John writes:

Dear Rich – I enjoyed the podcast a lot including the segment of the 2bee paper – ‘Plight of the Bumblebee’ (love that title). You guys are the only commentators to spot the joke we slipped in about the Oral-B. When deciding on what toothbrush to buy for the artificial experiments Niels Groen (first author – he hates his first name Simon) and me simultaneously said we had to get an Oral-Bee. Niels also came up with the ‘electrically actuated…’ phrase as being suitably stuffy for a Cambridge-based paper. We also tried to slip in some 2b / two bee puns but could not figure out any phraseology that worked in the context of the paper; assays tended to use 10 bees.

Apparently ‘Carr’/’Kerr’ is some kind of old English/Scots word for swamp dweller. However, my family came over from Ireland in the 1840s (something to do with potatoes) so that name might have a different derivation.

Thank you for discussing the paper on the show.

best wishes, John

John P. Carr

Molecular Plant Virology Group

Department of Plant Sciences

The University of Cambridge

Cambridge CB2 3EA

United Kingdom

Steen writes:

Dear corresponding author Vincent (et al.),

I think you succeeded in looking up the host range of Cucumber mosaic virus quite quickly (TWiV 402, circa 55:00). CMV is said to have the broadest host range of any plant virus. Question for you and your listeners: Is ~1200 known species the broadest  host range for any virus?

I also think you did pretty well in the interpretation of the dcl1 and ago1 mutant experiments. The difference between siRNAs (diced from stretches of dsRNA) and microRNA (precisely processed from imperfect hairpins) eludes many people, including the some of the people annotating the relevant loci.

Personally I’m not holding my breath about microRNAs directly triggering the volatile biosynthesis/emission—there is great potential for indirect effects with the pleiotropic mutant alleles the authors used. (I’m not holding my nose either though—the idea is plausible.)

Regarding tomatoes: not only can we find their wild desert ancestors, but we can cross them to élite varieties, to potentially introgress traits like resistance to disease or drought. The tomato community (including my colleagues downstairs) benefit from some great mapping populations that have been developed.

Finally, while cucumber was not the focus of the TWiV 402 paper, it might be worth mentioning that cucurbits (family Cucurbitaceae) interact with several significant viruses. A summer squash  engineered for resistance to three viruses was one the first transgenic crop approved in the US in 1993.

More recently, CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis has been used to induce point mutations in cucumber that confer resistance to three related viruses (Chandrasekan et al. 2016). The resulting amino acid substitutions in host translation factor eIF4E presumably prevent it from interacting with the viral genome-linked protein (VPg), and thus disrupt translation of viral RNA. Similar natural polymorphisms confer virus resistance in other cucurbits (melon and watermelon), and this strategy could be used to recreate natural alleles in a variety of crops in a relatively fast and precise way. The cucumber varieties described in this work should be classified as nontransgenic.*



* in the US anyway. I think German law currently would classify them differently, because the authors did use transgenesis in the process of developing the varieties.

p.s. I’d happily join a live chatroom while you record TWiV, if you started such a thing. I suspect however that live-tweeting fact-check/clarification requests would work better.

Kevin writes:

Hello TWiV Team:

I heard you read my e-mail on the most recent episode. I noticed I forgot to include a link to the youtube video related to the Nature paper that I mentioned. Here it is:

Gina writes:

Dear Twiv at Microbe TV,

Thank you for continuing the despicable Pace trial flaws.

I developed CFIDS in June 1993, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction now called MECFS or SEID. After 22 years have recently been dx with pancreatic cancer. I lost my company pd life insurance  (UNUM) for 75,000 in 1994 because the surveillance team lost me while bringing my car in for a recall and of course the car didn’t return to my home.

Progressive, my employer didn’t expect their claimant’s to be treated so poorly by UNUM. My doctor said I was too sick to fight a corporate giant like UNUM at that time, and we could fight it later. I never became well enough to fight it and didn’t know they were being sued via a class action lawsuit a decade later.

