By David Tuller, DrPH

I’m now at the airport in Sydney waiting for my 12:45 pm flight back home. I arrive in San Francisco at 9:30 am this morning—-gotta love that one-day time change, at least in the eastward direction! I’ve had an amazing six weeks here. I met lots of new friends, connected with others I’d only known online, made sure to have some non-ME/CFS excursions and adventures, and conducted a successful crowdfunding campaign so I can continue this project for another year. (That campaign will continue through April 30th; I met my initial $75,000 goal and am now seeking to reach $85,000, thanks to a $5,000 matching grant.)

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By David Tuller, DrPH

This post is sort of long and complicated, but I think the details are important given Andrew Lloyd’s outsized role in the ME/CFS domain in Australia. I urge patients to take care not to over-exert themselves in reading it!

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By David Tuller, DrPH

And now, from our good friends in the psychology department at the University of Bath, comes the shopping bag study we’ve all been waiting for. Here’s some information recently disseminated by the university:

The purpose of this study is to look at how people with CFS/ME respond when asked to do a physically exerting task, and what thoughts and feelings they have while they are doing the task. We would like to compare responses to people without CFS/ME… [click to continue…]

Atmospheric boundary layerViruses with nearly identical genomes are frequently found in diverse environments that are far apart. One possible explanation for this observation is that virus particles are present in the troposphere, where they can be carried long distances on atmospheric flow.

To determine how many viruses fall from the troposphere each day, automatic collectors were placed at two different locations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Spain at 1.75 km above sea level. Placing the collectors at this height allows sampling of air above the atmospheric boundary layer (pictured – image credit). Samples were retreived every 1-2 weeks over the course of two years and analyzed for the presence of viruses by flow cytometry after purification by centrifugation.

The results show that billions of viruses fall from the atmosphere each day: from 0.3 to 3.8 x 109 per square meter. Most (69%) of the viruses that descend from the atmosphere are attached to dust or organic aggregates. The rate of falling viruses was not substantially different over the course of the study nor between the two different sites.

Deposition of viruses was 52 times higher than bacteria when air masses originated from the oceans; when they originated from the Saharan desert, the ratio was 28. These data suggest that viruses high in the atmosphere likely originate from aerosols formed at the sea surface.

More viruses are attached to airborne small particles compared with bacteria, leading to a longer ‘hang time’ for viruses. This feature, in turn, should allow viruses to travel very long distances around the Earth, and explain the finding of very similar viruses in distant locations.

The authors call the atmospheric collection of viruses and bacteria a ‘seed bank’ that can provide ecosystems with the ability to adapt to environmental changes. Whether or not the atmospheric viruses are infectious would be interesting to determine. I am also interested in what kinds of viruses are raining from the skies. I’m sure the authors will let us know the answer in a future publication.

As you might expect, this story has been widely covered in the press – the idea that trillions of viruses fall from the skies daily has appeal. However I wonder about the following statement in a NY Times article:

Generally it’s assumed these viruses originate on the planet and are swept upward, but some researchers theorize that viruses actually may originate in the atmosphere. (There is a small group of researchers who believe viruses may even have come here from outer space, an idea known as panspermia.)

Given that viruses absolutely require cells in which to replicate, I am not sure how they would originate from the atmosphere. Are there communities of bacteria and eukaryotes floating above us, hosts to viruses which they drop upon the Earth? If so what would these cells live on? It sounds fanciful and unlikely.

As for viruses coming here from outer space – I doubt it. The intense cosmic radiation, consisting of UV light, X rays, gamma rays, and atomic and subatomic particles, would fry any genome well before it arrived.

By David Tuller, DrPH

*A clarification has been added to this post–see below

It’s Thursday morning in Australia, and I’ve just arrived in Brisbane after a red-eye from Perth, with a week left to go on my tour Down Under. Of course I’m backed up on things I need to write about, and hope to have some down time soon to pull stuff together. (I only post on here from Monday to Wednesday, because Professor Racaniello posts from Thursday to Sunday. I’m doing this post now from the Brisbane airport so I can get it up before Wednesday ends in New York.)

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by Steven Lubet

Steven Lubet is the Williams Memorial Professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, where he specializes in professional responsibility and ethics.

When last we encountered Prof. Michael Sharpe, he was giving a secret speech about ME/CFS at Oxford University’s St Cross College. Titled a “Special Ethics Seminar,” Sharpe’s presentation was closed to the public, in contrast to similar lectures in the same series, and neither Sharpe nor the college administrators responded to my request for information about his subject matter. Based on the posted abstract, however, we do know that Sharpe compared his critics – meaning those who reject the PACE trial’s biopsychosocial theory of ME/CFS – to climate change deniers, while complaining about what he called “the coordinated harassment of researchers.”

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By David Tuller, DrPH

For those not yet sick of my voice, here are two more chances to hear me reiterate variations of my message:

On Monday morning, I was interviewed in Perth for the radio show Mornings with Gareth Parker, on the 6PR882 Talk Radio network. (Never mind that the description in the link below identifies me as being from Berkley University.)

And last Wednesday, before flying from Adelaide to Perth, I was interviewed for a podcast on Radio Adelaide, along with long-time ME/CFS patients Penelope McMillan and Tania Emms.* [Corrected 4/18/2018 from “Emma”] The podcast was posted on Sunday.

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TWiV 489: CD4 Hunter

Vincent visits Sandra Urdaneta-Hartmann at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia to talk about the development of the mobile video game ‘CD4 Hunter’.

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Show notes at microbe.tv/twiv

TetV infected Tetraselmis

TetV infected Tetraselmis. Arrow indicates virus particle. Inset, single particle. Image credit.

The latest giant virus discovery is Tetraselmis virus 1, which infects green algae. It is unusual because it encodes enzymes involved in fermentation. Green beer, anyone?

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March for Science 2018

March for Science NYCNearly one year ago I was proud to be part of the March for Science in Washington, DC. This year I March for Science in New York City, where I will be the co-Master of Ceremonies together with Jin Kim Montclare. You can download the event guide here.

Please join us and show your support for science in Washington Square Park from 9 AM on Saturday, 14 April. There will be a series of short talks starting at 10 AM, and at noon we will all march downtown to Zuccotti Park. I’ll be wearing a This Week in Virology t-shirt.