Colin writes:

I’m a big fan of the show and have been lucky enough to have Vincent, Brianne and Alan Dove as guests on my show at various times.  I’ve been a little puzzled by the somewhat laissez-faire attitude toward masks, given the serious sequelae associated with even mild symptoms of COVID. Aren’t we rolling the dice if we get lax about pre-exposure strategies?  Thanks for all you do. I’m going to yield the balance of my time to the great Laurie Garrett:   Here’s the bottom line: You don’t want to get #COVID19. Period. It will be less dreadful if you’re fully vax’ed, but the virus damages the immune, cardiovascular and neurological systems, de-regulates the pancreas, kills neurons, directly damages the heart. Be smart: stay safe.

Colin​ McEnroe

Bob writes:

Hi #myheroes

Here in Simcoe County just north of Toronto, it is Monday morning, minus 4C, sunny, calm, with a good bit of snow from yesterday still on the ground.  

For what it’s worth, I made the attached for a teacher friend who was distraught yesterday, relating to me about the great losses she sees in her high school students.  She reported a general “loss of inner confidence” in the teens, with profound doubts that they are competent to move forward in the world.  She also noted a sharp dichotomy of similarly scary presentations in her school … overachievers who can’t be satisfied with As or even A+s … and completely non-functioning students with miniscule amounts of course-work completed.

I had little to offer my friend (at this time) except a realistic look at the numbers over the past 2 years.  The math is particularly easy right now with average daily death rates essentially the same as they were two years ago at this time.  Then of course, case rates and death rates were going up.  Now, case rates are at least 30 times higher than they were in late Mar 2020 and who knows which way they are going anymore?   I am more confident the death rates are a bit more accurate (or at least that the trend direction is going down).

The biggest thing I take away from the attached is… this is what we would have hoped to see about now, if our intent in Mar 2020 was to “flatten the curve”.  Our docs now have tools in their tool kit.  

But they (and teachers) are exhausted.   Time for love and respect from any of us who are able to keep things a bit safer.  

Which I have no doubt y’all continue to do effectively for 1000s throughout the world!


He sent:

Melanie writes:

Hi Vincent,

It’s a cold day in Ottawa, currently -7C with a windchill of -17C.

I was wondering if you could find out about the COVID-19 vaccines that are not IM. Are they all live attenuated, and if so, why? I have read that the live ones are needed to enter the mucosa. Could a benign viral vector work, or is it that I don’t have a clue about the technology. I feel that more people would get vaccinated if they didn’t have to face a needle, but I don’t know how uncomfortable it is to get a nasal spray or inhaled vaccine. I just assume it would be really easy. A topical would be the easiest, but probably ridiculously hard/impossible to make it effective, and I am sure the scientific community has considered pills and also is too tricky.

Also, do you know anyone using AI to try to find ways to improve vaccines? Is there any hope that a neutralizing vaccine could be developed for COVID? (What I mean is that a vaccine be developed that could prevent shedding to infect others? I don’t know the true definition of neutralizing).

Sorry for so many questions! You and your team have guided me and kept me calm during these tumultuous times.

– Melanie

Josh writes:

Dear TWiV, 

I loved your podcast episode about the monoclonal antibody offering protection against hantaviruses and the oral remdesivir-like antiviral. 

I had a question regarding the first paper featured in that episode, and your discussion of pseudovirus’ use in research. You mentioned that in this study, the glycoprotein arrangement on the pseudovirus may be different than on the true hantavirus, possibly explaining the discrepancy in the antibody’s neutralization capacity on pseudotype vs authentic virus. Why are pseudoviruses still used so often in virology research, despite the potential for such discrepancies? How reliable are results from studies involving pseudoviruses as opposed to the authentic virus? And does this vary by the type of virus?

Thank you so much for your time and thanks for the great podcast!

Best regards,


Simon writes:

Twiv team,

I always have to thank you for helping me keep my sanity through this pandemic. Now more than ever I and others need your help. At one and the same time we have anti vaxxers digging in, we have governments acting as if there is no pandemic at all, we have public health officials and epidemiologists talking about waning immunity and omicron ba2 being as infectious as measles, and we have a small group saying that everyone should be mandated to wear n95 masks all the time and that vaccines are effectively useless even though we should all use them. As it stands today on social media I’m as likely to be blocked for being a let it rip anti mask scandemic person as be blocked for being anti lab leak and pro vaccine.

So… what can scientists do to bring some rational calm when we have madness on all sides from politicians, public health officials and medical professionals? Like our politics (thanks for avoiding) the battle we have is to bring people from all extremes back to the rational middle ground where we can debate what the latest data actually means calmly and with nuance.

TWIV does this, but this morning I was blocked by a pregnant woman with under 5yo children and a friend with MS who is living in fear and treating me like I was Kennedy Wakefield and Malone combined. This morning I saw a professional doctor tweeting about being in fear when they go to the grocery store.

Thank you TWIV and for everything you do. I value the discussion. I value the calm debate. I value the honest disagreements and discussions across all of your podcasts. Keep up the great work you do.

Philip writes:

Practical use of microbes

Jack writes:

Dear TWIV team,

I have two listener picks.  The first one is a blog that you probably know about already, since it is hosted by Science, but some of your listeners might not know about it (until last August, it was hosted by Science Translational Medicine).  It is Derek Lowe’s blog, “In the Pipeline”.  To quote from the blog, “Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He’s worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases.”

His experience makes him an expert on the problems of drug discovery, and his reading allows him to discuss a wide range of biomedical subjects with intelligence.  His writing is clear, down-to-earth, blunt, and sometimes amusing.  During the height of the pandemic, his subjects paralleled those of TWIV, such as vaccines and drugs for SARS-CoV-2.  Now you and he are drifting apart, as you discuss other viruses and Lowe discusses other diseases.  Still, I think there would be a lot of interest to you and your listeners in his blog:

There is an indexed archive of past blog posts, and a comments section on the blog with responses from well-informed people from around the world, sometimes with links to important articles and other publications.

Derek Lowe would be a good guest for Microbe TV if you want to discuss new therapeutic agents.

The second pick is from 1955: the discussion of the new Salk polio vaccine on television by the first Secretary of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Oveta Culp Hobby, and the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service, Dr. Leonard Scheele.

I think this discussion is a model of how to convey medical information to the public.  Dr. Scheele showed respect for his audience.   He described the symptoms of the disease and gave figures for the incidence of paralytic polio, permanent crippling, and death.  He described how the vaccine was made and explained why it contained some infectious virus despite inactivation by formaldehyde.  He acknowledged that some vaccinated children will develop paralytic poliomyelitis, and he said that there wasn’t enough vaccine to immunize all children in the first summer.  

This must have been tough for people to hear amid all the celebration.  On the day of the press conference announcing the results of the vaccine field trial, April 12, 1955, people huddled around radios as if listening to the World Series.  When the news came, reporters hollered “It works!  It works!”  Tearful families embraced, church bells rang out across the nation, and work stopped in offices and factories as celebrations erupted.