• Engineered virusesEngineered Viruses Could Fight Antibiotic Resistance

    Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect Soldiers and fight resistance.

  • Perspective: War crimes12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.

    The Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria represents the Alawite minority (in 2011, about 75 percent of the Syrian population was Sunni , and about 12 percent were Alawites). Since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, the Assad regime, in the largest ethnic cleansing campaign since the end of the Second World War, has methodically, and successfully, pursued the goal of drastically reducing the number of Sunni Muslims in Syria. So far, the Assad regime has killed more than 500,000 Syrian Sunnis; has driven more than 5.6 million Sunnis out of Syria; and internally displaced more than 6.6 million Sunnis. One of the keys to Assad’s ethnic cleansing campaign has been the systematic destruction of hospitals and medical facilities in Sunni-majority areas and the killing of medical personnel. This strategy increases the number of dead and untreated wounded among the Sunnis, and along with the methodical destruction of water and sewage treatment facilities, makes life even more unbearable in Sunni areas of Syria. Since September 2015, the Russian air force has been doing most of the destruction of medical facilities and other civilian infrastructure in Sunni-majority areas.

  • PerspectivePresident Trump Bars Uninsured Immigrants from the U.S.

    On Oct. 4, President Trump issued a proclamation that bars otherwise qualified visa applicants from entry into the United States unless they are likely to obtain “approved health insurance” within 30 days of entry. The insurance test relies on 8 U.S.C.§ 1182(f), authorizing the president to bar entry of foreign nationals “detrimental to the interests of the United States”—the same provision that Trump used for his travel ban, which the Supreme Court upheld in Trump v. Hawaii. While the Supreme Court in Hawaii relied on the national security and foreign affairs rationale for the travel ban, the insurance test targets the very different issue of immigrants’ financial resources.

  • Preventable diseasesClose-Knit, Vaccine-Reluctant Communities Stoked Measles: CDC

    From 1 January to 1 October of this year, the United States tracked 22 measles outbreaks and 1,249 cases, according to a new overview published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). “Eight outbreaks —defined as three or more related cases — that occurred in underimmunized, close-knit communities accounted for 85 percent of all cases,” the CDC said. And 75 percent of all cases in 2019 were part of outbreaks among Orthodox Jewish populations in New York State and City.

  • GunsFunding for Research on Gun Injuries to U.S. Children Gets 30 Times Less Funding Per Death Than other causes

    Firearm injuries kill 2,500 American children each year and send another 12,000 to emergency departments. But a new study finds that the nation spends far less on studying what led to those injuries, and what might prevent and treat them, than it spends on other, less-common causes of death in children between the ages of 1 and 18 years.

  • Perspective: SuperbugsEngineered Viruses Could Fight Drug Resistance

    In the battle against antibiotic resistance, many scientists have been trying to deploy naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages that can infect and kill bacteria. Bacteriophages kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging. MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. These engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria, the researchers found.

  • Perspective: Lyme vaccinationWhy There’s Still No Lyme Vaccine for Humans

    There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, and Valneva, a French biotech company focused on developing vaccines for infectious diseases, hopes to change that. Valneva’s Lyme vaccine isn’t the first designed for people. Twenty years ago, Reeder could have been immunized. From 1999 to 2002, SmithKline Beecham—now GlaxoSmithKline—sold a Lyme vaccine called LYMErix. But the company pulled LYMErix off the market after a public backlash and a spate of lawsuits. If the new vaccine does make it to market, will it fare any better than LYMErix?

  • Nuclear warIndia-Pakistan Nuclear War Could Kill Millions, Lead to Global Starvation

    A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could, over the span of less than a week, kill 50-125 million people—more than the death toll during all six years of World War II, according to new research. The researchers calculated that an India-Pakistan war could inject as much as 80 billion pounds of thick, black smoke into Earth’s atmosphere. That smoke would block sunlight from reaching the ground, driving temperatures around the world down by an average of between 3.5-9 degrees Fahrenheit for several years. Worldwide food shortages would likely come soon after. Today, India and Pakistan each have about 150 nuclear warheads at their disposal, and that number is expected to climb to more than 200 by 2025.

