David writes:

Dear Twivniks,

Re TWiV 505, here’s a thought on potential mechanisms for involvement of virus immunity in Alzheimer’s disease. I’m sure I read somewhere the notion that the capacity of cells to dispose of protein aggregates, misfolded or otherwise, could be a factor in progressive cellular damage. In the context of viral infection, efficient clearance of complexes consisting of virus components and anti-viral proteins like amyloid might prevent their accumulation in neurons. Excess viral replication, or decreased protein turnover capacity (related to metabolism and aging?) could upset the balance. The complexes could accumulate and over time contribute to cell destruction. The effect doesn’t need to be large at all; neurons don’t turn over and there are decades for pathology to manifest.

TWiV keeps getting even better. Brianne is a great addition to the team. It’s cool that the podcast still works well even when all six of you comprise the panel.

Also, thank you for your kind mention of our former Chair and colleague, Dick Courtney.

It’s 31°C (87*F) in Hershey. There are clouds and sun and storms possible this afternoon. Two weeks ago we had days of downpours that flooded Hershey Park and made it difficult to get around. It’s pretty much back to normal now. Hopefully the weather will co-operate for Vincent’s visit to Penn State Hershey in the Fall. Can’t wait!  Truth be told, I’ve been agitating for a while for such a visit to little avail. Fortunately, a postdoc here who is a TWiX fan made an independent request (unbeknownst to me), and the “powers that be” listened to him.

In Viro Veritas,


David J. Spector, Ph. D

Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology

Penn State Hershey

Hershey, PA 17033

Neeraj writes:

Dear Twivvers,

        I hope you are doing great and the summer has been productive for you. Even though its been a while since I last wrote in, I have been religiously indulging in the scientific wisdom from up and beyond your Tw”IMVP” series. And while hearing your discussion about AD on the latest TWIV505, I was taken back the memory lane as a lowly grad student when I used to work on the aggregation kinetics of Ab42 peptide. In some regard, it’s a bit depressing to know that even after decades of investigation, our understanding of the factors contributing to the pathophysiology of AD is quite naïve. The “amyloid” hypothesis is always at the crux but there is always a group of investigators who believes the soluble oligomers are the major culprits for spewing neuronal toxicity. Obviously, the complexity that comes with investigating an age dependent ailment is hard to simplify, but the growing need to generate better diagnostics is definitely needed and needed NOW. And in this regard, reading about the role of Herpes Virus and the “postulated” anti-microbial role of Ab42 is quite intriguing! It’s certainly a very interesting start but there is a long road before one connects correlation to causation but I am optimistic that with such innovative science, one day we will have a better understanding of the underlying framework that promotes AD.

Overall, I really enjoyed the discussion but then a question popped in my head, which I thought I will run by you curious souls. So my understanding is that majority of the cases of AD are sporadic but there is still a small fraction (~ 5%) of the cases that are familial. In these situations (like the Swedish mutation), there is either an overproduction of the culprit Ab42 or the mutation generates an aberrant Ab42 that has much higher propensity to aggregate than WT Ab42. So is it known if in those cases, having a herpesvirus infection is not necessary or causal? I guess maybe in those situations the overproduction of Ab42 gets over the energy barrier to promote self-aggregation that leads to generation of amyloid plaques. Also, structurally Ab42 peptide is present at the core of the membrane protein Amyloid precursor protein and is generated by the sequential proteolytic cleavage of beta- and gamma-secretases. Is this event too promoted by the herpesvirus infection. Maybe? But then again, when I think about the timeline and how long it takes to be become symptomatic of AD, I fail to reconcile the proteolytic activity and its effect on pathology. Overall, I do think these novel insights can certainly help shape our understanding of this debilitating ailment and maybe, just maybe, someday we might have a treatment (if not cure), for people and families affected by this global disease. Unlike many other diseases, with AD, its not only the emotional aspect but a rapidly growing financial aspect of caretaking that is certainly going to hit every country’s GDP, as we age more and live longer lives. Well with that sobering thought, I just want to commend your passion for discussing these relevant topics and making the general audience like me aware and understand the difficulties of the art, that is “Re”search and development.




