Tomasz writes:


First of all – thank you for your iTunesU lectures and TWIV. They helped me a lot when I was learning microbiology years ago 🙂

In my country – Poland – there is a heated debate going on currently, with both online and offline protests related to wild boar population control and ASF.

Perhaps it would be an interesting subject for TWiV?

The issue goes on more or less like this:

– Wild boar population is getting infected with ASF, moving progressively from east to west

– This in turn threatens the pig production (which is around 50% of all meat in Poland and in Europe)

– Of course, it is important that farms have to introduce biosafety measures to prevent the pigs from getting infected, but if the disease keeps spreading through the ecosystem, and wild boar remains a consistent reservoir of ASF, this may not be sufficient enough to maintain small and “eco” pig farms

Because of that, the Polish government has announced a mass hunt of wild boar, to drastically reduce its population in the areas touched by ASF.

The protests are happening now, with ecologists saying that mass hunt is pointless because it will cause the disease to spread even faster (boar moving further distances, trying to avoid hunters, and empty ecosystem providing place for more infected boar from the east coming over).

Also, if population control of the wild boar is indeed effective, such a sudden removal of this species from the ecosystem, could potentially cause a lot of adverse effects.

The question that seems to be on everyone’s mind are:

– can we keep wild boar population, and keep pigs / farms safe using just good prevention methods?

– are we perhaps at a moment, where we have to decide between one of the two species? either keep the pig production and severely limit the wild boar population, or drastically lower the pig production (only to farms that can keep the highest standards) and keep the boar population roughly intact, accepting that it carries ASF.

The debate on the subject is very heated and political right now, and it would be interesting to hear anything about ASF in TWiV 🙂



Erik writes:


This is a really interesting paper just out that demonstrates the importance of “gain of function” research in order to assess the zoonotic potential of viruses. Perhaps Paul Duprex could be a guest on an upcoming TWiV to discuss this paper with you? A big focus of his lab, besides measles, is CDV which features in this paper:

Anthony writes:

Professor Condit noted that the current Ebola outbreak was not getting much play in the news.  As long as Ebola was what Dr. Hotez called “an imaginary disease of White people” and worried the comfortable here, media marched.  As it became increasingly obvious — despite the best efforts of Dr. Osterholm — that Ebola afflicted the poor in Africa and was not going anywhere else, the American public no longer cared.


Ann Skalka writes:

Vincent:  What a touching and uplifting discussion with Roland.  I know that he has been much admired by his colleagues, and now I know why: not only an outstanding and accomplished scientist, but a wonderful human being!  Thanks! Ann

Anne writes:

Prof. Racaniello and TWiV team,

The most recent episode of “Inquiring Minds”, a science podcast I listen to, contains in its most current (Jan 8) episode a discussion between the hosts about a topic I’ve heard discussed on TWiV, pricing and access to scientific journals (the title includes a mention of the New Horizons probe).  It’s the last segment of the episode, starting about 10:45 minutes from the end (references the Univ of CA system vs. Elsevier). Many points are similar to points found in your previous discussions of this, but there is one that’s different.

I don’t know if you’ve covered the story already; feel free to ignore if so.

Here’s one article about the dispute; there are many others out there.




P.S.  The podcast is also available on the Podcasts app, and many other podcast broadcasters.

Anne writes: (same)

No doubt your team has heard about this (apropos of Prof. Despommier’s comments on on a recent podcast episode).

Ken writes:

Hi Twivvers,

Although my career has nothing to do with biology, I’ve been listening to TWIV and TWIP for several years now,  along with other Science and Skepticism podcasts … out of pure scientific curiosity while I spend my working day doing CAD / GIS drafting and design work, and 3D modelling work for a Geotechnical Engineering firm in Vancouver BC, Canada.    

I can’t say that I have that great of an understanding of your topics,  but it’s fascinating to see the scientific method in progress. You’ve improved my vocabulary sufficiently that when my daughter was born at just 29 weeks and 1.5 pounds, and with a number of complications – including a rare genetic metabolic disorder called MCADD,  I think I had a much easier time than I otherwise would have understanding what the doctors, nurses, and specialists were talking about over her 5 month stay in the NICU.   She’s 6 now and doing great. MCADD is manageable by diet, and she’s had no developmental setbacks. Her older brother is a fan of the show The Monsters Inside Me.

Anywho,  In TWIV 530,  there was a discussion about words that are portmanteau’s.   I believe I have the ultimate example – with a built in pun. Perhaps its a meta-portmanteau.  It’s hilarious to me, but it seems to get no better than a groan from everyone else:

Here in Vancouver we have a large bridge over the Fraser River named the Port Mann.   A few years ago it was replaced. Once the new bridge was built, the old bridge was taken apart, lowered down piece by piece onto barges to be hauled away.

… in a process that I’ve named:  The portmanntow.

Thanks for all your great science!

Anthony writes:

Cape May County Horse Found To Have Rabies

Anonymous writes:

hey I was listening to your Dec 30th episode about hanta and it just so happens that an outbreak was happening (and is happening) in Argentina, in a town called Epuyen

contrary to what you said on the podcast, this strain of hanta can jump between humans apparently

from what we know it started in late november when a farm worker got the virus from cleaning an old shed (literally a textbook case lmao) then went to a birthday party and a bunch of attendees got it from him, including the 14 yo birthday girl who is now dead RIP. The farm worker is fine though, can you imagine being him now? poor guy

this human-to-human transmission isn’t new though, at least according to spanish Wikipedia there was an outbreak in 1996 at El Bolsón, really close to Epuyen (25 miles), that also affected some medical staff treating the patients, some died. So yeah some evolution trickery going on down south

the latest tally I can find says: at least 26 cases, 10 dead including a nurse

coincidentally you guys mention on the podcast the place-based naming and how inconvenient it can be, Epuyen is a beautiful mountain town that lives off of tourism and January is high season… it’s messing up their economy sadly.

David Spector writes:

Dear Vincent and Friends,

I meant to send this link last week when it was published but life got in the way temporarily.   It’s not about virology per se, or even biology. But it is a wonderful defense of curiosity and the pursuit of “useless knowledge” that is at the core of the love of science for many of us.



David J. Spector, Ph. D

Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology

Penn State Hershey

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