  • Food safetyFDA: New Food Safety Dashboard to Track FSMA Progress

    In an effort to enhance compliance with the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new dashboard that will track and monitor how companies are implementing parts of the law, and how those changes are affecting the food safety system.

  • Nuclear accidentsContaining a Nuclear Accident with Ground-up Minerals

    Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing a promising new way to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination and contain the hot molten mass that develops within a nuclear reactor during a catastrophic accident. A team of scientists discovered and patented a process for injecting sand-like minerals into the core of a nuclear reactor during an accident to contain and slow down the progression of a meltdown.

  • Medical informationWhat Data Hackers Can Get about You from Hospitals

    When hospitals are hacked, the public hears about the number of victims – but not what information the cybercriminals stole. New research uncovers the specific data leaked through hospital breaches, sounding alarm bells for nearly 170 million people.

  • Perspective: PandemicsThe World Knows an Apocalyptic Pandemic Is Coming

    A new independent report compiled at the request of the United Nations secretary-general warns that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic sweeping the planet, killing up to 80 million people. A deadly pathogen, spread airborne around the world, the report says, could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy. And we’re not ready. Laura Garrett writes that twenty-five years ago, in 1994, she published her book on the subject, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, arguing that human disruption of the global environment, coupled with behaviors that readily spread microbes between people and from animals to humans, guaranteed a global surge in epidemics, even an enormous pandemic. She writes that epidemic outbreaks were aided and abetted by inept health systems, human behavior, and the complete lack of consistent political and financial support for disease-fighting preparedness everywhere in the world. Will the UN report’s warning be heeded now?

  • Our men in HavanaPesticides May Have Caused Cuban “Sonic Weapon” Symptoms

    A strange illness affecting the brains of Canadian and U.S. diplomats in their countries’ embassies in Havana may have been caused by exposure to pesticides, a new study says. From late 2016 to late 2017, some 40 U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana suffered brain damage, and exhibited a range of unusual symptoms, including hearing and vision complications, dizziness, fatigue, disorientation, and headaches. The U.S. government claimed that the diplomats had been attacked by some sort of secret sonic weapon, but a new Canadian study says that the cause was likely an exposure to low-dose exposure to neurotoxins, such as those used in commercial pesticides. From late 2016 to late 2017, Cuban health authorities engaged in an intensive fumigation campaign to block the spread of the Zika virus.

  • Preventable diseasesDeclaring Vaccine Hesitancy One of the Ten Biggest Health Threats in 2019 Is Unhelpful

    By Christine Stabell Benn

    The rhetoric is well-known: vaccines work, the science is settled, vaccine-hesitant parents are uninformed or misguided victims of the social media platforms where crooks spread fake science. It is taken as a given that vaccines are similarly and uniformly beneficial – aside from rare side effects – and no sane person would question that. But are vaccines similarly and uniformly beneficial? There is no doubt that vaccines can induce immunological “memory” against their target disease. And, at the population level, this reduces the risk of getting the target disease. Vaccine led to the eradication of smallpox, and we are close to eradicating two other serious infections: polio and measles. But we don’t have a lot of evidence about the overall health effects of vaccines. Everybody has been so sure that vaccines only protected against the target infection, nothing else, and so nobody studied the overall health effects. They were simply assumed to be proportionally beneficial. We do not have the evidence for all vaccines to tell vaccine-hesitant parents that it is overall beneficial for their child to receive each one of them. Rather, we have to acknowledge that there are things about vaccines that have not been investigated very well.

  • Perspective: ApocalypseIn the Event of a Killer Asteroid, Volcanic Apocalypse, or Nuclear Holocaust, Mushrooms Could Save Humanity from Extinction

    About 66 million years ago, an asteroid plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere and crashed into the sea floor, creating an explosion over 6,500 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The impact sent clouds of debris and sulfur into Earth’s atmosphere, blocking the sun’s light and warmth for about two years. Photosynthesis ground to a halt, which meant no more plant growth. The surviving dinosaurs starved to extinction. But fossil records show that fungi thrived in the aftermath. “Blot out the sun, and even the best-prepared survivalist, a master of the wilderness, will starve to death along with everyone else,” Bryan Walsh writes in his new book, End Times. In order to survive, he says, people would need to adopt sunlight-free agriculture — cultivating mushrooms, rats, and insects.