• WHO: Response to Congo Ebola outbreak so far working

    An Ebola outbreak has gripped parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization there have been 45 reported cases, 14 of which have been confirmed as Ebola. Of these 45 cases, 25 have resulted in fatalities. Most concerning, the outbreak has spread from a rural precinct to the city of Mbandaka which has a population of 1.2 million and sits on the Congo river, a major thoroughfare.

  • A quarter of migrants to Europe infected with drug-resistant bacteria

    A new review of research on migrant populations in Europe has found that more than a quarter are infected or colonized with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with evidence suggesting that the pathogens are being acquired along the migration route or in host countries. The findings come amid a recent wave of immigration that has brought more than two million migrants to Europe since 2015, an influx that’s been driven in part by conflicts and instability in the Middle East and Africa.

  • Superbugs: are we returning to an era where bacteria are a major killer without a cure?

    Every time bacteria come into contact with antibiotics there is the possibility that through a process of natural selection, they may evolve to evade the drugs, creating what is referred to as “superbugs.” These superbugs can often not be killed by antibiotics. In the early years of antibiotic development researchers were able to come up with enough new antibiotics to replace the ones that we had lost to resistance, but this is no longer the case.

  • Low-levels of antibiotics can produce high-levels of resistance

    A new study indicates that bacteria exposed to small concentrations of antibiotics over time can become highly resistant, a finding that provides an example of how low levels of antibiotics present in many environments may potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance.

  • A new class of antibiotics to fight drug resistance

    According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistant is one of the biggest threats to global health today and a significant contributor to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality. An international research team has reported the discovery of a new class of antibiotics.

  • 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.

  • A synthesized antibiotic is capable of treating superbugs

    A “game changing” new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesized and used to treat an infection for the first time—and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in thirty years. The breakthrough is another major step forward on the journey to develop a commercially viable drug version based on teixobactin—a natural antibiotic discovered by U.S. scientists in soil samples in 2015 which has been heralded as a “gamechanger” in the battle against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and VRE.

  • Too many hospitalized kids receive preventive antibiotics

    A large new international study indicates that nearly a third of hospitalized children are receiving antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections rather than to treat them, and in many cases are receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics or combinations of antibiotics. This high rate of prophylactic prescribing in pediatric patients and frequent use of broad-spectrum agents suggests a clear overuse of antibiotics in this population and underscores the need for pediatric-specific antibiotic stewardship programs.

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections cost $2 billion a year

    Antibiotic resistance adds nearly $1,400 to the bill for treating a bacterial infection and costs the nation more than $2 billion annually, according to a new study. The study, which is the first national estimate of the incremental costs for treating antibiotic-resistant infections, also found that the share of bacterial infections in the United States that were antibiotic resistant more than doubled over thirteen years, rising from 5.2 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2014.

  • Low level of worrisome resistant bacterium in U.S.

    A new multistate surveillance study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the incidence of a multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogen capable of causing severe infections and spreading easily is low and mainly confined to healthcare facilities. And CDC officials would like to keep it that way. a team of researchers from the CDC and public health departments across the country report that the overall annual incidence of carbapenem-nonsusceptible Acinetobacter baumannii is 1.2 cases per 100,000 persons, and that nearly all the cases were healthcare-associated.

  • 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.

  • European health worries: High levels of drug resistance in zoonotic bacteria

    A surveillance report from European health and food safety agencies indicates that antibiotic resistance in zoonotic bacteria from humans, food, and animals on the continent remains at high levels, with notable levels of multidrug resistance in two common causes of foodborne illness in humans. Zoonotic bacteria are organisms that are transmissible between animals and humans, either through direct exposure or through consumption of contaminated meat.

  • Horsepox synthesis, dual-use research, and scientific research’s “action bias”

    Julius Caesar is said to have stated “alea iacta est” (the die is cast) as he led his army across the Rubicon river, triggering a point of no return in Roman history. In many ways, the horsepox synthesis, published by two Canadian scientists last month, is considered a new Rubicon for synthetic biology and the life sciences. Experts say that now that we’ve ventured across the river, it seems that we may be learning more about dual-use research in general. One expert notes that “Beyond the immediate issue of whether the horsepox work should have been performed (or published), the horsepox synthesis story highlights a more general challenge facing dual-use research in biotechnology: the unilateralist’s curse.” Research unilateralism contains an “action bias”: Horsepox synthesis is more likely to occur when scientists act independently than when they agree to a decision as a group.

  • S&T sponsors workshop on “sequences of interest”

    Synthetic biology has led to the creation of new products, markets, companies, and industries. At the same time, the technology poses potential risks to biosafety and biosecurity, as recently demonstrated by the synthesis of horsepox virus, a cousin of variola, the virus which causes smallpox. DHS S&T sponsored a workshop to discuss the evolving role of databases which contain genetic sequences of pathogens and toxins — termed “sequences of interest” — which pose safety or security concerns.

  • CDC: Flu still rising across U.S.; 16 more pediatric deaths

    We are not out of the woods yet,” said Anne Schuchat, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as she described the rising influenza activity that’s swept across the United States. According to Schuchat, this past week brought yet another increase in influenza-like illness (ILI) activity, a spike in hospitalizations, and, most distressingly, 16 new reports of pediatric influenza deaths. Now 53 pediatric deaths this season have been attributed to the flu. The last season as severe as this year’s was in 2014-15, but at this point in that season the cumulative hospitalization rate was 43.5 per 100,000 population. This week that number was 51.4 per 100,000 population, according to the latest FluView surveillance data published by the CDC.