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Friday, 08 September 2017 01:47

TWiM 160 Letters

Written by 
Published in Letters

Anthony writes:

Though in TWiM 157 Dr. Schaechter was mistaken concerning the brand, calcium carbonate indeed is an ingredient in antacid remedies.

The cat's name is Blake.

Thank you.




Justin writes:

Dear TWiM,

A quick comment on episode 158. There was a brief diversion into animal prions while discussion the PNAS paper on Prokaryotic viral sequence in the brain.  Someone (I won’t mention any names) said that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was created when scrapie from sheep passed to cattle through contaminated meat and bone meal in the UK.

This was an early hypothesis that has not been supported by studies conducted here or in the UK. The scrapie agent will cause disease in cattle after intracranial inoculation, but  the pattern of lesions can be differentiated from BSE and the molecular profile is different than BSE when examined by western blot. Attempts to infect cattle with the scrapie agent via oral challenge have failed, whereas oral transmission of BSE occurs readily .

Admittedly, there are different options that have not been tested. There are different recognized strains of the scrapie agent- not all of them have been tested for infectivity in cattle, and they probably won’t be as these studies take years and are very expensive. Also, there are different prion protein gene (PRNP) polymorphisms that dictate relative susceptibility of sheep to the scrapie agent- perhaps there is a specific genotype of sheep that makes better a better prion donor to cattle.

In summary, it’s complicated and not as simple as BSE coming from sheep.  Where did BSE come from? If I started on that topic, then this would no longer be a quick comment.

Keep up the good work,


Justin J. Greenlee, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVP

Virus and Prion Research Unit

National Animal Disease Center

USDA, Agricultural Research Service

Ames, IA 50010


Peter writes:

Dear TWiM team.

Greetings from hot, sunny and humid Mersin, Turkey. Daytime temperature 33° C and Humidity 79%.

I don't think this has been covered on TWiM before.

To interest young people in the issue of antibiotic resistance, Dr Adam Roberts of University College London developed the ‘Swab and Send’ citizen-science project to get people actively involved in the search for new antibiotic compounds.

Members of the public to swab and send - swabs taken from everyday objects in the local communities are sent to his lab for analysis for antimicrobial activity.  Improving awareness of antibiotic resistance and contributing search for new products.

Facebook page for the project here

Details of the project here

Univ of Michigan Fight Song…


Peter Foster

Last modified on Friday, 08 September 2017 01:51
Vincent Racaniello

Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D. is Professor of Microbiology at Columbia University Medical Center. As principal investigator of his laboratory, he oversees the research that is carried out by Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows. He also teaches virology to graduate students, as well as medical, dental, and nursing students.

Vincent entered the world of social media in 2004 with virology blog, followed by This Week in Virology. Videocasts of lectures from his undergraduate virology course are on iTunes University and virology blog. You can find him on WikipediaTwitter, Facebook, and Instagram. His goal is to be Earth’s virology professor. In recognition of his contribution to microbiology education, he was awarded the Peter Wildy Prize for Microbiology Education by the Society for General Microbiology. His Wildy Lecture provides an overview of how he uses social media for science communication.