Neeraj Kapoor, Ph.D.

Scientist II at SutroVax, Inc.

Wytamma writes:

Hello TWIV team,

My home town just had it’s fourth year in a row dengue free! This is following the initial wolbachia release in 2014. One less danger to worry about here in the tropics 🙂


Kind regards,


Wytamma T. Wirth

PhD Candidate

James Cook University


Barbara writes:

Hello TWIV team!

Long time listener, first time writing into TWIV.

I am writing to express my gratitude to all of you for the time and effort that goes into putting together a great TWIV each week, and Vincent, thank you for the entire TWIX family of podcasts!  As a microbiologist by training, but no longer working in a lab because of health reasons, being able to listen to these podcasts is very rewarding and keeps me grounded in science.

I was delighted to find out that we listeners now have a way to support Microbe TV through Patreon. I’ve wanted to contribute in some way since first getting hooked on the TWIX podcasts. As a new monthly Patreon contributor, I’d like to encourage other listeners to contribute as well. I’m happy to give up one Starbucks Grande latte a month for my TWIX addiction!  

What surprises me is that there are only 154 monthly Patreon contributors listed on the Patreon website. Contrast that to the over 20,000 followers that TWIV has on Facebook. I’m sure that other listeners will be as surprised as I am at these numbers. I had put off contributing out of laziness, and now wish I had done it sooner!

I’ll end by thanking you for finally recording a plant virus episode!  In the mid-1990’s I worked at a now defunct company that tested grapevines for economically devastating viruses, and saw similarities to the citrus virus problem talked about in TWIV #503. I do not believe that many people realize the impact that microbes have on our food and beverage industry, or the efforts of the many creative people working not only in labs, but in the field and who are trying to find a way around the problems. I wasn’t aware of the citrus problem and can again thank TWIV for raising my awareness, as you have done on many other occasions about a wide range of issues over the past few years. Perhaps someday you will host an episode on grapevine viruses, as I am sure that many of your listeners enjoy a good glass of fermented grapes!


Barbara A.

San Diego, California, 85 degrees and sunny!

Larry writes:

Greetings TWiVovar,

I’m writing from Syracuse New York, on a perfectly mild 72oF Sunday afternoon. I just listened to TWiV 496 while doing yard work, and I was alarmed by the story about the physician who claimed there was no scientific evidence for herd immunity. However, maybe this shouldn’t be such a surprise. I don’t know how much epidemiology is covered in medical training, but I can tell you that a fair number of introductory microbiology textbooks for undergraduates cover herd immunity minimally, or not at all.

In the episode, Vincent asked about evidence supporting herd immunity, and over the course of the discussion, some examples were given. I tell my students that the 1990s diphtheria epidemic in the former Soviet Union is among the most powerful examples of an inadvertent experiment testing the hypothesis that vaccination against childhood diseases is no longer necessary.

As the Soviet Union broke apart and vaccination of children declined, the number of diphtheria cases exploded, from 1,436  in 1990 to 50,412 in 1995 (the peak year). In total, more than 140,000 cases and 4,000 deaths were reported, with a large proportion of cases in adults. Control of the epidemic ultimately required widespread immunization of both children and adults. While there were a variety of contributing factors (population movement, socioeconomic instability, deterioration of the health system), the large proportion of susceptible adults and children was key.

I’m slowly catching up on back episodes; probably this story has been described already in the TWiXoverse. But I think that as educators, we need to be proactive in emphasizing the importance of herd immunity, especially for students entering health-related fields.

Thanks for all that you do to keep the TWi’s running. As a faculty member at a community college, I enjoy wonderful daily interactions with an incredibly diverse group of students, but I sometimes miss the research talks and journal clubs of my former life. TWX is helping to fill that hole, and I’m encouraging my colleagues and students to tune in, too. Keep up the good work!

