Public health

  • SuperbugsRearming 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.”

  • SuperbugsPromising 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.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
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  • Biodetection2014 edition of updated first responder biodetection technology guide available

    A 2014 update to a detailed product guide listing biodetection technologies and sampling products is now available. The updated digest, Biodetection Technologies for First Responders: 2014, provides a comprehensive compilation of commercially available detection devices and products published to help first responders when purchasing equipment and supplies needed to rapidly assess biological threats.

  • Food safetyBritons worry that new EU food inspection rules would risk U.K. food safety

    The European Food Safety Authority(EFSA) in June will introduce a new Europe-wide food inspection regime, arguing that there is a need to modernize the food inspection process. The EFSA plans to reduce seventy pieces of detailed regulation down to a framework of five overarching laws to “reduce the burden on business.”Among other things, the new rules will replace laws that list diseases banned from the meat supply with a more general requirement on safety, health, and welfare. The EFSA claims that many of the diseases and parasites inspectors currently find are harmless to humans and are not considered major animal diseases. U.K. consumer advocates, meat inspectors, and veterinarians say the new rules threaten the safety of the U.K. food supply.

  • Public healthDrug-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.

  • Chemical spillsW.Va. residents still wary about their drinking water

    The January 2014 chemical spill in West Virginia, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 residents, has changed how residents use public water. Authorities claimed the water was safe for consumption on 13 January, since MCHM levels had dropped below a federal safety threshold of one part per million. Residents remain skeptical, with some collecting rain water, and other relying on clean water distributed by non-profits.

  • AmmoLead ammunition should be replaced by steel in shooting sports: experts

    Researchers say that Olympic athletes specializing in shooting use one thousand cartridges per week and scatter some 1.3 tons of lead yearly, with harmful effects for surrounding animals and agricultural land. The researchers urge the International Olympic Committee and other sports organizations to replace lead ammunition with steel, which is non-toxic and contains similar technical characteristics.

  • BioterrorismPositive 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.

  • Food safetyBacteriophage “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.

  • Nuclear hazardsNew drone-based system improves safety of dealing with nuclear hazards

    Hazardous nuclear events have the potential to cause widespread damage to individuals and the environment. Getting close enough to these incidents to accurately assess the problem can be extremely dangerous. Following the incident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan in 2011, for example, helicopter pilots assessing the site were exposed to significant amounts of radiation. Researchers have developed a new system for remote and accurate assessment of dangerous nuclear accident sites.

  • SuperbugsInfection control: why doctors over-prescribe antibiotics

    By Alex Broom

    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.

  • Chemical spillsWest Virginia chemical spill degrades air, water quality

    In the more than two months since the 9 January chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, new findings reveal the nature of the chemicals that were released into the water and then into the air in residents’ houses. The lack of data motivated researchers to take on essential odor-related research that went beyond their National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to better understand the properties of the chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the major component in the crude mix of the spilled chemicals into the Elk River

  • EpidemicsGuinea Ebola outbreak spreading to Liberia, threatening Sierra Leone

    The Ebola outbreak in Guinea – the biggest in Africa in seven years — has spread to neighboring Liberia and is now also threatening Sierra Leone. At least eighty-six cases and fifty-nine deaths have been recorded across Guinea, the West African country’s health ministry said Monday. The UN Children’s Fund said the outbreak had spread to the capital, Conakry, although most of the cases so far have been in the country’s south-east provinces. Health officials have not yet been able to determine the subtype of Ebola infecting people in Guinea. Knowing the subtype would give them a better idea of the fatality rate, which, for Ebola, can range from 25 to -90 percent.

  • DisastersSoutheast England residents most at risk of rising deaths from climate change

    Warmer summers brought on by climate change will cause more deaths in London and southeast England than the rest of the country, scientists predict. Researchers looked at temperature records and mortality figures for 2001 to 2010 to find out which districts in England and Wales experience the biggest effects from warm temperatures. In the most vulnerable districts, in London and the southeast, the odds of dying from cardiovascular or respiratory causes increased by over 10 percent for every 1C rise in temperature.

  • Public healthNo-refrigeration, spray vaccine to help fight diseases in remote areas

    A new kind of single-dose vaccine that comes in a nasal spray and does not require refrigeration could dramatically alter the public health landscape — get more people vaccinated around the world and address the looming threats of emerging and re-emerging diseases.