TWiV 697: The sky is NOT falling

December 24, 2020

TWiV reviews the latest data on the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, including some properties of the variant and why it is being closely studied, development of liver cancer in a participant in a adenovirus-associated virus gene therapy trial, and answers to listener questions.

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Rich Condit, Kathy Spindler, and Brianne Barker

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Download TWiV 697 (82 MB .mp3, 136 min)
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Links for this episode

Weekly Picks 2:03:01

BrianneEM Rap Podcast COVID update
KathyConjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and Tony Fauci vaccinated Santa Claus
RichChicken LIttle (wiki)

Listener Pick

GregSomeone who wants to make a difference
UliXKCD on statistics

Intro music is by Ronald Jenkees

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6 comments on “TWiV 697: The sky is NOT falling

  1. Dear Rich Condit,

    I’m sure you miss Buffalo and have fond memories of January & February in the Queen City so here’s today’s weather.

    Breezy today with 57 MPH wind off of Lake Erie. High today is 9 degrees with a low tonight of -3 heating up to 13 tomorrow. Intermittent snow showers today into the evening will leave 18-24 inches of wet heavy snow in Buffalo, more in the snow belts. Weather turning worse for the weekend.

    It’s the time of the year when the collective testicles of all males living in Buffalo migrate up to the body core hopefully to drop once again around St Patrick’s day.

    From Buffalo,
    Happy Holidays Rich

  2. Hi TWIV, this is Rob, him who asked about R zero and cultural norms, and asked you to limit the visual part of the podcasts as much as possible so
    I could listen in the car, good job on this.
    Today’s question is on the new U.K. variant ( I live in the south of England) I’m sure I heard you say today that one of the changes in this variant meant that some PCR tests would give a false negative, might this mean that some people would not be asked to isolate when they should have, hence spreading this variant more than others?
    Keep up the good work

  3. kathy Dec 25, 2020

    Would Brianne please share her decisionmaking process when considering her (apparent) travel from Madison, NJ to Camden, NY during the pandemic? Thanks.

  4. Janet Dec 28, 2020

    Happy Christmas and holidays to all 🙂
    (holidays?!! Yes, we all would like you to get a bit of rest and relaxation but that wish is in a definite conflict with looking forward to the next episode! )
    TWiV and Microbe TV are such a gift to humanity; I hope humanity reciprocates by learning something!
    I think (re. the Kent variant) that the first hypothesis was local difficulty in adhering to lockdown restrictions- after the discrepancy in rates of cases detected between that region and the rest of the country became apparent. Density of population, concentraated economic activity and the south east being a national/international transport hub would have been obvious differences with other regions too.
    Here is the ‘Showcase Event’of the Covid19 Genomics UK consortium- long even by TWiV standards 😉 perhaps inspired by you guys to broaden access to quality information and scientific debate. A big silver lining also!

    I too would love to know how the broad immune response to the mRNA vaccines spares the (temporarily) spike-expressing cells and their mileu-is this down to the short and localised duration of exposure to the spike protein? As you pointed out when talking about the emergence of viral variants by selection pressure, people are not clones and vary in the details, precision and extent of their immune response as well as their vulnerability via behaviour.
    Having been interacting with pathogens forever- though in the developed world serious infectious disease is less common – I guess some people’s immune responses still err on the side of “all-in” which would perhaps be a survival advantage but without tempering (e.g by childhood measles-induced immune amnesia causing an antibody re-set’, pregnancies, chronic parasitism and so on) they may be those who end up towards the auto-immune/-inflammatory side of things?

  5. Chris Boles Dec 28, 2020

    Possible listener pick:
    You might check out the Artic Network ( which is a group of molecular biologists and microbiologists focused on use of the new nanopore sequencing devices to rapidly characterize viral epidemics (and pandemics). This work was initially started in Birmingham UK by Nick Loman and his student Josh Quick. They pioneered the use of the portable Minion sequencer from Oxford Nanopore to set up field labs to characterize the Ebola outbreaks in Africa and Zika outbreaks in Brazil.

    As you can see from the website, the group has now expanded to include a large number of genomics labs who are using a common set of Artic protocols to sequence SARS-CoV-2 isolates from all over the world.

  6. Knut Schünemann Feb 4, 2021

    I’ld like to answer the question “Should I be worried?” from my point of view:

    At the moment I’ve got a chance of about 5% per year to be infected (in Germany, given my social life), and a chance of dying from Covid-19 of less than 0.1% (given my age and general health); that gives me an additional yearly death probability of 0.005%.
    But I already face a yearly survival chance of only about 98%; so that’s reduced only by an amount four orders of magnitude smaller. due to the pandemic directly.

    But I do worry about the actions against the pandemic.
    I missed out my training regime and several prophylactic examinations (3 oncological), since the measures started and I suspect this increased my basic probability of death by easily one percent, 200 times of the risk from SARS-CoV-2; not counting the increased stress from economical reasons.

    So, I’m worried way more about the policies than about the pandemic.