TWiV 271 letters

Jesse Noar writes:

Can this be real? “Pathogenic plant virus jumps to honeybees”

and the paper:

This sounds pretty radical to me. I would be interested to hear a discussion of it from the experts at TWiV!

Jim writes:

I can’t find the short article in my local paper or a link to it about this, but the NY Times has a better article about it here,

Thought it might be worth discussing as a followup.


Smithfield, VA

Jacob writes:

Hi all,

I recall somebody asking about evidence for a plant virus infecting a organism from another kingdom a while back. David Tribe has a nice article up about a plant virus that infects bees, and might be a contributor to colony collapse disorder (as, it seems, is anything associated with bees).

Not really a zoonoses, perhaps a phytonoces? (Sticking with Greek)

Lillie writes:

Hello, this is Lillie writing from Carbon, Alberta where the weather is a balmy -14 degrees Celsius and the barometric pressure is 102.0 kPa.

I’ve just read a fascinating article on how the tobacco ringspot virus has made the staggering evolutionary leap from plants to bees, using the RNA in pollen to not just infest the GI tract of the bees, but to integrate itself fully into the cells of even their wings. Some even suggest that this may be the culprit behind hive collapse. Are you planning to cover this virus’s evolutionary leap in the near future on your podcast?
I’d love to hear your take on this issue.

Thanks for your time.

Lillie, RN
Carbon, Alberta

PS I’m a registered nurse at a federal penitentiary, where control of virus transmission is a common concern. My husband got me onto your podcasts during a norovirus outbreak (the two-bucket disease is a true horror in prison). He says that even though he is a philosopher, he does know the difference between a virus and a bacterium.

David writes:

Check this out

I’m fascinated by this. Can you include a segment about viridae that jump from plant to insect? Is there any evidence of a virus jumping from plant to animal?

Thank you,

Robin writes:

The weather in °C

For Dr. Spindler

Henry writes:

Hi, just a short comment. I was reading your Virology blog and noticed that you wanted to do some sort of poll about are viruses alive.

You said that you had problems with external site, Survey Monkey, dumping your data from previous polls and I thought that I would make this suggestion.

Your blog site looks like a WordPress site. If it is a world press site, there is a plugin for doing polling, so you would not have to rely on external sites for that functionality. Please check out:

I hope this helps.

I am not involved in the medical profession, but I did find your video of the BSL4 laboratory very interesting. I am surprised that they built this facility in Boston. Yes, they have a lot of security built into the facility, but anything developed by man can be damaged by other men if they are determined to do so, e.g. I would think such a facility could be a terrorist target. I would hate for them to have wasted all that money building such a facility, but I would understand why people would not feel safe to let it operate where it is located.


“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
– John Adams (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31)

Jacob writes:

Hi all,
Something tells me that this might interest you…
Pile of Viruses

Stephen writes:


Dr. Robert Kelley writes:

Hello twiv dos,

I was listening to the radio on my way home from the beach this afternoon and I heard that in the last week deaths from flu had doubled to a total of 95 or 96. The total deaths for 2013 were 106 so it looks like this flu season will be much worse than last year’s. They didn’t provide any information on the per cent of California residents vaccinated this season. My wife and I (both over 60 and my wife is immune suppressed) have received two doses. I haven’t seen any information about which strains are causing most of the deaths. Do you folks have any information about this? I’m also thinking that if this keeps up we could be in for a big West Nile season as well. With occasional rains followed by warm to hot weather it seems like ideal conditions for this to occur.

My wife receives 2 infusions of intravenous gamma globulin a week to treat a rare autoimmune disease. She receives the infusions at a local hospital’s cancer center day hospital where patients receive chemo, blood, etc. On Monday when we were taken to the IGIV infusion suite, a patient with a cough, fever and runny nose was already in the room. When we asked to have my wife’s infusion in another room the nurse told us that the other patient wasn’t infectious, and besides she was all the way across the room. We insisted and after talking with the unit supervisor my wife was moved to a chemo room for the day. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised about this situation because on any day we are there, there are between 2 to 3 nurses with masks on because they refuse to be vaccinated. It’s easy to see why the general public may not take the need for getting the flu vaccine seriously when health professionals who treat and care for immune suppressed patients don’t either.
Sorry about my rant but I know the value of vaccination both from a professional and a personal perspective.

The weather here in Orange CA has been in the mid 70s to mid 80s now for the past 35 days with humidities in the teens to single digits. I’m glad I was able to get a few days in on snow in late November. The surf has been good and this past week it has been large, 8 – 10 ft at our local beaches. Mavrick’s in Northern California is breaking and the big surf invitational contest was supposed to take place today. Surf 30 – 40 ft with occasional sets over 45 ft expected with clean faces under clear skies. We like the good surf and warm days but really need some rain. If you know of anyone who can do a good rain dance send them our way.

Basel writes:

Dear TWIV superstars,

I’m very pleased to find that my lovely podcast, that is TWIV, had discussed and featured the work on using rhesus cytomegalovirus (CMV)-based vectors for an SIV/HIV vaccine.

This is particularly of great interest to me because following the completion of my PhD in rhesus cytomegalovirus, my veterinary anatomic pathology at New England Primate Research Center with extensive training on SIV-associated pathologies, and finally a year of fellowship at the FDA’s Office of Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies, I relocated 2 months ago to Oregon National Primate Research Center as an investigative pathologist to work on the very same project of RhCMV-based vector vaccines for SIV and HIV infections. I don’t think I could have planned this if I wanted to.

