Drake writes:

Hello Professors (Dr. Dove qualifies in my book),

As I was looking over the MERS paper from last episode, I noticed that the sole contribution of authors Tang and Marasco was “[providing] critical monoclonal antibody reagents” as described in their 2014 PNAS paper. Producing enough antibody for animal studies can vary between a tremendous amount of work and a trivial amount of additional work, but I distinctly remember some journals state that providing reagents does not warrant authorship and the NIH General Guidelines state that authorship for reagents should not be given if they were already published. In this specific case, Nature Publishing Group’s authorship policy does not provide specific guidelines.

Authorship decisions can be very subjective and, since authorship acts as a currency in academic science, can have an incredibly influential impact on someone’s career. Speaking generally, should professional societies or funding agencies attempt to enforce/encourage more objective standards or policies such as: authorship requires “ownership” (a greater than 50% contribution) of at least one figure panel or job titles cannot disqualify someone from being an author (some labs never give authorship to technicians)?

Changing subject: There is an interesting paper in Science that details a replication incompetent “live” influenza vaccine that is produced in cells with an expanded genetic code. Normal cells will be unable to produce full-length viral proteins due to premature termination at amber stop codons, while the vaccine production cell-line will incorporate unnatural amino acids and translate the full proteins.

Lastly, a pick of the week:

Since many who listen to this netcast are interested in low-cost lab equipment or only get their science-fix in the kitchen/garage, I figured I’d share something that is on my holiday wish list. The Spinzall is a low-cost centrifuge designed for restaurants/bars and advanced home cooks. It is interesting from a technical point of view since it is portable, self-balancing, and has a pump for continuous feeding. My main interest in the centrifuge would be for making herb oils, pea butter, fresh olive oil, and advanced soft drinks or cocktails.

Thanks for the time all of you spend on this netcast.

MERS neutralizing antibody paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/19/E2018.abstract

NIH General Guidelines for Authorship Contributions: https://oir.nih.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/sourcebook/documents/ethical_conduct/guidelines-authorship_contributions.pdf

NPG authorship policy: http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/authorship.html

Generation of influenza A viruses as live but replication-incompetent virus vaccines: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6316/1170

Spinzall centrifuge: https://blog.modernistpantry.com/spinzall/

Bridget writes:

Hi TWiV team,

Looks like this week’s edition of Nature yielded a paper worth discussing on the show. The authors look at an integrated virus in the genome of a unicellular eukaryote, and find that expression of viral particles is both induced by additional infection with a giant virus and inhibitory of giant virus propagation through the population of host cells.

You can find the paper here, and the general-public description by Eugene Koonin and Mart Krupovic here.

In addition to the paper just being cool, I think this would be a great opportunity to discuss giant viruses again, since that hasn’t been covered on the show in awhile. I’d also love to learn more about virophages – I’ve never heard the term before! Some basics and background/history about virophages would be really interesting. Plus, talking about the paper could spark lots of ideas from the TWiV crew. The authors compare their discovery in these protozoans to a CRISPR-like adaptive immune response, and they think about the ecology of the interactions. I’d love to hear your take on their hypotheses.

Thanks for the awesome podcast, and thanks again for all the company that keeps me going through long cell culture experiments.



P.S. It’s 8 F/ -13 C in Boulder CO. I’ve been wearing tights under my jeans to lab all week.

P.P.S. Be nice to Dickson!

Tari writes:

Greetings from a long time TWIV and TWIP listener,

One of the courses I teach is “Introduction to Emerging Diseases”,  a microbiology class for non-majors.  The topics  focus on global, national, and local factors that cause and influence the emergence and re-emergence of infectious disease now and throughout time.  The course began fall 2001, just days before Sept 11.  There has been no shortage of current topics in the following years.  It is quite fun to teach this course.

During office hours early this morning,  I got the “mad tidies” and started clearing out piles of papers.  Under a big pile, I found the attached paper (link).  It was written by a former student in the course, now an RN.  She remembered her dad worked on Polio virus when she was a young girl and decided to interview him about his work.  I found her summary of the 2004 interview.  I no longer remember the student’s name (she was married, different last name) but I am certain she would want to share it.

BTW, my commute this fall is far more enjoyable as my new car is equipped to listen to podcasts.  I started with episode #1 of TWIP and will work my way through each.   Listening to TWIP is making  Minnesota road construction season and resulting delays a bit more bearable.

Thank you and enjoy.

Tari L. Johnson

Faculty in Biology

Anthony writes:

House sparrows and influenza

The role of House Sparrows is no surprise since it was shown that domestic finches can spread H7N9:


I wonder if sparrows spread the disease to people?  Children playing on swings, slides, etc. contaminated with bird droppings comes to mind.

