Wytamma writes:

Hi TWIV Team,

I thought 2018 was an excellent year for TWIV 🙂 I’ve attached a short compilation of some of my favourite clips. I’m looking forward to 2019 when we get to hear more science, more Brianne, and more weather!

Kind regards,


Wytamma T. Wirth

PhD Candidate

James Cook University

click link to download Wytamma’s mashup: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8dwAT4VdQdjVTNJdkJDbzh4VFBrZkRJVERXX21tc0dzc0NN

John writes:

Hi Twiv Team,

Happy New Year to you all, may there be many more to come, I’m holding out for the 1000th episode of Twiv.

Thank you for an evidence-based podcast that places critical thinking and curiosity at its core.

I’ve just listened to Vincent’s interview with Peter Hotez and it really highlighted to me how important it is to make communication as relatable as possible to your target audience.

I am currently working as a scientific representative and have had to learn my communication in a “seat of the pants” manner to quote Peter. In my day-to-day working life I have to explain scientific concepts (such as Scanning Electron Microscopy) to customers from a range of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Based on this experience I’ve found that analogies can be quite useful in getting ideas across, even customers with many years of education often prefer this as it takes them away from the stresses of their daily lives and gives them something simple and relatable to conceptualise.

An example for explaining the the risks of contracting measles vs the risk of vaccine-derived adverse events:

“There are adverse events associated with vaccination, however autism is not one of them and the risk of an adverse event is very small compared to the risk and consequences of contracting measles. You buckle the seatbelts for your kids even though you know there is always a risk of car crash, not vaccinating your kids increases the chance of serious health problems in the same way as not buckling up your kids”

This isn’t a perfect example or a new approach, only something I’ve learned along the way. I understand that concerns regarding adverse events would increase once the risk of contracting an infectious disease falls below said adverse events, in that case it is very important to communicate to the world’s citizens that adverse events require better vaccines (and support for research into these), not canning vaccines entirely. You don’t throw your car away because one of the brakes fails, you get a better brake and the car is safer as a result.

Communication is itself a tool and what matters is how it is used, a hammer can be used to commit a murder or it can be used to help build a house.

Finally, you have all helped me to start a part-time Master in Bioinformatics, thank you and keep up the great episodes!

John from Melbourne

p.s. I like the weather at the start of episodes, all climate-haters can skip it thanks to Jolene’s timestamps.


Jonathan writes:

Hey TWiVers,

I’m a relatively new listener but I wanted to follow up on your discussion about prions and corneal transplant from episode 526.

First, a little about me. I am a DVM student at Tufts University’s veterinary school. I actually just started working in Dr. Runstadler’s lab where I intend to pursue my PhD. However, prior to veterinary school, I was a director and laboratory manager at an eye bank.

There are a lot of reasons someone could need a corneal transplant but some of the more common ones are infection, trauma, post-cataract edema, fuchs endothelial dystrophy, and failed corneal grafts.

In the US, eye banks are generally regulated by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), the FDA, and potentially by their state(s). Screening eye donors is an intensive process and several guidelines were put into place in order to eliminate high-risk CJD/vCJD patients. The screening process involves reviewing medical records, a physical exam, serology testing, and a donor risk assessment interview (DRAI) which is completed by someone who knew the decedent well. Obviously, anyone with CJD cannot donate (for transplant). However, the regulations go far beyond that. They exclude anyone with dementia, anyone with a  degenerative neurological disease or delirium of unknown etiology. They exclude people who have received a non-synthetic dura mater transplant, human pituitary-derived growth hormone, and anyone with blood relatives diagnosed with CJD. Perhaps the most frustrating regulation excludes people with specific travel history, for example anyone who spent 3+ months in the UK between 1980 and 1996, or anyone who received a blood transfusion in the UK or France between 1980 and the present; the list goes on and on. Considering that some medical records can be 1,000+ pages and people travel a lot, screening can take a considerable amount of time. Obviously there are several flaws to the screening process. As you pointed out, this still wouldn’t eliminate people in the early stages who die of trauma. So it is exciting to have a potential test.

That being said, it is a bit misleading to tell people that they will now be able to know if their corneal transplant contains CJD or not. While this paper shows testing can be done, that is different than the technology being available for widespread use. There is still a lot that will need to be worked out such as what labs offer testing, how the test will be standardized / certified, the price of the test, how the regulatory organizations will handle testing, etc. The current reality is that patients won’t know for sure if the cornea is free from CJD. However, given the current screening regulations and the low incidence rate, the risk of acquiring CJD from a corneal transplant is very very low. It will be interesting to follow how everything plays out.

Thanks for such an interesting podcast! Happy New Year!

JJ Stone

P.S. I’ve attached a few documents for reference. One is a suggested donor risk assessment interview, these are the questions someone close to the decedent would have to answer. I’ve also attached a copy of the EBAA Medical Standards which clarify many of the contraindications for transplant if you are further interested.

Ruan writes:

Dear Twiv

Greetings and happy new year from Cape Town where it’s pretty windy and 4 degrees celsius, below the ideal temperature for growing Enterovirus D68 in cell culture.

The recent discussion of haemorrhagic fever-associated viruses and the trend of naming them after places reminded me of the interesting case of Lujo virus, the new kid on the Old World arenavirus block. It is interestingly named after 2 places. Lusaka (thus Lu-) in Zambia where the index case originated and Johannesburg (thus -jo, making Lu-jo virus) in South Africa where the index case was airlifted to. Disease caused by this virus during the 2008 outbreak was characterised by nosocomial transmission and an exceedingly high mortality rate of 80%.

(Reference: Open Access Article in PLOS Pathogens: Genetic Detection and Characterization of Lujo Virus, a New Hemorrhagic Fever–Associated Arenavirus from Southern Africa)