• CybersecurityWhy has healthcare become such a target for cyber-attackers?

    By Myrsini Athinaiou

    More than 16m patient records were stolen from healthcare organizations in the United States and related parties in 2016. That year, healthcare was the fifth most targeted industry when it came to cyber-attacks. And earlier this year, Britain’s National Health Service was crippled by a ransomware attack that locked up the computers holding many of its records and booking systems. As connected technology becomes even more embedded in healthcare, this cyber-threat is only likely to grow. But if we want to protect our health from cyber-attacks, we shouldn’t fear technology. Instead, we need to understand it better and realize that the threat becomes much worse when people make simple mistakes.

  • Extreme weather eventsHuman fingerprints on Europe’s recent heat

    This June, Europe experienced some remarkable heat. Temperature records were smashed across the west of the continent with extremely hot days followed by warm uncomfortable nights for many. Research has found that excess deaths during recent European heatwaves can be attributed to the human influence on the climate. These extreme heat events are becoming more common in Europe and around the world. Researchers say that in order to be prepared for future severe heatwaves, we need to understand how and why they are changing.

  • Water securitySafe water for slum dwellers

    Attempts to deliver safe water to people living in some of the world’s poorest slums are falling at the final hurdle, according to experts. Sewage-contaminated drinking water causes serious illness such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal and stomach problems – putting millions of lives at considerable risk each year. Globally, there are 1.7 billion cases of diarrhea annually resulting in over 0.5 million deaths of children under five years old. New research has shown that despite good progress, millions of slum dwellers are still exposed to considerable risk because water supplies are being contaminated by human waste just meters from the family home.

  • Lead & crimeDecrease in lead exposure in early childhood likely responsible for drop in crime rate

    Exposure to lead in the preschool years significantly increases the chance that children will be suspended or incarcerated during their school careers, according to new research. Conversely, a drop in exposure leads to less antisocial behavior and thus may well be a significant factor behind the drop in crime over the past few decades.

  • Surviving gun shotsClaim of greatly improved survival rate for gunshot victims debunked

    The survival rate of U.S. gunshot victims has not shown a marked improvement, as other recent studies have suggested, according to new research. The purported increase in survival rate had been credited to improvements in emergency treatment and medical care of critically injured patients. But on close analysis, researchers found problems in the way data was collected and coded.

  • BiodefenseNew foot-and-mouth disease rapid diagnostic kit licensed

    DHS S&T announced today the licensing of a rapid-response (three-hour) Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) diagnostic kit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). S&T says that the diagnostic kit, developed by a large research consortium of federal agencies, academia and animal health industry scientists, is the first licensed FMD diagnostic kit that can be manufactured on the U.S. mainland, critical for a rapid response in the event of a FMD outbreak.

  • PlagueHow plague attacks us – and how we should defend ourselves

    The plague that is believed to have caused the Black Death still occasionally ravages populations, albeit to a much smaller extent than before. Now we know more about how the bacteria attack us. But how does the plague bacterium attack human beings, and how does the body defend against its constantly evolving attacks? New research on the bacterium is yielding new answers.

  • Health securityPreventing outbreaks: U.S. investment in global health security training

    By Kathryn Insley

    Biological agents including viruses, bacteria, and toxins, can devastate local economies with their potential effects on humans and livestock. In addition to potentially catastrophic immediate impact, these agents could also set in motion long-term disasters, causing regional instability and challenging international security. For these reasons, the U.S. Department of State invests in many programs to reduce biological security risks.

  • HeatwavesDeadly heatwaves on the rise

    Seventy-four percent of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates, according to a new study. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48 percent. “We are running out of choices for the future,” says one expert. “For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible.”

  • Radiation risksPossible correlation found between TMI meltdown and thyroid cancers

    Three Mile Island (TMI), located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had a partial meltdown accident on 28 March 1979. During the accident, radiation was released into the environment, which the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said was in small amounts with no detectable health effects. Penn State College of Medicine researchers have shown, for the first time, a possible correlation between the partial meltdown at TMI and thyroid cancers in the counties surrounding the plant.

  • Layered defenseStacking countermeasures for layered defense against chemical, biological threats

    Just as we must protect computer systems against assaults in the form of viruses and trojans in the cyber world, we must protect our soldiers from a multitude of chemical and biological threats on the battlefield. No one countermeasure can mitigate every threat, which is why the Joint Science and Technology Office at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency is developing a portfolio of novel capabilities and medical countermeasures to protect our troops.

  • Radiation detectionRemote detection of hazardous radioactive substances

    Remote detection of radioactive materials is impossible when the measurement location is far from its source. A typical radiation detectors, like Geiger-Muller counters can detect 1 milli Curie (mCi) of Cobalt-60 (60Co) at a maximum distance of 3.5 meters, but are inefficient at measuring lower levels of radioactivity or at longer distances. Researchers have developed a method for the remote detection of hazardous radioactive substances. With the help of this newly developed detection device, the detection of various types of radioactive materials can be done from a remote distance.

  • HurricanesAfter 18 months, hurricane vulnerability documents arrive — but they're thin

    By Neena Satija

    During Hurricane Katrina, rushing water caused one refinery’s oil tank to rupture, sending oil into more than 1,700 homes a mile away. And the Houston area has many schools and neighborhoods that are less than a mile from large refineries and oil storage terminals. Eighteen months ago, we asked the government for documents that should have shed a lot of light on Houston’s vulnerability to a massive hurricane. After finally receiving them, it turns out the documents are basically useless.

  • EnergyReplacing coal with solar will save lives, money

    Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the United States, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life. To fully replace all the coal production in the United States with solar PV, it would take 755 gigawatts—a significant increase compared to the 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the United States currently.

  • Food securityExpediting detection of harmful pathogens in food supply

    When food shopping, it is easy to overlook what it took to get your favorite meats and produce to the grocery store shelves. Anything perishable – beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, fruit, dairy and even water – must undergo a rigorous and time-consuming inspection process before shipping to its destination. FIU researchers are commercializing a device that reduces the screening process to just a few hours at the same cost as current devices.