Infectious disease

  • Malaysia releases GM mosquitoes in landmark trial

    Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes, which can lead to death if left untreated; the infection killed at least 134 people last year in Malaysia alone; Malasia’s health authorities have released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark trial slammed last week by environmentalists who say the experiment is unsafe

  • Smallpox remains a large threat and issue of contention

    Smallpox has been estimated to have taken the lives of an estimated 300-500 million people during the twentieth century; the last two known remaining locations of the virus which triggers the disease are the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR) near Novosibirsk in Russia; there is an intense debate among scientists about whether these last remaining samples should be destroyed; proponents of destruction say the remaining cultures may one day be used as bioweapons, while opponents of destruction say that destroying the cultures would not make any difference because terrorists could develop synthetic smallpox virus to use as weapon

  • Water test could enable post-earthquake cholera detection

    There are an estimated three to five million cholera cases and 100,000 to 120,000 deaths worldwide each year; a new technique developed by University of Central Florida (UCF) scientists could allow earthquake-relief workers to test water sources that could be contaminated with the cholera toxin

  • California mandates vaccinations after worst Whooping Cough epidemic in 60 years

    In 2010 California experienced the worst epidemic of whooping cough since 1947; the disease killed ten and infected more than 7,800 people; to avoid another outbreak a new California law requires children in seventh to twelfth grades to be vaccinated against Whooping Cough; the outbreak may have been the result of decreases in vaccinations among children

  • GAO: HHS does not have plan for IT pandemic surveillance

    The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has not developed a strategic plan for a national electronic network for public health situational awareness four years after being told to do so by Congress, according to the GAO

  • Virulent Haitian cholera strain to dominate the Americas

    The high death rate of the Haiti cholera relative to earlier outbreaks in the region (for example, Peru 1991) could partly be because medical care, nutrition, and HIV levels are worse in earthquake- and poverty-stricken Haiti than Peru — but it could also be due to a nastier cholera toxin

  • New Jersey lab on the forefront of fighting bioterrorism

    A New Jersey company is working on defense against biological warfare; the 3-year $8.2 million contract with the Department of Defense calls for it to develop drug molecules used to combat biological warfare pathogens — centering its research around eight bacterial pathogens (although for security reasons, the list of pathogens has not been made public)

  • UN peacekeepers to blame for Haiti cholera, report says

    A scientific report prepared for the Haitian and French governments says that Nepalese soldiers — members of the UN peace keeping contingent in Haiti — are the likely source of the cholera epidemic which so far has killed 2,120 people and required medical treatment for 100,000 more; the study found that the source of the outbreak was a Nepalese peacekeeping base, whose toilets contaminated the Artibonite river; the river was the main focus of the outbreak when it began in October, but cholera has since spread throughout the country

  • Increasing cooperation between security, health officials

    Those in charge of preventing and treating man-made diseases (bioterrorism) and those in charge of preventing and treating naturally occurring epidemics have increased cooperation because of a growing recognition by both sides that only way to monitor the rapidly increasing globalization of “dual-use” biological technology — which can be used in regular research efforts or clandestinely put toward a weapons program — is to pool their resources

  • More questions raised about security of Boston BioLab

    Boston University has opened a $178 million biolab in a residential area in Boston’s South End; the facility, in which lethal diseases such as Ebola and the plague will be studies, houses only administrative staff, pending state approval; that approval depends on a final risk assessment review — but a new study by the National Research Council questioned the methodology of ongoing risk assessment by contractor Tetra Tech

  • MS drug to lead fight against bioterrorism

    A drug already approved for treating multiple sclerosis show promise as a long sought treatment for victims of bioterrorist attack with botulinum neurotoxin — which is 10,000 times deadlier than cyanide and the most poisonous substance known to man

  • Northrop Grumman testing autonomous biodetection instruments for BioWatch

    DHS has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to begin field testing a new generation of autonomous biodetection instruments as part of the BioWatch Gen-3 program.; the total potential value of the contract is $37 million over three years

  • Report: DHS underestimates risks of accidental pathogen release at Kansas BioLab

    Manhattan, Kansas, is the proposed location of a new, $450 million BioLab44 DHS research facility; a National Academy of Sciences panel report says that a risk assessment by DHS of the new facility vastly underestimates the risk of an accidental pathogen release from the lab and the associated costs; the NAS report also said last month’s analysis failed to learn from fifteen major accidental releases of the foot and mouth virus around the world

  • Cholera to linger in Haiti for years to come

    Worldwide, poor sanitation that spreads cholera and other gut infections accounts for 2.4 million deaths a year, and 6.6 per cent of all life-years lost to disease and disability; the current cholera crisis in Haiti offers a grim example: cholera deaths are climbing sharply in Haiti, after the infection reached the capital, Port-au-Prince, as feared; epidemiologists who have studied other outbreaks predict that hundreds of thousands of Haitians will be stricken by the infection over the next few years as cholera takes hold in the country

  • U.S. sees East Africa as front line in bioterrorism war

    Africa emerges as the front line in the war against bioterrorism; anthrax killed hundreds of hippopotamuses in Uganda in recent years; in 2008 a Dutch tourist died from Marburg disease after visiting a cave in a national park; in 2007 an Ebola outbreak killed more than twenty people; American officials say that the underlying threat is that lax security at the poorly financed labs that collect and study these and other deadly diseases pose a bioterrorism risk; the rise of Islamist radicals in several countries in East Africa has refocused attention on this region as a frontier in American security interests