Trudy writes:

Dear TWiVers,

I’m writing this email in follow-up to your question about how to say “you” in the plural form in German.  There are two ways.  To address multiple people in informal situations, one would say “ihr”, while to address multiple people in formal situations, one would say “Sie” (ALWAYS written with a capital “S”).  For example, if you were to meet several prospective employers in a group interview, you would only ever say “Sie”.  Where it becomes confusing is that you also use “Sie” (also with a capital “S”) to address a single person in a formal context – such as if you were to have a one-on-one interview with a one prospective employer.  The southern “y’all” is synonymous to the “ihr”, but I can’t think of a word that is synonymous to “Sie” other than the boring old “you”.

All the best, and Happy New Year!


Ken writes:

Dear Vincent and TWiV mistress and masters,

First a very Happy Birthday to Vincent (actually about 18 hours early as I write) and a Happy New Year to the TWiV-o-sphere.  Our New Years Day in Portland, Oregon started out with a light dusting of snow, which unfortunately turned into slush (2-4C, 35-39F). My kids are bummed, but Portland shuts down if there is even a tiny bit of snow (cue eye rolling).

A followup to TWiV 421 when you read my letter (thanks) about the first co-authored paper of Adam Abate and I’s to be published as a “Bump” from TWiV 195 (They did it in the Hot Tub).  The first paper is published in the open access Virology Journal, (not Biomed Journal, Kathy, published by BioMedCentral)  Unfortunately we were not able to get the publisher to add a TWiV bump acknowledgement retroactively.

However, our second manuscript was just accepted and the uncorrected proof released (behind a paywall, unfortunately) in Journal of Virological Methods:  Since it is behind a paywall it might be harder for listeners to read that we did get an acknowledgement of the TWiV bump in press.  (How many have there been so far?).  Unfortunately we cited the old website, but will correct that to in the proof!

Both papers follow somewhat your recent “technology” arc.  Adam is a physicist at UCSF who has developed some really cool technology for virus, and other macromolecule, microfluidic sorting of water-in-oil droplets based on DNA sequence. This is like a flow-cytometer/cell sorter that uses nucleic acid sequence instead of antibody-binding for sorting, allowing, as Adam calls it, “high throughput biology”. Another way of putting it is finding a really small needle in a really big haystack.

Our two papers are proof-of-principle for host cell sorting (second paper) and virus sorting (first paper).  Adam contacted me, “out of the blue”, after hearing TWiV 195 to basically say “we have some technology that you might be interested in, how about a collaboration”.  He suggested trying to apply his technology to find the host for our “hot tub” virus (still working on that. . . . . Stay tuned).  Adam would be a great person to talk to on TWiV, very cool technology, interesting history, and great guy.   (Or maybe I have to start a podcast on phage and have him as a guest. . . . )  The final (supplemental) figure of our J. Virol Methods paper has a picture of the setup we used for our experiments.  Who knew that an optical bench would be needed for virology research?

My listener pick is Adam’s Lab website: where he has some videos of some of his microfluidic “contraptions” in action (high speed video microscopy, slowed down a lot).

Thanks for all the great Podcasts, conversation, etc.  Also a HUGE thanks to Dickson for putting his Parasitic Diseases text online, I just started a project on soil-transmitted helminths, but that is another story for another day, perhaps on TWiP.

All the best for the rest of 2017.

John writes:

Hi TWiV Team,

I love Viruses and I would love a copy of Principles of Virology.

I do love TWiV and the rest of the TWiX family. I don’t have a background in biology, only in Software Engineering, but I find the podcasts extremely accessible. The biographies/CVs are a great insight into the meandering paths many working scientists take and after listening to a lot of the back episodes, I am eventually absorbing some of the technical discussion (by osmosis?). The new year might be the time to attempt Vincent’s online Virology Course.

Due to TWiP and “Parasitic Diseases 6ed”, I may never eat meat again unless it has been incinerated. Ceviche and tartare are out. So is wild game. I may never swim in warm water, touch a pet, do anything involving soil or walk barefoot. If only the podcast wasn’t so compelling, I could just stop listening to that instead.