I wonder if new influenza viruses from Asia are a factor in the decline in the House Sparrow population?


If this is true, then sparrows should be seen as the canary in the coal mine.


Anthony Olszewski

# # #



Scott writes:

Hi Vincent and TWIV team,

I’m writing to you from beautiful Tasmania, coincidentally in the very building where the Devil Facial Tumour was first identified.

Firstly I just wanted to thank you for the excellent podcast. My career in biology has been quite varied up to this point, and it’s only fairly recently that I’ve found myself in a virology role. This has been very challenging at times, because my background is in molecular biology and bacterial ecology, and until I started my current job two years ago I had no experience at all in virology, eukaryotic cell culture or immunology. I’m now working as a research virologist in a lab that develops diagnostics and vaccines for the aquaculture industry here in Tasmania. We’re working with a handful of novel and interesting viral pathogens of fish. I won’t give too much away at this stage, but we plan to have to some work published in the next few months, so I’ll be sure to update you with the details.

When I took up this job I moved to Tasmania (a small island state at the Southern tip of Australia) from Brisbane (in Australia’s north-eastern most state). During the 2000 km drive down here I had plenty of time to listen to the Virology 101 series and try to bring myself somewhat up to speed on basic virology. This was incredibly helpful at the time, and since then I’ve found the TWIV podcasts to be an entertaining way to keep in touch with current advances in the wider field of virology while setting up and reading countless virus culture plates and TCID assays. I was particularly interested to hear about the discovery of a novel orthomyxovirus of Tilapia in TWIV 384. I try to keep on top of recent findings in fish virology, but that particular paper hadn’t appeared on my radar until I heard you discussing it on the podcast. Given the current worldwide boom in intensive aquaculture I suspect that there will be more and more stories of novel viruses showing up in fish in the coming years. Many aquaculture systems, including the ones used here in Tasmania to produce salmon, involve growing the fish in large cages that are anchored just off the coast. This means that the farmed fish are in close contact with wild fish and also birds and other animals that are attracted to the food pellets, so there are plenty of opportunities for wild viruses to jump from the environment into the farmed livestock. At least in this field we are in the fortunate position that there are many established fish cell lines, so it’s possible to culture a wide range of viruses.

I wanted to ask if you are aware of any similar podcasts or online (preferably audio format) courses that deal with basic vertebrate immunology. This is still a major gap in my training and it would be great if there was an immunology equivalent of the virology 101 series that I could listen to while working at the lab bench. I’ve searched but so far I haven’t been able to find anything.

Thanks again for the great podcast.



PS – It’s been a long wet winter here with lots of flooding, but we have beautiful spring weather today. 8 C and sunny this morning, and it feels like summer isn’t too far away.

PPS – In one of the episodes where you were discussing the Devil facial tumour disease, Dickson had suggested that devils were the only native carnivore in Tasmania. I noted that in a couple of later episodes several listeners had correctly pointed out that we also have quolls here. I hate to anthropomorphize, but I think the quolls would have been a bit insulted by your comparison of them to rats. There are actually two species here. The larger spotted tail quoll is about the size and shape of a large domestic cat. It’s a generally very shy nocturnal predator of birds, small mammals and reptiles, but is known to occasionally break into people’s chook sheds (American translation – ‘chicken coops’) and eat chickens. The smaller eastern quoll is now extinct on the Australian mainland, but still relatively common in Tasmania. My understanding is that it is a bit more omnivorous, and feeds mostly on invertebrates. It’s about the size of a chihuahua, with a bushy tail, and is undoubtedly one of Australia’s cutest native mammals. Both species have beautiful spotted fur, and really don’t resemble rats.


Richard, DDS writes:

You have probably already read the information contained in this article. Apparently there is a book available that chronicles all the testing:

Over and over again, the military has conducted dangerous biowarfare experiments on Americans

Business Insider

San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images On September 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s famous fog. The military was testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city. The people of San Francisco had no idea. The Navy continued the tests for seven days, potentially causing at least one death. It was one of the first large-scale biological weapon trials Read the full story

Joel writes:

Hello sir, my name is Joel and I am 15 yrs.

I got very interested in the virology classes taken by you and came across synthetic virology. But I wasn’t able information on it and on how to  become a synthetic virologist. I would like to know more about list of universities that offer courses on synthetic virology.

Jonas writes:

Hello my name is Jonas and I have written a research proposal on hcv that I studied from the net but can’t find free publication or journal that will accept it because they say it’s not in their scope and I’m disabled so I have no money to do anything with it plus there’s other variables as well and I don’t have a institution backing me up is there anything I can do or showcase it on your site or show. I would appreciate any help or advice thanks and hope to hear from you soon.   Jonas


Peter writes:


Would love for you to talk this over at some time. I work at a government research funding agency in Sweden, looking into metrics to evaluate scientific excellence at the institutional level. Will h index hold over time or is there a need for adjustments given increasing prevalence of preprint servers, with access logs and other measures than printed citations etc.

