B Jørn writes:

“Heavy rains in July probably overwhelmed the drainage system, washing live virus into the open through poorly sealed drain covers, concludes the HSE.”


In your recent episode about biosecurity you (collectively, but most vocally Alan Dove) said you didn’t know about any recent accidents from laboratories with high containment levels.  That made me remember this incident from 2007 where a faulty pipe In the UK’s Porton Down facility led to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It has happened before, and it probably will happen again, but hopefully very rarely.

Ps: The episode was excellent.  Jens Kuhn is fantastically knowledgeable and very good at explaining.

Best wishes

B Jørn

Kambling 101 writes:

Dear TWiV,

A Measles Scare has now been reported in the San Jose Area

This time its being reported at the Google Offices.

Google employees may have been exposed to measles after a San Mateo resident diagnosed with the virus “spent some time” at the Mountain View headquarters within the last couple of weeks, health officials said.

Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County health officer and public health director, would not confirm whether the San Mateo resident was an employee of Google.

“The person was a resident of San Mateo County, but the exposure occurred in Santa Clara (County), so we took the lead of ensuring that anyone in Santa Clara County got proper follow,” Cody said at a press conference Wednesday.

Buzzfeed reported that a physician at Google sent a letter to employees notifying them that a worker who had visited the tech giant’s office at 1295 Charleston Road on April 4 had recently been diagnosed with measles.

“We have been working with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and they would like us to share this measles advisory, which contains information on measles, exposure risks and actions to be taken,” Buzzfeed reported that physician wrote to employees on April 13.

So far this year, four measles cases have been confirmed in Santa Clara County and two cases have been confirmed in San Mateo County.

In Santa Clara County, vaccination rates among children are high, with over 97 percent on average in public schools and over 94 percent on average in private schools, according to the county’s website.

Therefore, Cody said the vast majority of residents don’t have anything to be concerned about. “It’s unusual to see spread of illness because of these vaccination rates,” she said.

“The reason county health departments take measles so seriously is because of infants,” Cody said. “Infants are usually not vaccinated until they’re a year old, so the way to protect infants is to ensure the community is vaccinated.”

Kambling 101 writes:


LOS ANGELES (KABC) — There’s another measles warning coming out of Los Angeles International Airport. It’s the third such warning in the last two months.

A passenger with the disease passed through terminal 7 on Wednesday, April 3. That person arrived in the late morning and left that night through terminal 8.

“This concerns me. I really wish people would get their kids vaccinated. The data against it is unfounded. So it creates a public health risk,” said Mike McManus, a traveler.

Health officials do not believe LAX is under threat of a measles outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been more than 550 cases of measles across the U.S. this year. This is the second highest level in more than two decades, and the number is expected to rise.

Other parts of California are getting the measles scare besides Sacramento and San Jose though.

Anthony writes:

Atlanta meteorologist responds to death threats after Masters interruption

# # #

And those not worried about a tornado can drive, buy guns, produce children and vote.  

Your weather critics are certainly subdued compared to the golf fans.

Richard DDS writes:

Falcon heavy launch and landing:

Mark writes:

Dear Un-encapsidated TWiV Humans,

I hope this is a unique salutation to you altruistic researchers, podcast communicators, and emeriti – is that the proper plural form of ’emeritus’?

I’m writing to give a specialized public service announcement. This is for listeners born between 1957 and 1963, and it concerns measles vaccination.  The CDC’s website recommendation for adult measles vaccination is inconsistent. On one page it indicates no need for people born after 1957, on another page in indicates people born before 1963 should consider adult age vaccination “absent proof of vaccination.” My infant vaccination records no longer exist. Do any of yours?

In May I will be traveling for vacation. I will transit through the New York metropolitan area which has an active measles epidemic, and spend time sealed in an airborne viral and microbial exchange chamber. Many know of these devices by their common name: airplanes.

