Viruses and pathogens

  • Debate intensifies over whether or not to destroy last stockpile of smallpox

    The world’s health ministers are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the fate of the last known stockpiles of smallpox, held under tight security in two labs— one in the United States and the other in Russia. Smallpox has been eradicated for more than three decades, but some U.S. health officials say the remaining stockpiles should be kept for further studies. The smallpox virus is being used to develop drugs and safer vaccines in case the virus returns through terrorism or a lab accident. Member nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) once agreed that the last virus strains known to officials would eventually be destroyed, but a set date was never agreed upon.

  • California bill banning use of antibiotics in livestock withdrawn

    The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that 23,000 people die every year from infections that cannot be cured, often due to overuse of antibiotics which creates drug resistant bugs. Last Wednesday, California Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) withdrew proposed legislation which would ban the sale of meat and poultry fed on nontherapeutic antibiotics. He lacked sufficient support from fellow legislators.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
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  • New technology to detect previously undetectable fecal contamination in water

    Technology capable of sampling water systems to find indicators of fecal matter contamination that are thousandths and even millionths of times smaller than those found by conventional methods is being developed by researchers. The researchers have developed an ultrasensitive detection method that can detect molecules associated with human and animal fecal matter in water systems. These extremely small indicators, he explains, have been traditionally difficult to detect but can signal greater levels of contamination, which can lead to illness and even death.

  • Promising agents breach superbug defenses to fight antibiotic resistance

    In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents that can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off. Scientists have been developing new agents to combat these enzymes, but the agents so far have fallen short. A new class of agents, called metallopolymers, shows promise.

  • DHS cancels acquisition of BioWatch’s Generation 3 technology

    Owing to concerns about BioWatcheffectiveness and high cost, DHS has canceled plans to install an automated technology meant to speed the 24-hour operations of the program, the nation’s system for detecting a biological attack.ASeptember 2012 GAO report estimated that annual costs to operate the Generation 3 technology would be “about four times more” than the existing BioWatch system.

  • 1918 pandemic flu virus mystery solved

    Just as the world was recovering from the devastation of the First World War, another killer swept across the globe. A deadly flu virus attacked more than one-third of the world’s population, and within months had killed more than fifty million people — three times as many as the war — and had done it more quickly than any other illness in recorded history. Until now, the origin of the 1918 pandemic flu virus and its unusual severity have vexed health experts. A new study not only sheds light on the devastating 1918 pandemic, but could also improve vaccination strategies, and pandemic prevention and preparedness.

  • Ebola outbreak highlights need for global surveillance strategies

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the deadly Ebola virus can cause mortality rates up to 90 percent of those individuals who contract the disease. No cure or vaccine exists for Ebola hemorrhagic fever and public health officials are concerned about further spread of the virus in the region. A comprehensive review was published yesterday examining the current state of knowledge of the deadly Ebola and Marburg virus. The review calls for improved global surveillance strategies to combat the emergence of infectious diseases such as the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa that has claimed the lives of 122 people in the countries of Guinea and Liberia.

  • New MRSA superbug discovered in Brazil

    Researchers have identified a new superbug that caused a bloodstream infection in Brazilian patients. The new superbug is part of a class of highly-resistant bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which is a major cause of hospital and community-associated infections. The superbug has also acquired high levels of resistance to vancomycin, the most common and least expensive antibiotic used to treat severe MRSA infections worldwide. The most worrisome aspect of the discovery is that genomic analyses indicated that this novel vancomycin-resistant MRSA superbug belongs to a genetic lineage that is commonly found outside hospitals (designated community-associated MRSA).

  • Rearming penicillin for the twenty-first century

    Penicillin, one of the scientific marvels of the twentieth century, is currently losing a lot of battles it once won against bacterial infections. Scientists, however, have just reported a new approach to restoring its combat effectiveness, even against so-called “superbugs.”

  • Promising agents defeat superbug defenses

    In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents, called metallopolymers, which can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off.

  • Drug-resistant TB emerges as a global threat

    Drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) has become a global threat,with multidrug resistant TB causing about 500,000 new cases every year. Experts say the problem requires cooperation among governments, pharmaceuticals, and academics to develop effective treatments.

  • Positive results reported from single dose anthrax vaccine studies

    Immunovaccine and Pfenex announced positive results from anthrax challenge studies in rabbits using Pfenex’s mutant recombinant Protective Antigen (mrPA) formulated with Immunovaccine’s DepoVax delivery system. Data demonstrates 100 percent protection against a lethal anthrax challenge in animals after vaccination with as little as 0.33 microgram of mutant recombinant Protective Antigen. Dose response observed in the first twenty-eight days following vaccination.

  • Bacteriophage “cocktail” eradicates 99 percent of E. coli in meat, spinach

    Treating food products with select bacteriophages — viruses which target and kill bacteria — could significantly reduce concentrations of E. coli, a new study shows. An injection of bacteriophages — also known informally as “phages” — nearly eradicated a toxin-producing strain of E. coli in contaminated spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing E. coli concentrations by about 99 percent. Interest in using phages as antibacterial treatments has increased with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • Scientists learn how Marburg virus grows in cells

    Infections with Marburg virus lead to death in as many as 90 percent of those infected. Once restricted to Africa, cases of the virus have been identified in travelers from Europe and the United States, making effective prevention and treatment a top biodefense priority. Study suggests targeting molecular interaction of virus and host protein may arrest this lethal virus.

  • Infection control: why doctors over-prescribe antibiotics

    The modern antibiotic era began with the discovery of penicillin in 1928, which led to dramatic improvements in our ability to treat common infections. This was probably the most important discovery in the history of modern medicine. And for a long time, antibiotics reigned supreme in the battle against previously deadly bacterium. The dramatic improvements of the twentieth century, however, are now being undone by overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Resistant superbugs and poor use of antibiotics are together leading us toward an “antimicrobial perfect storm” in the next few decades. This may sound apocalyptic but it’s simple epidemiology: increasing resistance combined with decreasing antibiotic options will worsen to the point where we will have no capacity to treat previously highly treatable infections.