David Tuller, you rock as does this show. Dr Nancy Klimas had me in many studies for this disease. I am no longer a participant because of the pancreatic cancer. I hope to see the preposterous PACE trial retracted and exposed in my lifetime even though I am now living with terminal cancer and hoping to have surgery after radiation. I felt good during the chemotherapy Folfirinox except the oncologist didn’t respect my compromised immune system and I almost died from neutropenia fever during 7 days in intensive care in the bone marrow transplant isolation section. Having both cancer and ME I can honestly say, living with ME is worse. I probably won’t feel this way at the end. While I still have the energy, I want to thank David Tuller from the bottom of my heart. My sister is a graduate of Berkeley and has helped me immensely researching my cancer, maybe she can help you in Berkeley in some way. I am also grateful that such a brilliant mind as David’s was going to review my son’s college essay, his heart is enormous. My son did get in the school he wanted UF Gainesville by himself, but the thought of David Tuller willing to help blew me away. I pray I am alive long enough to watch him graduate. I continue to appreciate Dr Vincent Racaniello and David Tuller for actually understanding the damage to the patient community and the family members that lose their life insurance yet are awarded social security benefits. If the day comes that UNUM has to make restitution I would like the 75,000 life insurance plus interest pd to my son so he doesn’t wind up with never ending student loans.




Cris writes:

Dear Twivers,

I am a virologist with specialisation in baculoviruses and orfviruses. I have worked as a postdoc at the University of Otago under Prof Andrew Mercer for many years, but I’ve moved on.

I’m now living in Victoria, BC, Canada and I stumbled across this news article from

I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding this article. Please forgive me if you already talked about it in previous episodes. I’ve missed a few episodes, though I’m back (and proud).

Warmest regards to all Twivers,


Justin writes:

Trudy writes:

This study contradicts the CDC’s advisory against using FluMist earlier this summer, however, the actual article is behind a paywall (for me):

Here’s the NPR article about it:  

Might make for an interesting discussion….

Paul writes:

To the twivumverate:

Listening to the poetic RadioLab podcast Cellmates about the endosymbiotic theory of the origin of the mitochondrion  generated the following question:

There are viruses that infect every living thing, and some not living things; where are the viruses that infect mitochondria? Where are the endogenous retroviral elements in mitochondrial  DNA?

A brief google search turns up fascinating interactions between cellular virus products and mitochondrion function, but not viruses that infect a mitochondrion.

Have I missed a memo somewhere?

Thanks for the great work.

Johnye writes:

Colleagues, if I may,

Hank Green has produced wonderful science videos over the years (I  particularly liked “Crash Course” episodes.). This video is from a new production unit. In general, his presentations are interesting, entertaining, pithy and well researched. This episode presents some possible psychological constructs that may offer some insight into why some are afraid of vaccines.

Best to all, along with my hope eternal for spring 2016 in Cambridge MA and environs. Currently, 16 C; cloudy with what appear to be stratocumulus clouds on a rarely seen blue background. But fear not change, the forecast is only  around 30% for sun over the next 10 days.

Johnye Ballenger

PS: I subscribed to CuriosityStream and passed the link on to friends. An extensive library it appears.  JB

Gary writes:

Hi Vince and gang,

First I wanted to say that I am going through the episode catalog once again and maybe I will understand it eventually. You guys (sorry Kathy here in IN we use that word generically for a group of people!!)

I love the show, even if I don’t understand stuff most of the time!! I do have a couple of questions about  this story:

You guys may have already read the study, but I can’t seem to get to the study. I am just a regular guy with no access to this stuff. I hope to go to college this fall, but considering that I am 48 it is going to be hard!

I guess the main question I have is if you had read this study and if not could you,  cause this seems like a big deal, if it is true and I am hoping you guys can tell me that.

Anyway I hope you can take some time to talk about this issue!!

Gary C.  

Raihan writes:

Hi best friends for close to 8 years,

I came across this cool phage and remembered your discussion of weird virus names many many moons ago;  

Best regards,


Bohdan writes:

This would be my pick of the week.  Perhaps, you have seen it.

Penn and Teller do not mince words when it comes to vaccination.

Keep up the good work.

Bohdan A Oryshkevich, MD, MPH

Bill writes:

Dixon recently mentioned Burck’s Connections TV show.  The first series came out in the late 1970s, and was delightful.  There was were a few sequels—I still find the first series to be the best.

If you haven’t seen the first episode (“the Trigger Effect”) of the first series in a few decades, you should go back and see it again. You will run into a couple of startling surprises you didn’t catch during the Carter administration.

Connections is available online, and I suggest a double-header of the first and last episodes of the first series:

“The Trigger Effect”:

“Yesterday, Tomorrow and You”:

And don’t miss this amazing sequence:

Bill Cheswick

Science Guy^H^H^Hfolk

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