Thanks for a great show. The weather in Stockholm (at Karolinska Institutet, home of Nobel prize) is completely overcast and 10 celsius with a drizzle of rain forecast for later this afternoon.


/P e t e r N õ u @dkmj dkmj.tumblr.com o n t h e r o a d


Charles writes:

Dear Twivvers

In York, England today the weather is a mixture of heavy rain and sunny periods, with the temperature currently 14°C. On the subject of Celsius versus Fahrenheit, I would like to offer this sketch from the BBC Radio comedy, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, as a listener pick. Please excuse the dig at the end—I’m sure it’s meant affectionately.

Although I’ve never formally studied Biology, I’ve managed to pick up quite a lot in the past few years, mostly from listening to your podcasts followed up by a bit of research with Google to learn more detail about the subjects that come up. Of course, having to work out their spelling from an audio recording isn’t always straightforward, and there is sometimes a discrepancy between what you say and what I think you’ve said. Some, like “Cow Pee Mosaic disease” or “Chicken Gunya virus”, were sufficiently dubious to raise my suspicions, whereas “toe-like receptors” conjured up such a plausible mental image that it wasn’t until you explained the etymology that I realised my mistake. “Memory glands” also sounded possible, but I felt sure that with a name like that I would have heard of them already. Turned out I had.

Finally I’d like to thank all the TWIx team for the work you do in promoting science. In an era of increasing dogmatism, it is refreshing to be able to listen to reasonable people engaging in rational discussion.

Kind regards

Katreya writes:

Hi Vincent and the rest of the TWiVrific gang!

First off, I wanted to thank you for allowing my fiancee and I to sit in on a recording of TWiV. We both had lots of fun! I also wanted to thank y’all for such a wonderful podcast. I started listening to TWiV about 5 years ago during my last job helping to manage the stem cell core at the Gladstone Institutes. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from all of the TWiX podcasts and they’ve inspired me to continue my studies after a 15 year hiatus. After moving back to Cleveland and landing a great job here in the Case Genetics department, I’m now dipping my toe into grad courses here with the intention to apply to their Master’s program in Systems Biology and Bioinformatics sometime next year. So thank you!

Now on to the question I had…

You mentioned in the last TWiV how DNA tumor viruses utilize various oncoproteins to ramp up the host cell’s DNA replication machinery for their own ends. This can have the effect of increasing cellular proliferation. Are there DNA viruses (or other virus types) that don’t utilize this type of system but instead modulate the host cell’s enhancer landscape to positively influence either their own replication potential or cellular proliferation? I’m thinking of this in the context of viral protein products either directly or indirectly altering chromatin accessibility and regulating histone methylation/acetylation marks at regulatory elements associated with cellular proliferation. What are your thoughts?

Also, I have a science pick of the week for you. There’s a really cool YouTube channel called Periodic Videos featuring a group of chemists from the University of Nottingham talking about a myriad of chemistry-related topics for a lay audience.

Anyway, keep up the good work and I hope to visit again some time!


Katreya Lovrenert

Research Assistant III – Scacheri Lab

Case Western Reserve University

Biomedical Research Building 647

2109 Adelbert Road

Cleveland, OH 44106-4955


Marion writes:

Hi Professor,

I’m Marion, a Design student at the Art School of Geneva (HEAD Genève : https://www.hesge.ch/head/)

I’m working about viruses for a project and I want to make a sound installation. So I have a question and i don’t find any answer on internet: do viruses make sound? If yes, do we know this sound? Have we a record? (I suppose not but i’m asking just in case)

Maybe I’m asking an idiot question but i don’t know much about the biological virus. So thank you for your answer and have a good day,

Marion Delavelle

Master Design Space and Communication

HEAD – Genève

Bill writes:

As an appreciation of keeping all your shows ‘spinning’


Bob writes:

I ran across this by accident today:


“In the footsteps of Zika… approaching the unknown

This MOOC has been produced by Université de Genève (www.unige.ch), Institut Pasteur (www.pasteur.fr), Université Paris Descartes (www.parisdescartes.fr) and Centre Virchow-Villermé (virchowvillerme.eu).

Love your show (listening to TWiV412 right now.)


Pritesh writes:

Hi TWiV team,

Here is my listener’s pick of the week.


We miss Dr.Condit at UF! Hope he joins us sometime for Viroholics and Journal clubs!


Pritesh Desai

PhD student

University of Florida

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