I vaguely remember the symptoms from having Mumps and German Measles (aka Rubella) as a child.  I have stronger memories from when my younger brothers developed these infections. My twin and I scared and tormented them with exaggerated stories about disfiguring progressions of their diseases. Listeners with several siblings will certainly understand, and probably partook, in this behavior.

Measles vaccination is almost universally administered in a trivalent vaccine: MMR, which confers protection against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. It is possible to get an MMR shot at other places than your doctor’s office. Many pharmacies provide MMR  and other vaccinations, such as flu, as a convenient, walk-in service.

In my area pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens — listed alphabetically to not show a preference — are such providers. So, too, is the county health department. I received the first of two injections today, as I write this letter.

The vaccine cost is covered under my health plan’s drug benefit. Interested listeners should check their own plans. For those put-off by their provider’s voice response system, which is designed to send you down an automated self-service rathole for routine issues, I have found that dropping an “F-bomb”, in the form of “I need help from a F***ing live attendant” almost always transfers you to a live, helpful person.

In the California Bay area one paying out-of-pocket would spend $100-125 for a shot depending on the provider.

Finally, the weather: it is Spring here in California and the weather over Easter Weekend was sunny with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70’s Farenheit, or 24-27 Celcius. The grass on the mountains around the Bay is dark green; not the bright green of young, vibrantly growing grass, but the darker color of grasses starting to seed. In a few weeks the California weather will render them brown on their way to golden color in the Summer season.

I hope I got a few laughs from your listeners. All the best.

Trudy writes:

Dear TWiVers,

The recent TWiX discussions about the New York vaccine mandate and whether it’s ethical to enforce such a mandate reminded me of a book I read recently, titled Terrible Typhoid Mary.

As suggested by the title, the book chronicles the story of Typhoid Mary and all the controversies surrounding her quarantine. At that time, there was no vaccine against typhoid fever, so the only way the medical and legal officials knew how to protect the public from Mary was by isolating her from others. When reading this book, one develops mixed feelings about the morality of such an act in view of Mary’s constitutional rights, particularly because it eventually became clear that she was not the only asymptomatic carrier of the bacterium. However, she was the first one to be identified as such and the only one to be isolated from the public following her diagnosis. I suppose the main reason for this was because she was the only known carrier who made a living by cooking for others, and hence exacerbated the spread of the disease. One may reason that Mary could have found an alternative profession, however, it turns out that she was a very good cook, enjoyed what she did, and was very well compensated for it. She tried her hand at other jobs such as doing laundry, but the work was much harder and didn’t pay as well. I can completely understand why she would be motivated to go back to cooking, especially since she herself had never been sick and didn’t seem to understand the science behind her carrier status. In the end, she lived out her life in extreme loneliness and I must admit that I felt terrible for her.

I highly recommend this book. It is well written and provides some great present day analogies.

And for the record, I’m highly in favor of the New York vaccine mandate. Just in case you were wondering.

Best Regards,


Joyce writes:

Dear TWIV team,

Thanks very much for a great Podcast!

As microbiologists, and people who love and respect science, we all know that climate change is on a path to increasing disease rates and devastating the planet.

Young people around the world are striking for climate action and climate justice. They know their future is at stake, just like the future of all of us.

An article has been written in Science Magazine and there is an effort now to get scientists and scholars from around the world to sign an open letter. Please sign it and share the link with your institution, business, university as well as friends and family and encourage scholars from all disciplines, not just scientists, to sign it. The goal is to get over a million scientists and scholars to sign on.



To sign letter:


And while you’re thinking about the subject I encourage you to visit http://citizensclimatelobby.org to see how you can help  in the effort to pass legislation that will go a long way to solving the climate crisis and giving us a positive future.



PS I would appreciate it if you would read this letter or at least mention it and include the links in the other podcasts that you do.

Richard DDS writes:

Phage therapy….pretty good communication!

[vr: covered on TWiV 502, from those who worked on it!]

