TWiV 273 letters

Davy writes:

Although I adhere to the distinction between symptoms (report of subjective experience) and signs (observable to a clinician) that you guys arrived at, it nagged at me. Too many instances of the type “something is a symptom of something else” were at the edge of my awareness (in which vocabulary access has been disrupted by neurologic event – especially access to ordinary language, cluttering me up a bit). This seemed to apply in the realms of things like plants and cars, unlike the precise distinction used in medicine.

So I Googled “define symptom.” Guess what? Although a few sources lead with the precise medical usage, most didn’t. Most endorsed examples of the type “something is a symptom of something else.” E.g. I.word.com/idictionary presented definition 1b as “an evident reaction of a plant to a pathogen,” following 1a giving our classic medical quibble.

Other examples abound in the major dictionaries listed, if curiosity leads you to want to look. I think the etymology from the Greek supports our precise medical bias, but centuries of common use have placed “symptom” into English as commonly accepted, and sometimes preferred, to refer to an indicator of some other phenomenon where subjective report would be nonsensical.

Howsa bout that? All the best!

S Davy
Fresno

PS: I don’t give a damn about Trader Joe’s acceptance of GMO phobia (well, I do really, sharing your views) because they have some pretty good stuff for pretty good prices. Contrariwise, I don’t give a damn about Whole Foods, disliking its overpriced, irrational elitism and redundant shelf contents. They do have some good bulk grains and legumes and stuff though, but I don’t get there to harvest them. Anyway, catering to GMO phobics flies in the face of concern for hungry humanity, who will cause much more ecosystem damage if unfed than GMOs ever would (short of gray goo producers). Thanks for your digressions on the subject.
- d

Bryony writes:

Dear Kathy,

Following on from last week’s episode:

Yes, the movement of luteoviruses from the gut of the aphid vector into the body cavity (hemocoel) is receptor-mediated. Therefore the host range of the coat protein-toxin fusion is likely to be determined by the similarity of the receptor proteins between species: It is more likely that the fusion protein could enter the hemocoel of insects that are related to aphids, i.e. other sap-sucking insects in the order Hemiptera (which are typically pests), than the more distantly related species such as ladybugs, which are beetles in the order Coleoptera. This hypothesis remains to be empirically tested however.

Best,
Bryony
Bryony C. Bonning
Department of Entomology
Iowa State University

Yegor writes:

Dear TWIVsters,

You had a listener question in the latest episode about the difference between flu and cold. About 4 years ago I got interested in the etiology of “flu-like symptoms” and tried to find a good study on this topic. Most of the stuff I found was very old (from 60s or 70s). After multiple fruitless searches at NCBI I eventually found the best paper by consulting Wikipedia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9466772 The study was done in 1994-1995 in Finland and found that the vast majority of colds is caused by rhinoviruses (64%), with coronaviruses (10%) and influenza (7%) being distant second and third. The remaining 12% was split between bacterial infections, parainfluenza, RSV, enterovirus, and adenoviruses. Back then they had to isolate the viruses to establish the etiology, so the relative efficiency of isolation is an unknown factor that we can’t take into account when looking at these numbers, but they are still informative. These days one could probably just pyrosequence the samples. I wonder if anyone has done a similar study since then. By the way, notice the 4% of colds caused by bacterial infections – that’s a good number to cite to anyone who wants to take antibiotics when they have a cold.

In the same segment, one of you said that most vaccines prevent viral infection. I suspect this may not be based on solid evidence and comes from old studies done before PCR or other sensitive diagnostics. Do we really know that vaccine-based protection from polio, measles, mumps, rubella, etc is mediated by neutralizing antibodies that absolutely prevent the new infection? I believe in many cases the infection happens, but either goes by unsymptomatically or is quickly suppressed by the immune system. I can’t find the studies right now, but I think I have seen some where people tried to detect such unnoticed infections by tracking anamnestic immune responses and indeed saw that now and then such responses are boosted in apparently healthy people.

Best regards and keep up the good work,
Yegor

Yegor Voronin, PhD
Senior Science Officer
Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

Morgan writes:

Dear TWiV-ers-

First, thanks so much for the excellent podcasts! I only started listening to TWiV and TWiP this past fall (haven’t gotten into TWiM yet), but I’m really enjoying going back through the archives and listening to new shows each week.