Since you asked about other podcasts…

I also listen to many of the podcasts others have suggested but I didn’t hear BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time” with Melvyn Bragg being mentioned. It’s a podcast of the radio show where the host and 3 acknowledged experts cooperatively discuss the week’s topic for 45 minutes.

Topics include a broad sampling from science, technology, mathematics, religion, philosophy, history, the arts and culture. There is a back catalogue of about 700 episodes. TWiXers might enjoy “The Origins of Infectious Disease (June 2011)“, “Microbiology (Mar 2007)“, “Immunisation (April 2006)“, “Genetic Mutation (Dec 2007)“, “Galen (Oct 2013)“, “Anatomy (Feb 2002)“.

Thanks for the hard work on TWiV, TWiP, TWiM and TWiEvo,

Best Regards and a Happy and Prosperous New Year,


Limerick, (Ironically, I didn’t enter the Limerick competition)


BTW, Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, but he did invent computer science. Where do you think Computer Al-Gore-ithms came from?

James writes:


I am sending this email hoping to win a copy of Principles of Virology! When typing the subject of this email, “I love viruses” a thought came to mind that I have had since I took Latin during undergrad, which twivers may find of interest. From what I understand, the word ‘virus’ is derived from the second declension noun ‘vīrus’ in Latin, meaning poison, venom, or slime. Thus when plural it is vīrī, however this did not carry over into the English for some reason. But when we pluralize the word syllabus we do say syllabi (also a second declension noun in Latin). Bill Nye in his book Undeniable, adds that he thinks that virus should be pluralized to vira. I think he says this because second declension nouns that are neuter tend to pluralize with an -a suffix while masculine nouns pluralize with an -ī suffix. Then finally, Dr. William S. Haubrich in his book Medical Meanings makes the comment, “they [viruses] never were, are, or should be called by the quasi-Latin plural ‘viri.’” But he does not go on to explain why. Have any of the trusted scientists of twiv pondered this issue? Thank you for all you do!

Jarrett writes:

Hello all!

I’m gunning for that 23rd spot to get my hands on Principles of Virology. It was my goal last summer to watch all of the virology lectures Dr. Racaniello posts on youtube. However I didn’t make it past lecture number three as I got distracted by pursuing my certification as a Texas Master Naturalist (see for an explanation as to what that is). Now that I’m well on my way to Master Naturalist status, it is time to finally knock out that fantastic free virology course, so I’m hoping to have the book as a companion. The weather in Austin is an insultingly warm 21 degrees C or 70 F. Hardly conducive to the holiday spirit. However it does bring out the bugs, which for an insect collector is a real treat. Happy new year and thanks for keeping me company while I walk to work, make dinner, and clean the kitchen.

-Jarrett H.

Austin, TX

Becky writes:

Hi all,

Thank you so much for your very enjoyable podcast.  I am a new post-doc in Dr. Anna Marie Pyle’s lab at Yale University, and my project involves the structure of the RNA genome of flaviviruses and RNA-protein interactions underlying HCV infection.  RNA viruses are super interesting because the genome itself can do SO much in cells based on RNA folding to adopt interesting structures (think of IRESes, etc).

I am new to virology–I have a cell and molecular biology background–and I love the perspectives gained by listening to your podcast!  I actually found TWIV because I was looking up Virology textbooks so that I could get a more well-rounded understanding of the field.  I read that Principles of Virology is the best out there, and after looking up Dr. Racaniello, I found the podcast.  I’ve been listening on my commute, and I’m working my way backward.  I haven’t yet purchased the book, and I’m hoping that I might be the 23rd e-mailer.

Thanks for all of the work you do to make this podcast!  It must take a lot of effort and dedication to have kept it going for so long.  I’m looking forward to hearing more!

Sam writes:

I love viruses. Especially the ones I can study and not catch. Am I the 23rd?

Here in Tucson it’s forecast to be cloudy with a high of 72 and a low of 54, followed by considerable rain and much colder temperatures in the next few days.

