Skip writes:


Thanks to you and your team for the kind words about our MNV receptor paper on TWIV. I remember distinctly seeing a talk from you when I was starting out in which you presented the detailed structure and function of the polio receptor and the interactions between it and the virion surface. I thought at the time that that was pretty cool and important! It was really exciting to have an opportunity to do something somewhat similar. The two co-first authors are special talents and will go far. Thanks for highlighting them. We have a long way to go with this story. I think that the co-factor story will turn out to be very exciting and revealing (if we can get a grant on it funded!). We will see.

Be well,


Herbert W. Virgin IV M.D., Ph.D.

Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology and Immunology

Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Professor of Medicine

Washington University School of Medicine

Anthony writes:

The 700 miles covered by a pigeon in one day is for a homer or carrier pigeon returning after remote release. Pigeons don’t migrate or take trips on their own. A domestic or feral pigeon will roam about an area of from several blocks to several miles.

My guess for the means of the reverse spillover is feral pigeons and wild birds coming into contact with “contaminated equipment or litter”

near, but separate from poultry. That would mean that poultry and feral/wild birds are not interacting directly. If that’s so, then the reverse spillover is a curiosity. If that’s not so and poultry and wild birds are mingling, then the discovery of the Newcastle vaccine virus in wild birds is an alarm.

Domestic pigeons may be vaccinated for Newcastle. Perhaps they come in contact with ferals or the ferals are eating discarded contaminated feed

In northern China, the poultry industry mirrors the US. One would expect vaccinations and bio-security  It would be interesting to find out if chickens are vaccinated in the south of China. In that region poultry producers consist of many family farms raising chickens, ducks and/or hogs.

Thank you.


It looks like he predicted climate change back in ’64,  That should be worth another Nobel Prize.


# # #

The Times They Are A-Changin

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

. . .

Alan writes:

Y’all can conclude the “you guys” arc with this deep dive into the second-person plural:

Steve writes:

…But send the book to number 25 as they probably need it more than I do, and I can’t really sit up to read books these days! 🙂

Keep up the great podcasts, and many thanks for all the help with PACE.





Nicki writes:

I would love a copy of the book to read in analog hours. I’m an illustrator myself. The weather here in Oakland CA is… “oh the wind and rain”, as the old bluegrass song goes. Grateful for the water though.

Thank you for keeping my brain occupied when I can’t have my nose in a book.

Gary writes:

Hey guys, (yes that is the politically incorrect use of said word!)

I am hoping to get the book, though I am sure you have already given it away, because I had to have surgery and was not able to listen for a while, and I am still catching up!!

I will try to write a longer note later, as I  have some thoughts and questions I would like to share and ask!


Cherish writes:

Hello TWIV team,

I know the contest is over, but I wanted to write to you anyway. I don’t think I fall in your usual category of listeners, as I am a 4th grade teacher at Riverside Prep Elementary in Oro Grande, CA. I listen to your podcast on my drive to and from work. When you get too technical about the make up of viruses it often goes over my head, as my highest level of science education is Intro to Biology. However, I consider myself a life long learner and enjoy learning about things outside my field of study.

I must say I generally do not love viruses, but I do love TWIV.

Thanks for creating a wonderful podcast to listen to on my commute,


4th Grade Team Lead

Riverside Prep Elementary

Steve writes:

Hi Vincent et al,

I was rather surprised to see this most unwelcome report in the RetractionWatch lists yesterday.‎ I have been quite diplomatically trying to reassure friends and contacts that media fears about the various HPV vaccines were unfounded.

But now it appears that there were conflicts of interest among the EMA review team, and that the manufacturers’ assurances were given precedence over those of experts in the field in Denmark, and also, amongst other things, ‘placebo’ vaccinations with aluminium adjuvant, were compared with complete vaccines, thereby hiding any effect of the adjuvant itself. Concerns were raised about the unreliability of the reports provided by the drug companies were raised by two co-rapporteurs, but overruled in a final report by the Rapporteur, who Cochrane shows has in fact had links with some of the drug companies. Public and secret versions of the final report were made and all participants were sworn to secrecy.

I won’t pretend to have followed all the intricacies, but it rather looks as if the anti-vaccine lobby has just been handed a mighty bit of propaganda by the secrecy and duplicity of the European Medicines Agency.






Nordic Cochran’s summing up:


Here is the original Danish study:  

Here’s another from the same group:

Here’s a Medscape article summarizing this situation and others:

Suzanne writes:

I ran across this podcast interviewing the reporter who investigated Wakefield. It made me think of your recent episode about the anti vaccine movie so I thought I’d share. It’s long and pretty detailed. I found it interesting.


Jean-Michel Claverie writes:

MIMIVIRE | This Week in Virology

Hi Vincent:

MIMIVIRE is one more non sense published by Nature.

