• EbolaCellphone-sized device detects the Ebola virus quickly

    The worst of the recent Ebola epidemic is over, but the threat of future outbreaks lingers. Monitoring the virus requires laboratories with trained personnel, which limits how rapidly tests can be done. Now scientists report in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry a handheld instrument that detects Ebola quickly and could be used in remote locations.

  • BioterrorismNew Yorker sentenced to 16 years for trying to buy ricin

    It was a scary scenario: Chinese national Cheng Le, living in New York City, attempted to order ricin through the so-called dark Web. Ricin is a highly potent and potentially fatal toxin with no known antidote. What did Le plan to do with the ricin? Nothing good. According to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, “In Le’s own words, established at trial, he was looking for ‘simple and easy death pills’ and ways to commit ‘100 percent risk-free’ murder.”

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  • Food safetyPaper-based test to help prevent food poisoning

    The foodborne bacteria Salmonella alone led to nearly 20,000 hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths in 2013. Economists estimate that the treatment of all these patients and the related productivity losses cost more than $3 billion annually. And those numbers account for just one of the fifteen pathogens responsible for most of the food poisoning cases. Scientists have developed a simple, paper-based test that could help detect pathogens hitchhiking on food before they reach store shelves, restaurants and, most importantly, our stomachs.

  • BiosurveillanceCloud-based biosurveillance ecosystem

    The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are developing a system which lets epidemiologists scan the planet for anomalies in human and animal disease prevalence, warn of coming pandemics, and protect soldiers and others worldwide.

  • BioterrorismU.S. bioterrorism detection program unreliable: GAO

    DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHS pursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens. A GAO report found that DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

  • BiodefenseSurface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology for on-site detection

    Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) technology currently is applied using chemical analysis of materials, such as scanning at airports to identify what materials may be inside of glass vials. Researchers want to expand SERS for use in biological applications that could employ antibodies for purposes such as identifying viruses, water toxins, or pathogens in food samples. The researchers work on developing a small hand-held device that allows users to take a sample, put it in a glass vial and insert into the instrument for rapid identification.

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  • Biological weaponsThe history of biological weapons use

    Few comprehensive, definitive histories of biological warfare have been written, many events reported in the literature never happened, and few details are available about some uses of biological weapons which most certainly did occur. A new review of the literature on actual and alleged instances of biological warfare finds that the incidence of illicit biological agent use has been greater than many people may realize, even as the effects have been relatively limited.

  • SuperbugsHighly sensitive test to detect and diagnose infectious disease, superbugs

    Infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and some of the world’s deadliest superbugs — C. difficile and MRSA among them — could soon be detected much earlier by a unique diagnostic test, designed to easily and quickly identify dangerous pathogens. Researchers have developed a new way to detect the smallest traces of metabolites, proteins or fragments of DNA. In essence, the new method can pick up any compound that might signal the presence of infectious disease, be it respiratory or gastrointestinal.

  • Bioweapons51 labs in 17 states may have received live anthrax samples: Pentagon

    Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said yesterday (Wednesday) that the Pentagon may have shipped live anthrax samples to fifty-one labs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. Word also said that it was likely that the numbers of labs which might have received live anthrax will go up as the Pentagon’s investigation into the shipments continues. All the samples shipped belonged to three lots, dating back to 2007, stored at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. CDC raises questions about the effectiveness of the method used by the Dugway lab to deactivate anthrax spores.

  • DetectionBetter detection of diseases, fraudulent art, chemical weapons, and more

    From airport security detecting explosives to art historians authenticating paintings, society’s thirst for powerful sensors is growing. Given that, few sensing techniques can match the buzz created by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Discovered in the 1970s, SERS is a sensing technique prized for its ability to identify chemical and biological molecules in a wide range of fields. It has been commercialized, but not widely, because the materials required to perform the sensing are consumed upon use, relatively expensive and complicated to fabricate. That may soon change.

  • BioweaponsPentagon accidentally ships live anthrax from Utah to labs in nine states

    The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday admitted it had accidentally shipped samples of a live anthrax spores – a potential bioweapon — across nine states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea. The Pentagon revealed what it described as an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis” from a DoD laboratory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah to labs in nine states. The mishap alarmed biosafety experts. “These events shouldn’t happen,” said one.

  • Food safetyNew biosensor can detect listeria contamination in two minutes

    Engineers have developed a biosensor that can detect listeria bacterial contamination within two or three minutes. The same technology can be developed to detect other pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, but listeria was chosen as the first target pathogen because it can survive even at freezing temperatures. It is also one of the most common foodborne pathogens in the world and the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States.

  • BiosafetyKeeping biotechnology research safe

    Increasingly, scientists across the world and in the Unites States are reporting new and groundbreaking innovations in biotechnology with transformative implications in human health and environmental sustainability. While these technologies are developed in laboratories, researchers are not only giving utmost consideration to the potential beneficial impacts but also to a new set of potential risks arising in synthetic biology research. It is crucial that scientists employ the highest level of safety measures within the laboratory to prevent any unintentional effects on human health or environment. The Wyss Institute is developing a proactive biosafety process to review all proposed biotechnology research and manage potential risks pre-emptively.

  • Food safetyFood safety specialists hope new tracking approach will lead to better intervention

    Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year. A new partnership to improve food safety and better track foodborne illness is an approach that food safety specialists say will lead to better intervention strategies.

  • Food safetyNew detection method for bacterial toxin

    The Bacillus cereus bacterium is one of the potential causes of food poisoning. A recent study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry shows that this versatile pathogen produces nineteen different variants of a poison that causes nausea and vomiting in human beings. This variety could explain why some cases are relatively benign and others can result in death. Across Europe, the number of food poisoning cases caused by the Bacillus species is on the rise.