Best wishes,

Larry Weiskirch

Onondaga Community College

Syracuse NY

Beng writes:

Hi TWiV docs,

This may be of interest to those decided against the use of vaccines without medical reasons. I would like to offer a Malaysian folk treatment for mumps infections and “who nose if it will work in humans”. I guess I should narrow it down to the Chinese community in Penang, Malaysia. In Penang, an island in northern peninsular Malaysia, the majority Hokkien Chinese community called mumps infections “skin on pig head” [猪头皮=pig head skin (direct translation)] and you can appreciate how all the swollen facial lymph nodes make one looks rather like a pig head! My uncles had so much fun in scaring me about how the testicles will swell and I will be sterilised. I was so afraid that I was constantly checking up on my manhood even though I had no idea how and why that was important at my very young age.

This method was in use before washing machine was affordable to most. Why would that be important? One of the vital ingredients is hard to come by after washing machine became affordable and hand washing was no longer practiced.

tigerThe treatment requires three ingredients namely Chinese calligraphy ink, a bluing dye used in whitening clothes (To this day all Malaysian primary and secondary schools uniform still consists of a white shirt. Most of us in my age range have suffered from rocking up to school on a more blue than white school uniform), and a person that was born in the year of tiger (1962, 1974, 1986,….etc in 12 years cycle). The tiger person is to prepare a blue ink using the bluing dye and paint it on the side of the face that is swollen and when it is dried then write the Chinese character for tiger, using calligraphy ink, in a specific way that the last stroke will entrap the tiger and the pig in a circle allowing the tiger to, I assume, devour the pig (see attached photo).

I must add that my parents took me to the doctor before my grandmother insisted on this folk treatment. I was unfortunate that I was the only tiger in my family while I was suffering from mumps infection and the only other tiger person was a childhood friend living next to my maternal grandmother house. My uncles and aunties all didn’t like that particular neighbour so my youngest uncle carried out the above treatment for me. Talk about folk treatment done incorrectly and how a person’s/tribe’s pride can get in the way of a cure!

Thanks for the great podcasts.

P.S.: I am the one with a daughter in Perth, Western Australia that thought Vincent will personally deliver the prize to CD4 hunter contest winner. So all the checkings did pay off!



David writes:

Dear Doctors, Docti and Doctae,

I just listened to TWIV 496, and it was really great to hear an open, down to earth and humble debate about vaccines.

One thing was missing for me though. The role of the state, legislation, schools, religious groups and the pharmaceutical industry was discussed, but the health sector was barely touched upon (or the scientific community for that matter).

And still, from what I understand, it is not mandatory for US hospital staff to be vaccinated. Some doctors even declare a child to be allergic to eggs in order to do away with vaccine regulations. How can that be?  Doctors are supposed to be believers, to take scientific evidence into account, to try to save lives, right? I can understand that people who went through personal tragedies, or who are just gullible, or who are looking for a world not entirely made up of Monsanto veggies are misled and join the antivaxxers. But doctors should know better I believe, and the only reason I can think of why they would undermine their nation’s health is personal (and mostly financial) gain.

My question is therefore: is the medical sector not itself at least partly responsible for the negative aura surrounding vaccines?  Perhaps I completely misunderstand this, but I would say that a doctor who casts doubt about herd immunity should lose their license – and this could be enforced by the order of medical practitioners. A nurse who is not vaccinated should not be allowed to work in a public hospital, all IMHO. So, it seems to me that by giving free reign to a few rotten apples, the medical sector itself makes way for confusion and epidemics.

Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge about the USA perception of personal freedom – I am from European descent myself, and it is often hard to grasp how there can be a debate about e.g. gun control in your country. Maybe there are good reasons not to bring up yet another factor in a struggle that is already complex. But it’s somehow worrying that they don’t even come up in the discussion.

Greetings from a rainy 26 C Jinotepe, Nicaragua, where we have our own share of turmoil nowadays,

David Dionys

PS: After having listened to TWIx since 2013, I have come to the conclusion that MDs are more like engineers than like scientists. Contrary to my original conception of the profession, they are not necessarily seekers of absolute truth, but rather seem to pragmatically use what science brings them to muddle through and provide the best care to their patients, whether motivated by personal gain or vocation to make this world a better place. I highly respect most of them, intelligent, hardworking people who save lives on a daily basis  – I just feel bad about those straying against better knowledge.

Alex writes:

Greetings, dear TwiVeraceae!

