• Ebola hits urban centers in Congo

    Signaling what one World Health Organization (WHO) official calls a “game changer” in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, tests have confirmed an infection in a patient from Mbandaka, a metropolitan area that’s home to nearly 1.2 million people.

  • New Ebola cases reported in Congo

    Over the weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported 7 more suspected cases of Ebola, raising the totals from 4 April through 13 May to 39 confirmed, suspected, and probable cases, including 19 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 49 percent.

  • White House disbands NSC’s global health security unit

    Just as Ebola hits the DRC, the National Security Council team responsible for global health security has been disbanded. “Global health security threats, whether it be outbreaks, bioterrorism, or laboratory incidents, are only growing in complexity, which makes this particular shake-up deeply concerning for many in the biodefense world,” biosecurity expert comments.

  • DRC confirms Ebola infections, probes suspected cases

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Tuesday declared a new Ebola virus outbreak in a northwestern province, with two confirmed cases so far, coming almost a year since the country’s last outbreak began in a different remote location.

  • On the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, experts warn flu is global threat

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Emory University to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 flu with a symposium about influenza pandemics: when and if they will strike, how ready the United States is to confront a pandemic, and how to do so. “I don’t know what the virus will do,” said one expert. “But history tells us that influenza comes back and comes back and comes back.”

  • “Mad camel” disease? New prion infection raises alarm

    Italian and Algerian researchers released new evidence of prion disease in three dromedary camels found in an Algerian slaughterhouse. Prion diseases can affect both humans and animals, and though inter-species transmission is rare, it can happen, as it did most famously during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow”) epidemic, which started in the late 1980s in the United Kingdom.

  • Mimicking the human immune system to detect outbreaks faster

    Our immune systems are made up of billions of white blood cells searching for signs of infections and foreign invaders, ready to raise the alarm. Sandia National Laboratories computer scientists have been working to improve the U.S. biosurveillance system that alerts authorities to disease outbreaks by mimicking the human immune system.

  • CDC measures have limited spread of “nightmare” bacteria

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday (3 April) that public health laboratories identified more than 220 samples of “nightmare” bacteria containing unusual resistance genes in 2017, a finding that officials say illustrates the importance of the agency’s efforts to identify emerging drug-resistant pathogens quickly and contain them before they can spread.

  • Better accountability needed of use of Ebola recovery funds: GAO

    A review of U.S.-funded Ebola recovery projects in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released this week found that, of $1.6 billion appropriated by Congress in 2014 for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in the hard-hit region, $411.6 million has been targeted to 131 specific projects. However, in tallying up the projects and their scope, the GAO found that USAID needs to do more to ensure a complete inventory of all of its Ebola recovery projects.

  • New framework for guiding controversial research still has worrisome gaps

    In December the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) release lifted the funding moratorium on Gain of Function (GoF) research, following the controversial projects involving H5N1 in 2011. The “Framework for guiding funding decisions about proposed research involving enhanced potential pandemic pathogens” is similar to the January 2017 “P3C0 Framework,” and it came with the bonus of restoring funding for such research – but there are still considerable concerns with how GoF research is evaluated and if these frameworks have really addressed the gaps.

  • Working to halt outbreaks in 60 days or less

    The increasing threat of infectious diseases is intensifying the need for breakthrough technologies and capabilities to protect first responders and equip them with therapeutics that can halt the impact of infectious agents. Current approaches for recent public health emergencies due to infectious diseases have not produced effective preventive or therapeutic solutions in a relevant timescale. Examples from recent outbreaks such as H3N2 (flu), Ebola, and Zika viruses highlight the significant lag in deployment and efficacy of life-saving solutions. To address the growing threat from infectious diseases as well as to properly equip DoD Service members who regularly deploy worldwide to provide assistance in all manner of high-risk environments, DARPA launched the Pandemic Prevention Platform program (P3). DARPA notes that quickly produced nucleic-acid-based technologies may hold key to body creating protective antibodies.

  • Analyzing the past to protect our future: discussing the 1918 flu pandemic

    Imagine living in a time of unprecedented medical breakthroughs that significantly increased the human lifespan—new therapies to treat cancers, new vaccines to prevent previously fatal infectious diseases. Imagine living in a time of new modes of communication with never-imagined speed to spread news. Sounds a lot like the world that we live in, doesn’t it? This was also the world in which the 1918 influenza epidemic took place.

  • Bill to jump-start universal flu vaccine efforts

    As the nation grapples with a long and unrelenting flu season rivaling by some measures the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a group of U.S. senators last week unveiled a proposal to invest $1 billion in research over the next 5 years to create a universal flu vaccine that would provide lifetime protection against a range of influenza strains. The announcement came just as U.S. researchers released an interim report card on the flu vaccine’s performance so far this season, which again showed disappointingly low effectiveness against H3N2, this season’s dominant strain.

  • The U.S. export economy at risk from global infectious outbreaks

    In addition to tragic loss of life, the next global infectious disease outbreak could harm the U.S. export economy and threaten U.S. jobs—even if the disease never reaches our shores. Two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies analyze the risks and show potential losses to the American export economy from an overseas outbreak.

  • Worst-case global pandemic scenario: 700,000 dead, $500 billion in economic losses

    The worldwide spread of a serious infectious disease could result in pandemic-related deaths of 700,000 and annual economic losses of $500 billion, according to a study. The dollar figure of economic losses is much higher than those found in previous studies, which, according to the study, means “there is an unmet need for greater investment in preparedness against major epidemics and pandemics.”