See enclosure, published there because of the censorship of Nature (the authors have basically to agree with a rebuttal for it to be published!)


[  is the Virologia Sinica article


PB Supernova writes:

Hello twivpeeps,

I am a postdoctoral fellow studying reproductive biology and endogenous retroviruses. I am also interested in interactions of exogenous viruses with cells in the reproductive system – but I am not a virologist. I am in a physiology department, and at my current institute there is limited virologist collaboration potential.

My question is this: what is the utility of an organ-specialized (or even cell-specialized) virologist? For example, I am interested in viral infection in testis, spermatozoa, leydig cells…etc. What are the job prospects for someone like this? What departments should I consider when applying for jobs, the reproductive side, or the virology/immune side?

My second question – after listening through your archives, I was fascinated by the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, where it is currently 66F/18.9C and sunny. How does one get a PI position there?


PB Supernova

Don writes:

Have you ever examined the “English sweating sickness”?


Islam writes:

Dear Professor Racaniello and Alan,

Thanks very much for the quick chat we had right after TWiV at ASM yesterday.

Briefly, I am a virologist currently working at MIT. I have DVM and MS degrees from Egypt, then moved to Cambridge University for my PhD. I was a postdoc at the NIH and KU before moving to Boston. More info about my background can be found on my personal website:

I was just focusing on my research in the lab until about 2 years ago, when the Egyptian Armed Forces came up with a huge fiasco about 2 devices for treating and diagnosing pretty much all viral infections! I was so frustrated by that and wanted to explain to people why this is wrong. I couldn’t compile my thoughts into an article or a Facebook post, so I decided to record a video and publish it on YouTube. The video went on for about 80 minutes, and unexpectedly, it went viral! My story was covered by Science magazine:

This is what got me into science communication. Since then, I wrote several blogs and was also hosted by some Arabic TV channels to comment on a variety of viral diseases. I decided to start virolvlog, which was inspired by TWiV, but geared towards an Arabic audience. I recorded few videos as screencasts and published them, but it turned out that Egyptians were not happy with voice-narrated powerpoint slides only; they wanted to see my face!

It seems that these humble efforts made a difference with a large number of people, who were hungry for knowledge about viruses, but were not comfortable enough to digest the widely available English content. Nature Middle East has recognized my work and listed me as one of top 6 Arab science communicators:

With help from my 12-years old son Adham, I had the experience of recording videos for Tahrir Academy (an equivalent of Khan Academy in Egypt) in my home office. I used to record raw videos and send them via Dropbox to their professional team for editing. With Tahrir Academy, I produced 4 video series on influenza, Ebola, critical thinking and MOOCs.

Last year, I gave a talk entitled “Alice in Viral Land” at TEDxCairo:; and the response from young audience was overwhelmingly good:

Tahrir Academy as an NGO was discontinued, so I decided to move down to the basement and establish my own self-funded semi-permanent home studio (please see attached picture). Adham and I have also learned the basics of video editing and started producing our own vlogs, made at home A-Z. We discussed several topics including: discovery of viruses, influenza shifts/drifts and how this affects vaccine production, viruses alive or dead, zika virus and CRISPR. I also started recording interviews with Egyptian scientists in all sorts of fields and tried to connect their work to viruses. So far, I had an episode with an Egyptian geologist who was a member of the NASA Apollo team, we talked about viruses in space! I also discussed the history of quarantine with an Egyptian historian at Harvard. Pending an approval from Google, my next video is going to be recorded inside their office here in Cambridge and will discuss how computer scientists picked up the words “viruses and viral”, we will also cover digital epidemiology and touch upon Google Flu Trends.

Collectively, my videos have reached more than 0.6 million views so far. They are penetrating way beyond Egypt to all Arabic speaking countries. We are learning a lot from the feedback we are getting from our viewers. I still have many other topics to cover and will continue this effort as a hobby, side by side with my job as a full-time researcher.

You can find our work on my website and the following YouTube channel and Facebook page:

Any help to promote this effort and/or feedback on how to improve it will be very much appreciated.

Once again, thanks very much for your time.



Islam Hussein, DVM, PhD

Research Scientist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hannah writes:

Dear TWiVome,

I doubt I’ll be number 50, but I wanted to write in anyway and share some links. I saw an interesting article today about a black widow venom gene that was found in a phage that infects Wolbachia. There’s a pretty good summary in this BBC article here (, and if you want more information, here’s a link to the paper:

I’ve also got a science pick for you: Rafael from FrozenFlowGlass ( makes stunningly beautiful borosilicate glass sculptures of arthropods and other animals. Some are fanciful, like his Halloween designs, but what I really love (and what make this a science pick) are his realistic depictions of individual arthropod species, like the black and yellow mud dauber bringing mud back to the nest. Photos of his work can also be found on Instagram here:

All the best from Berlin, where it is currently a chilly 7°C and cloudy.

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