• CybersecurityExperts expect a surge in ransomware attacks this week – this time without a “kill switch”

    A second version of the disruptive WannaCry ransomware – a version which does not contain the “kill switch” used by a young security analyst to shut down many of last week’s cyberattacks – is set to be released by the same group of hackers. There are fears that Monday could see a surge in the number of computers taken over by the devastating WannaCry ransomware hack. Rob Wainwright, head of the European Union police agency, Europol, warned anyone who thought the problem was going away was mistaken. “At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat. The numbers are going up, I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn (on) their machines on Monday morning,” he said.

  • Radiation threatsPocket-size biological solution to radioactive threats

    Yaky Yanay, co-CEO of Pluristem Therapeutics, last week surprised the participants The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York by saying that a small glass vial he pulled out of his pocket offered a solution to Iran’s nuclear threats. “I have the solution in my pocket.” The company has developed an anti-radiation therapy that can be stockpiled for emergencies. The therapy harnesses the power of the human placenta to contain the cascading effect of radiation exposure in the body and allow for the natural healing of cells.

  • Public healthResearchers identify security concerns in 1 in 3 FDA-approved drugs

    Nearly one out of every three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a new safety issue detected in the years after approval, says a new study. While most of the safety concerns are not serious enough to require withdrawal of a drug from the market, the finding highlights the need for ongoing surveillance of new drugs in the post-market period, said the researchers.

  • CybersecurityU.K. hospitals, clinics hit by large-scale ransomware cyberattack

    The NHS has confirmed that hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale cyberattack. The attack has locked staff out of their computers and forced emergency patients to be diverted to hospitals not hit by the attack. The IT systems of NHS facilities across England have been hit simultaneously – and the screens of computers connected to the networks under attack showed a pop-up message demanding a ransom in exchange for allowing staff access to the PCs.

  • Public healthDoctors should be paid by salary, not fee-for-service: Behavioral economists

    While most conflict of interest research and debate in medicine focuses on physicians interacting with pharmaceutical and device companies, one important source of conflicts is largely ignored in the medical literature on conflicts of interest: how doctors are paid. A new study outlines the problems associated with the fee-for-service arrangements that most doctors currently operate under. Such compensation schemes, the authors argue, create incentives for physicians to order more, and different, services than are best for patients.

  • Zika virusNew computer model assesses risk of a Zika epidemic in real-time

    New research describes a new model for assessing real-time risk of a Zika virus epidemic in the United States. The computer simulation, based on data from Texas including population dynamics, historical infection rates, socioeconomics, and mosquito density, is designed to help policymakers gauge the underlying epidemic threat as cases first appear in U.S. cities.

  • Zika virusCost of Zika outbreak in U.S. could be high

    Even a relatively mild Zika outbreak in the United States could cost more than $183 million in medical costs and productivity losses, a computational analysis suggests. A more severe outbreak could result in $1.2 billion or more in medical costs and productivity losses. “This is a threat that has not gone away. Zika is still spreading silently and we are just now approaching mosquito season in the United States, which has the potential of significantly increasing the spread,” says one researcher.

  • SuperbugsKilling drug-resistant bacteria dead with bioinspired agent

    Microbial resistance to antibiotics and biocides is increasing, and our ability to effectively treat bacterial infections and contamination is under threat. It is important that scientists develop new antibiotic drugs, but we also need new strategies to deal with bacterial contamination that are not reliant on antibiotics. Researchers have developed a bioinspired antimicrobial treatment that can rapidly kill drug-resistant bacteria. The treatment consists of iodo-thiocyanate complexes, which are inspired by enzymes and reactive molecules produced by our immune system.

  • Yellow feverPreventing yellow fever resurgence

    Many people might not have heard of the Aedes aegypti mosquito until this past year, when the mosquito, and the disease it can carry – Zika – began to make headlines. But more than 220 years ago, this same breed of mosquito was spreading a different and deadly epidemic in Philadelphia and just like Zika, this epidemic is seeing a modern resurgence, with Brazil at its epicenter. “The challenge with diseases like yellow fever and Zika is that the conditions that foster an outbreak are not always avoidable, especially in tropical climates, and therefore a vaccine is needed to prevent infection,” says one expert.

  • EpidemicsImproving speed, effectiveness of clinical trials during an epidemic

    Mobilization of a rapid and robust clinical research program that explores whether investigational therapeutics and vaccines are safe and effective to combat the next infectious disease epidemic will depend on strengthening capacity in low-income countries for response and research, engaging people living in affected communities, and conducting safety trials before an epidemic hits, says a new report. Using key lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the report outlines how to improve the speed and effectiveness of clinical trial research while an epidemic is occurring, especially in settings where there is limited health care and research infrastructure.

  • Chemical weaponsMedical evidence confirms sarin gas was used in Syria chemical attack

    Turkey’s health minister said that traces of sarin gas have been detected in blood and urine samples from victims injured in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Syria on 4 April, offering “concrete evidence” of its use in the attack. Isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a chemical which sarin degrades into, was found in the blood and urine samples taken from the patients who arrived in Turkey. Many of the victims of last week’s attack were taken to Turkey for treatment because the Assad regime and Russia, as part of their war strategy, have destroyed many of the medical facilities in the Sunni areas of Syria.

  • Chemical weaponsEnzymes versus nerve agents: Designing antidotes for chemical weapons

    By Ian Haydon

    Nerve agents, a class of synthetic phosphorous-containing compounds, are among the most toxic substances known. Brief exposure to the most potent variants can lead to death within minutes. Once nerve agents enter the body, they irreversibly inhibit a vitally important enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Its normal job within the nervous system is to help brain and muscle communicate. When a nerve agent shuts down this enzyme, classes of neurons throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems quickly get overstimulated, leading to profuse sweating, convulsions and an excruciating death by asphyxiation. There is a path to mitigate the danger of chemical weapons. This route lies within the domains of science – the very same science that produced chemical weapons in the first place. Researchers in the United States and around the world are developing the tools needed to quickly and safely destroy nerve agents – both in storage facilities and in the human body. There are promising advances, but no enzyme yet exists which is efficient enough for lifesaving use in people. It is worth keeping in mind the awesome and often complex power of science, however: We may be only a few years away from developing the kind of therapeutics that would make chemical weapons a worry of the past.

  • Zika virusAddressing the threat of Zika virus to the U.S. blood supply

    Investigators have shown that certain screening methods that detect the genetic material of Zika virus can be used to ensure that donated blood supplies remain free of the virus. The methods, called Zika virus nucleic acid amplification technology assays, demonstrated similar excellent sensitivities to assays currently used for screening for transfusion-transmitted viruses. The methods were substantially more sensitive than most other laboratory-developed and diagnostic Zika virus assays.

  • Zika virusPredicting Zika hot spots in the U.S.

    Where in the continental United States is Zika most likely to occur? Researchers puts the bulls-eye of Zika transmission on the Mississippi delta. They also predicted the virus, which is spread sexually and by bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is likely to be transmitted in southern states extending northward along the Atlantic coast and in southern California.

  • Water securityEPA awards $100 million to Michigan for Flint water infrastructure upgrades

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week awarded a $100 million grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Michigan. The funding, provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, or WIIN, enables Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements.