• Truth decayThe counties where the anti-vaccine movement thrives in the U.S.

    By Peter J Hotez

    As a pediatrician-scientist who develops new vaccines for neglected diseases, I followed the emergence of doubt over vaccine safety in the general public. Ultimately, in scientific circles, any debate ended when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrated there was no association between vaccines and autism. In Texas, however, the anti-vaccine movement is aggressive, well-organized and politically engaged. There are now at least 57,000 Texas schoolchildren being exempted from their vaccines for nonmedical reasons, about a 20-fold rise since 2003. I say “at least” because there is no data on the more than 300,000 homeschooled kids.

  • Truth decayVaccination myths must be debunked: Experts

    An analysis of anti-vaccine witness statements presented during the Texas Legislature’s 2017 session revealed recurring misconceptions that need to be challenged, according to an experts. The experts say that there are five recurring misconceptions about vaccines: that they are ineffective; herd immunity is a myth; vaccines “shed” and cause the spread of disease; the impacts of vaccine-preventable diseases are minor; and vaccine-exempt children are not spreading disease. “Each of these myths is inaccurate and unscientific,” the experts say.

  • SuperbugsRapidly identifying antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”

    When you get sick, you want the right treatment fast. But certain infectious microbes are experts at evading the very anti-bacterial drugs designed to fight them. A simple and inexpensive new test developed by UC Berkeley researchers can diagnose patients with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in a matter of minutes. The technique could help doctors prescribe the right antibiotics for each infection, and could help limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” which kill as many as 700,000 people worldwide each year.

  • SuperbugsSales of vet antibiotics in Europe decline

    A report yesterday from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) shows a significant drop in overall sales of veterinary antibiotics across Europe. The data from the EMA’s eighth European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) report show a 20.1 percent decline in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals in 25 European Union (EU) countries from 2011 through 2016, with notable decreases in the sales of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine.

  • SuperbugsRamping up fight against antimicrobial resistance

    The U.S. government is challenging world leaders, corporations, and non-governmental groups to step up their efforts against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Challenge asks for at least one commitment in one of five areas: improving antibiotic use in humans and animals; reducing antibiotics and resistant bacteria in the environment; developing new antibiotics, vaccines, and diagnostics; enhancing data collection and sharing; and improving infection prevention and control.

  • SuperbugsPlugging an antibiotic pump

    Each year in the U.S., at least 23,000 people die from infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Using computer modeling, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are helping to develop the means to prevent some of those deaths.

  • SuperbugsLow antibiotic levels in the environment may spur drug resistance

    A new study is providing new evidence that low concentrations of antibiotics in the environment could be contributing to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The researchers report that even when bacterial communities in wastewater are exposed to small amounts of the antibiotic cefotaxime, selection pressure for clinically important antibiotic-resistant genes occurs. Moreover, they also found that the selection pressure for resistance may be just as strong as when exposed to high concentrations of the drug.

  • SuperbugsCreating “criminal database” of drug-resistant pathogens

    Using a big-data approach and a network of hospitals and clinical laboratories around the world, a new non-profit initiative aims to create a comprehensive “criminal database” of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that can be recognized by their genetic fingerprint. The Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Analysis and Diagnostics Alliance (ARMADA) will create this global biobank of bacterial strains by collecting bacterial isolates from hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinical labs, and veterinary sources and then analyzing them to understand their resistance profiles, their genetic identity, and their epidemiological history.

  • SuperbugsNature’s remedies: Using viruses against drug-resistant bacteria

    With microbial resistance to antibiotics growing into a major global health crisis, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with national research institutions and private industry, are leveraging hard-won expertise to exploit a natural viral enemy of pathogenic bacteria, creating North America’s first Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH). The plan is to use viruses as new weapon against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

  • SuperbugsDeep-sea sponges may offer key to antibiotic drug resistance

    Infectious diseases remain a major threat to human health causing millions of deaths worldwide, especially in medically less-developed countries and regions. In 2016, there were an estimated 1.2 million tuberculous deaths, 1.03 million HIV/AIDS deaths, and 719,600 malaria deaths. This situation is significantly worsened by the prevalence of multi-drug resistance. Researchers may have a solution to this problem using sea sponges collected from the ocean depths.

  • BiosecurityFragile supply chain causing antibiotic shortages, resistance threat

    A white paper released yesterday argues that a fragile global supply chain that’s dependent on a small number of antibiotics manufacturers, along with a financially unstable economic model, are responsible for shortages of antibiotics on a global and national level. Because of these shortages, some patients in need of antibiotics are being treated with lower-quality medications that don’t cure their infections and increase the risk of resistance.

  • BiothreatsWinners announced in $300K biothreat prize competition

    DHS S&T the other day announced the grand prize winner of its $300,000 Hidden Signals Challenge. The prize competition called for the design of an early warning system to keep communities safe by using existing data sources to uncover emerging biothreats.

  • PandemicsLittle-known virus could become the next global pandemic

    A little-known virus discovered twenty years ago could become the next global pandemic. A recent outbreak of Nipah in South India has renewed interest in the virus, which has a mortality rate of up to 70 percent and has no vaccine or cure. “Emerging infections have resulted in the most devastating infectious diseases that humanity has ever faced. These include HIV, tuberculosis, measles and smallpox. History has taught us that emerging infections can be major threats,” says Stanford University epidemiologist and Nipah expert Stephen Luby.

  • BiosecurityGrowing concerns about DIY gene editing

    There is a growing concerns regarding the rising popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) gene editing. From the horsepox de novo synthesis to public stunts at conventions where biohackers injected themselves with HIV treatment, it is becoming difficult to ignore why these actions are dangerous.

  • BiosecurityBiosecurity: Do synthetic biologists need a license to operate?

    By Kostas Vavitsas

    Advances in gene editing technology and the drop in costs make it possible for individuals to perform more sophisticated molecular biology experiments in private spaces. This hobby attracts a variety of people and has been hailed as a way to democratize genetic engineering. A few recent stunts raise concerns about what are the hazards of individuals with gene-editing capabilities.