Ryan writes:


As of April 2019 there are 560 reported measles cases. However in some parts of the country the measles outbreak has lead to political protests at State Capitals like in California, Oregon, and Washington State note some of the measles cases may still be under investigation in some parts of the USA as of this posting. Also some states may still have political protests at play due to the vaccine debates in governors and state legislatures as of this posting.





Johnye writes:

Howdy Dr. R,

Must say it was an honor (and fun) to have Rich come by the office.  Everyone was on their “company’s coming best behavior”. Next time maybe we can arrange noon time didactic and lunch and invite all our favorite infectious disease friends. Please know there is an open invitation to the inimical TWiV, TWiP, TWiM, etc hosts and contributors. Rich has my contact info and some pictures from office and our “Lab”.

Lastly, Vincent you wouldn’t know but we share January 2nd as our birthdays, the best day of the year as far as I’m concerned (I’m old enough to ALWAYS take January 2nd off and now, if I choose, 3rd, 4th or more off too!!!). Hope you are enjoying being a sexagenarian and the ride on Rte 66. It gets better.  

To you, et al. stay well.



PS: Actually it isn’t so warm here: 10 C, gray and raining.

Kate writes:

Dear TWIVers:

Thank you for your outstanding podcast.  There is no other podcast on the internet done by experts in a biological discipline that I can find.   Every discipline should communicate with the public, students, and colleagues the way that the TWIVers do.   I don’t know how you have the time to do it every week. It is very very useful.

I teach at a small liberal arts college, Ursinus College, where reading the primary literature is part of the biological curriculum from the students’ first year of study. We continue to reinforce this style of learning throughout their education.  I discovered TWIV this year and immediately incorporated it into my 400 level virology course. We use TWIV in a few ways:

1.     I use TWIV podcasts to identify new papers to use in class.

2.     At the beginning of the semester, I assign some of the papers that are discussed on the TWIV podcast to all of the students in the class to read.  I tell the students to listen to the TWIV podcast so that they have help in interpreting the paper.

I write homework questions on the paper for the students to address.  We then discuss the answers to the questions in class.

o   As an alternative to the questions, I have them fill out this table called “Figure Facts” invented by my colleague Jennifer Round and Malcolm Campbell at Davidson College.  It encourages the student to slowly dissect each table and figure in a paper and record the goals, methods, and results of each table or figure. Here is a link to the paper: https://www.lifescied.org/doi/full/10.1187/cbe.11-07-0057

3.     After a few weeks into the semester, students start to present papers in the class. They are responsible for presenting background information on the virus in the paper and then leading the class discussion on the paper.  They write (and I edit) the class discussion questions. If there is a TWIV podcast associated with the paper, I recommend that they listen to it.

The TWIV podcast helps everyone to understand the papers much better.  It boosts their confidence (and mine) to hear the TWIVers say that they don’t know why someone did a particular experiment a particular way.  

In addition, I tell the students that they should read with their computers open so that they can look up unfamiliar words or techniques– It is also good that the students have examples of famous scientists looking things up that they don’t know, as the TWIVers look things up very frequently.   

My students report that TWIV is extremely helpful!

The philosophy of bringing science to the public demonstrated by TWIV is wonderful.  As I said above, I have not found another discipline in which this is done nearly as well.  As so many of your listeners say, keep up the good work!!

Thank you,

Kate Goddard Doms


Kathryn Goddard, PhD

Associate Professor, Biology

Ursinus College

Johnye writes:

From the NYT MAG LABS, 2 timely articles aimed primarily at the school aged, grades 1-12, population about vaccinations. A pro-vaccine perspective.  

Taking Charge, about “…a teenager who testified before Congress about the importance of vaccination (Page4)” and a what, why, how and cartoon about herd immunity, on page 5

My “Listener Pick”.

Sheena writes:

Hi Vincent,

I subscribe to a NPR history podcast, and the latest episode covered the history of vaccine compliance in the US.  I thought you and the other TWIVers might find it interesting:


Kind regards from Zürich,


Dr. Sheena N. Smith

Post Doctoral Researcher

Laboratory of Prof. A. Plueckthun

University of Zurich