I am frying at 30°C (86°F) here in Berlin while listening to your podcast. Just that Moment, I heard your discussion about postdoc desperation during their first year. This remembered me of an essay I once read: “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”, Schwartz M.A., 2008, Journal of Cell Science 121.

tl;dr: Failing and feeling stupid is not only normal, but part of the very principle of science. In the end, one always researches something he does not know about, yet. So science is born in curiosity and obligately requires stupidity!

I regularly experience periods of time when I think I am simply bad in Science. But ultimately, even accomplishing nothing in the lab generates the knowledge that at least, it is not working as one thought. Hence, regardless of the outcomes, in science, everyone is a winner.

Keep up your curious and passionate attitudes!

Best wishes,


Edmund writes:

Hi I listen to your podcasts. You have inspired me to study science when I was 35. I am now 36 and 1/2, not very far in science still really old. (Who am I half of?)   It has been a great inspiration so far. I should also mention, I’ve been modeling my speaking voice on Mr. Dr Rich Condit (if my guess is right) and I have gotten surprising comments on it so far.  

Anyway, I’m in Atlanta right now; up from Pensacola to see the Bodies exhibit, and I want to reach out. For further inspiration to me and thanks giving to you (all of you; you’re absolutely wonderful).

Being from Pensacola I have listener pick, podcast wise.  You probably already know about STEMtalk from IHMC (that is, the institute of human and machine cognition). VERY cool interviews and I have to take this opportunity to thank them for all the monthly lecturers they bring in to speak. OUTSTANDING and TWIVworthy, if I do say so myself. (Check out greg

Greg smith, if memory serves, northwestern virology. Took over my mind for a little while,  I still can’t stand how little I know . Thank you, all of you, folks and people and any one else, for all that you do.

Raymond writes:

Dear Prof. Racaniello:

In a recent TWIV episode there was a reference to the anti-vaccine controversy that was initiated by the bogus claims of Andrew Wakefield.

There is a programme entitled ‘Seriously’ on BBC Radio 4 which deals with serious or interesting topics. One episode entitled: ‘In the Wake of Wakefield’ might be of interest to the TWIV team and/or TWIV listeners.

The link for the programme is:


The programme can also be downloaded for listening at a later date.

In closing, please keep up the good work of the TWI podcasts.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond Aiken


Northern Ireland

P.S. It is a beautiful summer evening here at approximately 20:40 hrs with a temperature of 130 Celsius.

Anthony writes:

Jersey girl?

Woman was bit by rabid fox, so she strangled it with one hand

Updated 2:56 PM; Posted 8:11 AM

By Bill Gallo Jr. bgallo@njadvancemedia.com


Heverton writes:

Dear TWIV squad!

I’ve been a fan of the show since I’ve heard about it on episode 388, where I had the honor to have my paper (Wolbachia Blocks Currently Circulating Zika Virus Isolates in Brazilian Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes) commented by you guys. As a matter of fact, that paper cost us $5000 to be published as an open access article. Yes, that’s right…five thousand dollars! An absurd amount of money. We only managed to have it as an open access because the Gates Foundation (which funded the research), promptly gave us the money to do so.

I think paywalls are absurd, and I’m totally in favor of the preprint movement / open access journals. That being said, I wanted to hear your opinions on one idea that I’ve been thinking lately.

What if journals that charge us fees for publications, develop a point-based system for reviewers where, after reaching a certain amount of points (obtained by reviewing papers for these journals), the reviewers would then get discounts and even free-of-charge publication bonuses for a paper they submit to this journal? This would increase the incentives for us reviewers to keep reviewing papers for these journals, something that we currently do absolutely for free, and would also provide a beneficial system to the journal itself, that would keep getting reviews from now motivated reviewers/scientists.

Anyway, just an idea. Keep being awesome!

All the best,

Heverton L. C. Dutra, PhD

Postdoctoral fellow

Boston University

Tim writes:

As a retired MD I have enjoyed a variety of podcasts on wellness. Thanks for your continued discussions. In episode 496 you asked how individuals can continue to talk against vaccination. I just heard a source and would like to hear your discussion. I hope I can forward it in this email.


Tim Rietz retired family practice MD