I would certainly second the previous request (first requested on episode 267) for featuring a TWIV episode on CMV. TWIV has repeatedly discussed CMV, but always as a bystander, such as Dr. Shenk’s talk on metabolomics, Dr. Coyne’s talk on viral resistance conferred by trophoblasts, and lastly the CMV-based vaccine for HIV. CMV is also the leading cause of congenital viral infection in the US and leads to major birth defects. CMV lives with most of us as prevalence reaches up to 90% of population in the US. Despite the extensive research is done on CMV for the many past decades, no vaccine is available against this viral infection. One of the main reasons is that CMV is species-specific and hence you can’t easily study HCMV in lab animals. That is in addition to the fact that CMV carries the largest genome of herpesviruses with very complex sets of genes that play major role in modulating the host (termed non-essential genes) rather than performing basic replication machinery (termed essential genes). Finally, CMV recrudescence is of major concern in transplantation due to the associated immunosuppression.

I hope by this I stimulated your interest in CMV, and I look forward to joy of listening to a CMV TWIV episode.

Weather-wise and being new to Oregon and its weather, I got to learn a new weather term. Word of the day is “Frozen Fog”. Basically fog droplets don’t freeze due to lacking nuclei and get supercooled. Once droplets contact an object below freezing they turn into ice, aka frozen fog. On that note, weather here is 42F (6C), with 10% precipitation, 76% humidity, and 10 mph winds, and I miss the sun.

Finally, my pick of the week. As a pathologist, I came across this channel on youtube that I find it to be a wonderful effort by a pathologist to share to knowledge, and for free, across the globe. Dr. Minarcik has done a wonderful favor to everyone interested in pathology world-wide to learn this science from the best. He not only provide abstract lectures, he has videos that correlated clinical findings, to autopsy findings, to microscopic findings, and connect them all in one place. You will learn pathology the way it should be taught in an integrated fashion. I hope you find this contribution useful.

The youtube channel, which has all the videos is here:

And the official website for the course is here:

Thank you Dr. Racaniello and the TWIV team for this wonderful effort. We are all indebted to you.

Sincerely yours.

Basel T. Assaf, BVSc, PhD, Diplomate ACVP
Investigative Pathologist; Staff Scientist III
Division of Pathobiology and Immunology
Oregon National Primate Research Center
Oregon Health and Science University

Jeff writes:

Hello – on the last episode, I think I heard one of you say that ticks can pass Borrelia between generations transovarially. I am WAY out of my expertise here, but I had thought that ticks were unable to pass Borrelia to their offspring and that the nymphs were only infected after feeding on mice and other rodentia… So that it is really a mouse bacteria. Was I completely wrong?

Also – Vince, you mentioned that humans could vanish and their would be no effects on “wild” organisms (I think I have the spirit of your point, correct me if I am wrong)…I immediately think of deer populations, which rely on humans to keep them in check (no other large predator that I am aware of, at least here in Georgia) and coyotes, which to my understanding usually live very close to humans. I would think that if humans vanished, the deer population would explode, that would affect the populations of vegetation they eat, and the coyotes might have a rough time of it.

Anyhow, great episode… thanks for making us think!


Robert writes:

Hi Dr.s Twiv,

This is a follow up to twiv 266. It is more or less current in that the lead paper In that episode appeared in Nature this week. (depletion of CD4 cells during HIV infection by pyroptosis). But what I wanted to point out was another article in the same issue; “Rare coding variants in the phospholipase D3 gene confer risk for Alzheimer’s disease”.

I have greatly enjoyed twiv and the virology lectures. I have learned a great deal from you all, but especially Dr. Racanello. Otoh, I think you might want to read the alz article to better appreciate the arguments in human heritability. While many of the concepts are the same, your discussion of viri seems much deeper and more intimate.

Not to complain. I really am a devoted fan of twiv, etc.


Russell writes:

Dear TWiV team,

I’m a grad student at the University of Utah and I saw this infographic on Reddit and thought I’d pass it along as a listener pick of the week.

Alexi Navaly created the graphic to show the insane amounts of overspending and cost overrun to create many of the Olympic venues. What I like best about it, is that the amounts over budget are put into perspective. For example, the cost to built the Media Center is equivalent to buying every high school grad in Russia a MacBook. I wonder how many vertical farms that would be or Russian R01 equivalents. Its a great way to spend a few minutes (or hours…).

Its 31F/-1C here in Salt Lake City

Yegor writes:

Dear TWiV-ers,

I recently got into podcasting. There are many excellent podcasts out there on so many topics, but your show quickly made it to the top of the “must listen” list.

I see that you featured the Visual Science studio as a pick of the week back in 2010, but it’s worth bringing it up again: . It’s a commercial science-focused art studio, but on the side they make computer-rendered models of viruses, using the latest scientific knowledge about their structures (they call this the Viral Park project). In 2010, I worked with them on a model of HIV (which, I have to say, is already outdated), but since then they produced models of ebola virus, papilloma virus, and just last week they released a model of the influenza virus. Check it out.

After I posted the flu virus image on my blog, I got an interesting comment from one of the readers. He said that models like this may in fact harm the relationship between science and society, because they don’t clearly identify which parts of the model are based on solid data and which parts are hypothetical or even artistic fantasy. “It gives the impression that we know these viruses in minute details, so when people find errors in these models, that fuels the backlash against scientists and even may lead to such things as HIV denialism.” What do you make of that?

Love your show,

Yegor Voronin, PhD
Senior Science Officer
Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise