Colin writes:

Dear TWiV hosts,

I have recently become addicted to your podcasts. I’ve had an interest in infectious diseases for a long time, but without much of a background in microbiology or virology, I have learned so much from your weekly discussions, which have helped me tremendously as I delve into my PhD studying Dengue viruses.

I wanted to make 2 remarks:

  1. As you covered in TWiV 535 (Miles to go before I leak), flavivirus NS1 is a hot topic. I think we’re only beginning to scratch the (glycocalyx) surface of how NS1 interacts with the host. Some comments:
    1. Glycocalyx breakdown products are a pretty crude measure of vascular leakage – many different ways of causing vascular leakage will shed these glycocalyx components. How do you determine how much of glycocalyx breakdown is due to NS1 vs cytokines? This is especially difficult because the breakdown is transient (as shown in their TEER assay, the glycocalyx reestablishes in a matter of hours).
    2. The paper did not discuss lipid composition of NS1 (this is not criticism…) – our lab thinks that this probably has a role to play in pathogenesis as well, as we briefly suggest in a paper we just put out. (I would be happy for you to critique this paper! It would certainly continue an arc…)
  2. On a very different note, I recently attended a keystone conference on +sense RNA viruses. While I learned a lot, one moment stood out to me. As the conference made efforts to bring people from underrepresented backgrounds and from countries where many of the discussed viruses are endemic, I was heartened to see a significant number of African researchers (although, none of them were selected as speakers).

After Priscilla Yang had delivered a talk on antiviral strategy, a lady Professor from Nigeria (I’m guessing here, I don’t know) stood up to make a call to arms for researchers to focus more on antivirals and diagnostics, especially for the aforementioned countries. Awkwardly, there was no further acknowledgement of her plea, as the moderator simply went on to the next speaker.

I’d love for the TWiV team to comment on this issue. How well do you think our scientific community is balancing between the real world need for therapies, and the need to publish? I understand we need both basic and translational medicine to achieve this goal. (For that matter, does the TWiV team feel that the overall quality of publications has improved over time?) But I can see how people in need of therapies may despair at how much money is being spent on working out the molecular biology of some obscure protein without any demonstrated impact on pathogenesis (for example!).

Anyway, thanks once again for an awesome podcast, and the drive to communicate science. I do hope that this letter will remind us of the big picture of many of the viruses that we are studying.



Colin Xinru CHENG | PhD Student (Prof Subhash Vasudevan – Laboratory of Experimental Therapeutics)| Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases | Duke-NUS Medical School 

P.S. In Singapore, it’s >30oC all year round, with our monsoon season from Dec-Mar.

Jason writes:

Dear TWIV Crew,

        At the end of TWIV 554 you related a story about how Bernard Seltz promoted the idea that people should be able to choose whether to vaccinate or not.  As part of that discussion you posited that the Seltz’s don’t care about other people’s children. While I would agree that his statement is wrong and dangerous, I don’t agree that this means he doesn’t care about children.  On the contrary, I think that, in many cases, an anti-vaxxer is passionate about their cause because they care about the kids. I will admit I don’t know if Seltz is anti-vax, but the commentary would seem to lean in that direction.

        You followed up that discussion with an analogy to traffic laws and car seats.  I think this is spot on and I wished you took it further and mentioned that breaking these laws has consequences in the form of monetary and legal penalties.  Should fines be considered for those that refuse to vaccinate?

        As always, I enjoy the show and while I can’t follow everything, I do end up learning a lot.  Thanks!


Jason ‘XenoPhage’ Frisvold


“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly

what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly

disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and

inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has

already happened.”

– Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy