newborns. So things may be different now, but at that point doctors were still more worried about getting started vaccinating newborns who were obviously at immediate risk right away and weren’t unlikely to let other babies wait a couple of months.

I loved the dream about all of you as a band. That was wonderful! I often listen to podcasts at bedtime and must have drifted off because I woke up realizing I had just dreamed I was working on something while listening to that dream about you on the podcast…

One last thing. I’m sorry you didn’t like the Titanium Physicists podcast, Vincent, but I’m glad you mentioned it on yours because I’m really enjoying it. I don’t mind wonky sound and unprofessionalism in podcasts. Sometimes it even makes it more fun for me. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate all the work I can tell you put into yours.

Thanks for everything you all do!

Jeremy Luban writes:

Driving down the Mass Pike I heard your discussion about, “More Cowbell”. Just so you don’t feel so alone, as soon as you mentioned it, I started tapping my left foot (automatic transmission), singing the old Mountain classic, “dwink, dwink, dwink, dwink…dah, dah, dah, dah…Mississippi Queen…”

As far as a term for a group of virologists, how about a Swarm of Virologists? In contrast to the plaque, it conveys the diversity.


Emma writes:

Dear Twivsters,

I wanted to say big thank you for talking about Zika virus in your last episode. I have colleagues in Brazil that are working hard to figure out how to test for Zika virus and trying to figure out if there is a direct link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly. The Pan American Health Organization wrote a nice summary of the epidemic so far and included a graphic showing the increase in microcephaly rates (figure 1). I agree with all your conclusions that we can’t show causality from these epidemiological studies but that we need to determine whether Zika virus infection is related or if there is something else that is causing the rates of microcephaly to skyrocket.

I was forwarded this article by a Brazilian colleague which describes a small village that is dealing with a the birth of many microcephalic infants. Their society will be caring for these infants with variable neurodevelopmental delays for many years to come.,a-terra-castigada-pela-seca-e-pela-microcefalia,1813742  

Thank you for all that you do for the scientific community. I am a pediatric infectious diseases fellow and was introduced to TWIV about 3 years ago during residency by my CDC research mentor. Your banter kept me awake during long commutes on little sleep.

Thank you,


Anthony writes:

re: The most dangerous thing about Ebola

What scared me was the irresponsible, Barnum-esque news coverage that turned victims into threats and heroic returning health care workers into pariahs.

The bizarre turn of public policy put in place by the NJ and NY governors didn’t happen in a vacuum.

Anthony writes:




American Folklife Center

“… Here is Ace Johnson singing his “Influenza” blues for 1929, recorded by John and Ruby Lomax in 1939:

In the winter of 1928-1929 a serious influenza strain hit the United States, raising concerns that it might become a pandemic as had happened in 1918. The song expresses beliefs that were still common at the time, that disease was a divine punishment brought about by sin, but medicine was working to raise awareness of the true causes of disease and of treatments and prevention.

Justin writes:

Just for a laugh:

Bill writes:

This site contains a plethora of links and details about this ongoing battle.

David writes:

Hello TWiVers, I am David-Kingsley Ojiagu from Nigeria. I have been a long time listener of TWiV but this makes me a first time writer. I can’t recall if you’ve had a writer from Nigeria (please correct me if I’m wrong), but you have a great fan in me from down here. I teach virology to undergrads in a government-owned university in Nigeria, and it’s amazing to hear the depth of research and knowledge which we can only dream and romanticize about here. I sincerely wish at least for the younger ones that research and education are largely bolstered in Africa for a more global impact experience.

On a lighter note, we don’t give the level of attention to weather like the way I hear you do before each TWiV episode. Well, I guess we are all concerned about putting bread on the table than changes in weather pattern.

It’s been fascinating listening to you every week and I have recommended TWiV to my students as a learning tool in virology.

Awesome job, folks. Cheers everyone!

Damien writes:

G’Day Esteemed Panel,

In Melbourne Australia it is currently a sunny 21.6C, dew point 8.5C, Relative Humidity 43%, Feels like 21.6C Wind SSW at 15km/h and pressure of 1012.4hPa with 0mm of rain since 9am. The forecast high of 24C.

I will get quickly to point for fear of making you do too many more “all email shows”. See the link below for an article published today in “The Age” discussing a chickenpox outbreak at a school in Melbourne that welcomes students who are not immunised. The article does point out that no school can refuse a student who is not immunised. It is unfortunate though that this school takes a soft line on immunisation.

I would hope that this case would make a difference but as Alan and others have pointed out on many occasions facts can be twisted by the anti-vaccination advocates.

Vincent, thank you for the recent episode with the four PhD students from Australia. It was fantastic to hear their stories and see that they are so positive about their future prospects. I  finished my PhD at the Australian National University submitting in November 2000. Given the job prospects and personal decisions both my wife and I decided to leave academia after completing our PhDs and moved into Industry.

Best wishes from “Four Seasons in a Day” Melbourne.


Silas writes:

Hello Professor Racaniello and TWiV crew,

While writing a paper on Poliovirus, I encountered your work on poliovirus invasion of motor neurons. Unless I am badly misunderstanding, it seems likely that the virus enters the cell at the neuromuscular junction and is trafficked up the axon to the cell body for replication, protein synthesis, etc. It seems like the Poliovirus Receptor (thanks for that one, Vincent!) is expressed in most of the central nervous system. If this is the case, why does the invasion end at motor neurons? Why doesn’t it continue to invade neurons synapsing on infected motor neurons?

Thank you for your excellent work in this system, and any clarity you can provide!



Yegor writes:

In last week’s podcast you described the difference between capsid and nucleocapsid as nucleocapsid being a part of virion structure covered by membrane or additional envelope. However, HIV has both capsid and nucleocapsid, both inside the membrane. I always thought the difference was because nucleocapsid is the protein that binds nucleic acid. Wrong?

Yegor Voronin, PhD

Senior Science Officer

Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

Dennis writes:

Hi Doc and all,

Here’s a pick:  a popular Youtube videographer with almost 2 million subscribers describes in this one how eight diseases helped conquer America.

The link:

A picture of his slide of eight diseases is included below. For audio listeners, the slide lists Smallpox, Typhus, Influenza, Mumps, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Measles and the Black Death. Makes me wonder whether Scarlet Fever or others might have been new to the Americas too.

Santa Cruz turned chilly again, in the 30’s at night.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Mark writes:

Hello TWIV team,

I hope you are all well. Here in Austin it has finally cooled off to a comfortable 47F. Although this feels brisk after the 70F weather we had over thanksgiving. Talking of the weather, here is a weather website pick that I’m sure someone must have suggested before. seems to use the concept of data-rich visualization that has been promoted by Edward Tufte. I find the overarching data appealing to the eye, and I like that I can drill down to a single data point if I want to.

Also I have a review article to share. I came across this article when I was a postdoc, but I feel it summarize many of the issues surround quasi-species that came up on an episode I recently listened to. (Sorry I don’t remember which one). PLOS it’s open access so everyone can see the great figures. (couldn’t resist the pun)

Keep up the amazing podcast, Mark

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