Wilkey writes:

Dear TWIV Academia,

I consider myself a nerd.  Nerd enough to have taken the great Coursera courses on virology, nerd enough to be a regular TWIVist, nerdy enough to have flashbacks to presentations in settings similar to the Elks Trout Unlimited (shout out to the Hamilton chapter) as described in 417.   The mention of (high quality) eDNA rang  some nerdy bell, and I recall reading an article in 2014 using these methods to test for presence of Asian Carp (

Improved Methods for Capture, Extraction, and Quantitative …

Indirect, non-invasive detection of rare aquatic macrofauna using aqueous environmental DNA (eDNA) is a relatively new approach to population and biodiversity monitoring.

I hope that you realize how much of an impact you have on so many people, I know I am personally grateful.


Retired Flight RN

Michelle Ozbun writes:

Hello Vincent,

Have you ever discussed virological techniques (besides the famous plaque assays!), specifically virion isolation and purification, on TWiV or any other forum?

What I’m really interested in knowing is how our hard-core virology colleagues view the pros and cons of purifying virions for use in studies that are aimed to characterize virus-cell interactions.  I’ll try to make my point as concisely as possible.

In natural transmission of virions — person-to-person, or cell-to-cell — the particles may be more or less isolated (like flu in a sneeze droplet compared to HPV in a sloughed skin cell).  However, the particles are not likely to be isolated or purified to the extent that we often like to accomplish in the lab when attempting to perform controlled experiments.

Have you heard or engaged in conversations where anyone has discussed how more or less purification of virions might confound studies where entry receptors are being sought?

To give you my scientific perspective, we published a paper back in 2012 in PLoS Pathogens wherein we found HPVs become “decorated” with heparan-sulfonated proteoglycans (with which MANY viruses interact) and growth factors during their quest to become internalized in host cells (keratinocytes).  This follows normal HSPG biology where growth factors are sequestered on HSPGs on the plasma membrane or in the extracellular matrix, and made available to cells.  This is particularly important in the context of epithelial wounding, which is also known to potentiate HPV infection.  I have a concern that we are over-purifying HPVs in the lab, and that in the natural setting of transmission, virions might be released from infected cells in a state that is already “decorated”.  

I hope I am making my point that the kinetics of infection and cellular interactions might be drastically altered depending upon virus purity.  I need more virologists with whom to ponder these processes!!

BTW, I’m planning soon to have an HPV plaque assay with which to wow you all at TWiV!

cheers and Happy New Year!!


Michelle A. Ozbun, Ph.D.

The Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Professor in Viral Oncology

The University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

Albuquerque, NM

Anthony writes:

The text in the screenshot is from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, published in 1959.  Some say that it predicts AIDS.  He starts off with lymphogranuloma (actually caused by a bacteria) which is associated with AIDS.  Burroughs refers to a disease from Kenya.  He says that the spread is enabled by sexual transmission — unlike the diseases with jungle vectors — and worldwide travel.

According to McLuhan, it’s not that artists predict the future, but that they see the present.  The illusion of prophecy results when everyone else is looking backwards instead of ahead.


Sean writes:

Good Morning Esteemed Professors (or I should day fellow Virology Nerds!),

I came across this article entitled “The Death of Expertise” and thought I would share it with you all for an open discussion.

Although I am studying to get a PhD in Public Health, I still find myself having conversations with people that refuse to believe that vaccines do not, in fact, cause autism or that [insert current diet fad here] works more effectively than a balanced diet with exercise. I have observed that this trend is not exclusive to one political affiliation or another; I have many self-proclaimed progressive acquaintances that continue to admonish wheat gluten as a toxic substance, even though I haven’t seen any dose-response curves that compare wheat gluten to the likes of bisphenol-A or methyl bromide.

Does your team have any advice for how young scientists like me can better educate and communicate with people that insist their 5-minute google search is comparable to my 11 years of science education?

I’m not sure if this will be e-mail #23, but I am thrilled to e-mail you just the same. I listen to TWIV and TWIM during my weekly commute to work in the glorious Los Angeles traffic, and always smile at the fun banter between Vincent and Dickson as well as Alan’s incredibly well-timed puns. It is currently 16C (60F) and rainy here in California, for which I am hopeful can replenish our snow-pack after years of severe drought.

Warm wishes from the West Coast,


P.S. For those of you curious about LA Traffic, I highly recommend seeing the movie La La Land.