I’m writing in response to a letter that was read on TWiV 267 where the writer implied that bats and rodents have large numbers of offspring, perhaps making them better adapted as reservoir hosts for viruses. If I misunderstood, then please disregard the following. However, most bat species only have, on average, one litter per year, and that littler only contains one (or sometimes two) pups (http://www.bio.ucalgary.ca/contact/faculty/pdf/barclay/reproductive.pdf). While I’m writing, I thought I might also correct a misconception that many people have regarding bats and rodents. While sometimes looking small and mousey, bats are actually more closely related to humans then they are to rodents (http://tolweb.org/Eutheria/15997).

I live in southern Vermont (just north of Alan!) and while I’m currently working on my Master’s in Environmental Studies, my undergraduate work was in Molecular Biology. For my Master’s thesis I’m studying White Nose Syndrome in Bats here in Vermont (if you haven’t heard of White Nose Syndrome, you should check it out: http://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/about-white-nose-syndrome), and TWiV has made me curious about bat immunology. I’ve started looking for PhD programs in this subject, but there don’t seem to be very many. Do any of you have suggestions about where I might find a program here in the U.S.?

Finally, the weather. It’s currently cloudy and 28 degrees F (-2 degrees C) with a dewpoint of 18 degrees F. While it’s not currently snowing, we are due for a storm tonight into tomorrow, from which we might get as much as 14 inches of snow!

Thanks again,
Morgan

PS- Since some of your recent podcasts have mentioned fiber arts viruses, I thought I’d mention a related project I’m working on: a quilted periodic table. While I’d love to do a virus quilt, I don’t think viruses lend themselves to 2D (quilting) as well as they do to 3D (knitting), so my next quilt might have to be a phage or perhaps DNA packaging.

Sav writes:

Hello from Indiana, PA! My name is Savannah Thorpe, and I’m currently enrolled in Dr. Luis Luciano’s BIOL466/566 class on Principles of Virology. About a week ago he directed my attention to TWiV, and I’ve been enjoying the podcast very much! So first off, thank you for continuing to put it out there for us. I’m certain it’s quite a labor of love on your part.

Dr. Luciano also recommended that I talk to you about my career goals and see if you have any ideas for where I could take them with regards specifically to Virology. I am an English Writing major with minors in Applied Statistics and Biology, as I want to pursue a career in Science Writing, or “translating” lab jargon into layman’s English to appear in media such as National Geographic, the New York Times, TWiV, etc. I’m a writer by nature, but I find science and math really fascinating and beautiful in a way that scares most of my fellow English majors, who are much more comfortable with poetry or literary criticism.

I’m about halfway through my college career, so I figured I should begin gathering data about where I can go with this idea and goal. Dr. Luciano’s Virology class has exposed me to yet another complex area of study which I’d love to learn and write more about. The idea that’s been rolling through my head involves my “shadowing” or interning at a lab and doing some of its publicity or writing over the summer, but I’m uncertain where to start; Dr. Luciano recommended you guys!

If you have any ideas as to who else I can talk to or where I can take this passion of mine, you now have my email, or if you talk about it on your next podcast, I’ll be sure to hear it then!

Thank you so much for entertaining this email, and I certainly hope we can be in touch. I’ve very much fallen in love with virology and hope that, even as an English Writing major, I can contribute to the field in some way.

Take care,

Sav

Timothy writes:

My vote for listener pick of the week. A very scientifically accurate description of the link between vaccines and autism. As somebody with a couple degrees in immunology and infectious disease, I’m occasionally asked about this topic. This is the link I’ll be sending from now on.

http://howdovaccinescauseautism.com/

p.s. don’t dismiss just based on the name of the link – don’t worry i’m not a quack

Anne writes:

Hello TWIV Team.

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at UC-Davis Vet School working with Dr. Patti Pesavento (of Raccoon Polyomavirus fame). Just came across this link to beautiful Glass Sculptures of Viruses. Looks like it was picked up by the NYTimes several years ago, so perhaps this has already made it on the show. Anyways, they are beautiful and thought I would send in a pick after listening to TWIV for the last year or so.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/science/15virus.html?_r=0
http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/2/5267800/luke-jerram-glass-microbiology-gorgeous-sculptures-of-deadly-viruses

Thanks,
Anne

ps. Currently 48F/9C, gray and misty (dewpoint at 45F) at 11am.

