Anthony writes:

This, in particular about a MERS vaccine is important.  I found in general the use of domesticated viruses as beasts of burden in vaccine production interesting.

TWiV long and prosper.

Anthony Olszewski

# # #

Patti writes:

Greetings from a viroid in the TWIXiverse,

    There’s no need to report the weather as I live in NJ and you’ve probably already covered that. In fact,  Vincent, I was raised on your favorite barrier island. My parents bought our first house there shortly after the great storm of 1962 when, among other ships, a navy destroyer was washed ashore. The house was built in 1912 and I guess they thought if it had survived that long there wasn’t much it couldn’t withstand and they were right the house has taken the worse nature could throw at it and is still standing strong and remains in the family. In further common ground I have a sister who lived in Ann Arbor for a few years, though she has since returned to the island, and I am an ER nurse working in Camden NJ though not the same hospital as Dr Alfred. Small world eh?

    I’m an old fart looking forward to retirement but I have never lost my interest in all things scientific. About 18 months ago I gave in to the teasing of family and friends and surrendered my flip phone for a smart phone. Now they tease me b/c I got a “phablet”  which has a 6.6 inch screen. But hey, it still fits in my pocket and I can see the screen without my glasses if necessary. In truth I got it for the tablet features more than the phone and I have not been disappointed. For years I have been an avid audible book listener spending a considerable amount of money every month on audible books and often settling for the sub-par as the number of selections are much improved but still limited. When a co-worker introduced me to my first podcast she opened up a whole new avenue of  entertainment for me and it wasn’t long before I found the TWIX Universe. Now I listen for free and I thank you and all the other pod casters for saving me so much money and improving the quality of my listening selections. I have caught up with all the TWIX casts except for TWIV and that will take a while b/c you have inspired me to watch the YouTube virus lectures and that involves some studying but I am understanding more of your discussions.

    I promised myself I wasn’t going to write to you until I caught up but I found I can’t wait. I have to weigh in on 3 matters.

    1. While watching one of your lectures you mentioned that some viruses need to attach to 2 different surface proteins on a cell in order to gain entry. What happens if only one of the necessary proteins is present? Does the virus remain stuck there waving uselessly in the inter-cellular environment until it is picked off by a macro phage or is it able to detach and move on to the next cell and so forth until it finds a cell that sports both proteins?

    2. I just have to weigh in with my thoughts on the question of whether a virus is alive or dead. If you were on a space ship with a mission to find habitable planets for colonization that did not support any life how would you classify a planet on which you discovered viruses? It seems to me that it is human nature to try to classify everything and viruses will not be classified. We prefer to see everything as either black or white and often don’t settle for anything in between; which is where viruses seem determined to exist. In my opinion they are no different than a seed or a spore; they just need the right environment to “grow” and that environment provides them with the sustenance they need just as seeds and spores need soil and water. They’re just different, admittedly very different, but life evolves to fill every niche and viruses have found a very exploitable one.

    3. I’m not usually one to beat a dead horse but I would like to bring up the issue regarding the sequencing of the HeLa genome. When I first learned of it I had a powerful visceral reaction. I’m a white female and have had a good life. I can’t recall any experience of discrimination so for the first time I have an inkling of what it must be like. Henrietta’s ancestors weren’t asked if they wanted to leave their loved ones, their home even their continent and become slaves in some foreign land. They weren’t asked if they wanted to live in poverty. They weren’t asked if they wanted to be denied the rights and privileges that would have helped them rise above the poverty. Henrietta wasn’t asked if she wanted to donate her body parts to science. And she certainly wasn’t asked if she wanted her identity and consequently her family’s name released to the public. It’s been several years since I read the book but I recall one of her female relatives, (was it her daughter?)  was institutionalized, kept against the family’s wishes and experimented upon without her or her family’s knowledge. Life altering decisions have been made about the family without their consent for generations. As far as I know there have been no apologies, no restitution and no formal “Thank you.” Now here we are in the 21st century and once again, a decision was made that deeply affects the family and no one bothered to ask for their input. It’s an intellectual and personal slap in the face and totally disregards the emotional impact the announcement must have had upon the family. It amounts to saying they aren’t intelligent enough or valued enough for their opinions and needs to be considered. Scientists are people first before they are scientists and they have to take into consideration ALL the consequences of their actions before they act. No matter how hard we try science will never be “pure” it will always be affected by our humanness. All things considered I think the family demonstrated considerable restraint and grace throughout the process.

    I’m sorry this was so long but I’m really enjoying this opportunity to have an intellectual discussion, of sorts, and I promise not to do this too often.

Thanks so much for all you do.

From Patti and the Beach Hounds

Anthony writes:

If you put together a US virus road tour, for NJ you might consider Fort Dix for the 1976 Flu.


Wink writes:

Dear TWIV Professors,

In your recent introduction you were considering how you might have acquired your viral URI’s. You first thought of inanimate surfaces in your environments. Yes, rhinovirus can survive for 24 hours on fomites, but if you want to take a guess with much better odds, think of the reservoir for these viruses in nature: children. Persons with contact with young children get URI’s at a least twice the rate of those who do not.

Wink Weinberg (Atlanta)

Justin writes:

Washington Post: The anti-government ideas fueling anti-vaxxers.

A pretty decent write-up on what’s going on in NY at the moment.

Volker writes:

Dear Vincent,

Just in case you have not seen Inglourious Basterds (I know you are not a movie person) I wanted to send you the following link to a scene where three Americans want to pretend to be Italians to deceive the nazis… But the nazi they meet is unfortunately perfectly fluent in English, French and Italian… And he loves to pronounce Italian names like you do …

Enjoy and don’t take it as a criticism, I have a clear German accent in all languages I speak. By the way, when in an Easter Egg you all gave your best on pronouncing Koch it was either Rich or Dickson (I do not remember exactly) who came closest. Go to the following page and press the speaker symbol.

Best regards and thanks to you and the crew


Cyprian writes:

Dear TWIV Team,

First, an immense thank you for all that you do to make the TWIV show possible.  I enjoy every episode and I’m continually grateful for your virology wisdom and enthusiastic science communication.  I’ve often thought to write but was never able to put into words how much your show means to me, not only for the education I experience with every episode but the comradery as well.

Here is my Listener Pick:  

I saw this article in PLoS Computational Biology and immediately wanted to share it, so I thought of you guys. I think this is an important topic because the lab presents a unique work environment.

“Ten simple rules towards healthier research labs” by Fernando T. Maestre.  Here is the link: and attached is the PDF.  I particularly like the quote in the introduction, it sums up a lot of it: “We are all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind.”-Charles Gordon.

A big Thank You to y’all,

Cyprian C. Rossetto

Cyprian C. Rossetto, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Nevada, Reno

School of Medicine