Michael writes:

Dear Vince and colleagues:

I attach a few thoughts on the question sent in by Jeffery (sp?) that you discussed on the podcast 267 and which I included in a blogpost (http://discoveryview.ca/deep-pond-erings-on-a-twiv-question/) – hope you find them of interest.

I myself am a virologist that emerged from the Glasgow lab in the early eighties and have spent my professional life trying to discover and develop antiviral drugs. Nevertheless I have only recently discovered and am captivated by TWiV – keep up the great work highlighting our fascinating world of virology to a broader audience in such an accessible way.

Kind regards, Michael

Michael Cordingley Ph.D.
Revolution Pharma Consulting Inc.,

Jim writes:

Just in case this hasn’t been mentioned as a favorite pick or otherwise, I got into it by way of this link about Robert Hooke’s book on Micrographia (click the book cover), but then got to this page of the site that links to interesting projects on other old books, anatomy, health, biomedical imaging, document conversions, and even nursing homes — something for everyone. Great place to explore!

Regards,

Jim
Smithfield, VA

Bill writes:

Vincent, et al,
As I steadily catch up on the TWIP, TWIV and TWIM arrears, while steadfastly not missing the fresh honeyed ones (271), as I exercise my buns off.

My mind went to a comment made on the podcast a few weeks ago – to wit, that null research (that failed in its objective to prove a thesis of some sort) would not easily find a publisher, since the volume of papers submitted exceed what the journals will accept – the nulls being the lowest of the low in this hierarchy, and this would lead to the valuable knowledge that this approach was a failure would not be seen, which could lead to others repeating – and failing, perhaps more than once, to prove this failed approach. Even the ones that succeeded might fail to find a publisher if deemed unworthy?

This leads to a waste of mind power and $$, and it is very much to be avoided.

So strong is the need to avoid this waste of resources that I felt certain that some sort of published account should be kept. I suspect the failed research report would be kept in the researchers own files and in his department/University/etc as well, but such an account might not be searchable by Google or other search engine, so it might as well be on the moon!!

I wonder if there is any quantification of the amount of this failed/unpublished research? Would it be 5% or 10% of money spent? No matter, even if a lowly 5% is wasted, the avoidance of that 5% waste is the equivalent of a 5% increase in funding, which means literally tens of thousands of jobs across the field.

There must be a way that the home lab or home institute could maintain a searchable list in a standardized format of these failed/unpublished projects, if only in an abstracted form, so other researchers would readily find them and be able to contact the principals to engage in some sort of dialog, which might save some $$ and lead to some new ideas etc so that 5% wasted gets closer to zero.

I can not imagine a researcher who would not want all possible data going into a project if it might prevent a serious mis-step like a failed thesis or low grade near failure.

This is so obvious, that my mind says it must exist, that even failed or unpublished work must leave some sort of searchable footprint in the data, but your comments on the podcast led me to think that indeed, there is not such an archive.

If there is not, then there should be.

How can this idea gain traction? if indeed it can?

Bill
Toronto

Johnye writes:

http://www.worldcarfans.com/114020369643/lamborghini-aventador-has-a-brutal-frontal-collision-with

Johnye Ballenger, M. D., FAAP
West Cambridge Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Steve writes:

Here is a really amazing video.

“National Geographic has a nice video (as well as a long story by Carl Zimmer) about scientists who are trying to learn more about the way the brain works by slicing mice brains into incredibly thin sections, fore to aft, and then using scans of those slices to create what amounts to a wiring diagram. The goal is to see how all the parts connect and,
hopefully, get a better idea of how they all work together.”

http://boingboing.net/2014/01/31/a-beautiful-synapse-by-synaps.html

steve

St. Louis, MO

Jacob writes:

Hi all,

In keeping with my apparent bee theme, I’d like to pick this article to share with the TWiVome. Why? Because it’s 5000 bees with sensors attached. Does there need to be any other reason?

http://csironewsblog.com/2014/01/15/tiny-technology-creates-a-buzz/

Also, as a supplementary pick, there is a YouTube video linked further down showing a kangaroo giving birth which is amazing (possibly NSFW, I’m not sure).

Keep up the fantastic work,

Jacob