• Food securityMajor deposit in the world’s largest seed collection in the Arctic

    A major seed deposit critical to ensuring global food security was made to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle today. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest collection of agricultural biodiversity in the world. Located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the Seed Vault is owned by the Norwegian government. Seed samples for some of the world’s most vital food sources like the potato, sorghum, rice, barley, chickpea, lentil, and wheat will be deposited at Svalbard in the coming days, bringing the total number of seed samples at the facility to 930,821.

  • ZikaDevice rapidly, accurately, inexpensively detects Zika virus at airports, other sites

    About the size of a tablet, a portable device that could be used in a host of environments like a busy airport or even a remote location in South America, may hold the key to detecting the dreaded Zika virus accurately, rapidly and inexpensively using just a saliva sample. While scientists across the world are scrambling to find some sort of immunization, researchers are working to develop a diagnostic tool to reduce the impact of the outbreak until a vaccine is identified.

  • Public healthContact tracing, targeted insecticide spraying can curb dengue outbreaks

    Contact tracing — a process of identifying everyone who has come into contact with those infected by a particular disease — combined with targeted, indoor spraying of insecticide can greatly reduce the spread of the mosquito-borne dengue virus. The new approach of using contact tracing to identify houses for targeted insecticide spraying was between 86 and 96 percent effective in controlling dengue fever during the Cairns outbreak. By comparison, vaccines for the dengue virus are only 30 to 70 percent effective, depending on the type of virus — or serotype — involved.

  • BioterrorismTerrorists could kill 30 million people within a year using bioweapons: Bill Gates

    Bill Gates, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, compared the dangers to nuclear war and bioterrorism. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus, or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” he said. “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than thirty million people in less than a year.”

  • SuperbugsPreventing a “post-antibiotic era”

    A landmark report by the World Health Organization in 2014 observed that antibiotic resistance — long thought to be a health threat of the future — had finally become a serious threat to public health around the world. A top WHO official called for an immediate and aggressive response to prevent what he called a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”

  • PandemicsActing fast: Two months to stop pandemic X from taking hold

    Over the past several years, DARPA-funded researchers have pioneered RNA vaccine technology, a medical countermeasure against infectious diseases that uses coded genetic constructs to stimulate production of viral proteins in the body, which in turn can trigger a protective antibody response. As a follow-on effort, DARPA funded research into genetic constructs that can directly stimulate production of antibodies in the body.

  • EbolaDisease “superspreaders” were the driving cause of 2014 Ebola epidemic

    A new study about the overwhelming importance of “superspreaders” in some infectious disease epidemics has shown that in the catastrophic 2014-15 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, about 3 percent of the people infected were ultimately responsible for infecting 61 percent of all cases. The issue of superspreaders is so significant, scientists say, that it’s important to put a better face on just who these people are. It might then be possible to better reach them with public health measures designed to control the spread of infectious disease during epidemics.

  • Water securityGenetic tool improves arsenic studies

    Arsenic-contaminated drinking water impacts millions of people worldwide. Groundwater contamination is primarily caused by microbes that convert one form of arsenic into another form that can infiltrate groundwater. Researchers developed a genetic tool that makes it easier to identify which microbial species have the arsenic-converting genes.

  • Travel banHow a travel ban could worsen doctor shortages in US hospitals and threaten primary care

    By John Burkhardt and Mahshid Abir

    While the world waits for a final decision on President Trump’s travel ban, potentially from the Supreme Court, it’s critical to look at the potential ramifications of the ban. As physicians involved with educating and training the next generation of doctors, we see dire consequences for health care delivery in our country if the travel ban is reinstated. President Trump’s immigration ban has the potential for immediate ramifications for the hospital and health care system workforce in the U.S. Long term, decreases in the number of international medical graduates in training will result in fewer primary care physicians and general surgeons, just as the country is likely to need more. This immigration policy can have significant adverse impacts on health care delivery and the health of Americans. These consequences should be critically considered in related immigration and travel ban policy decisions moving forward.

  • Radiation risksU.K. nuclear safety regulations place too low a value on human life

    New research has shown that the benchmark used by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on nuclear safety has no basis in evidence and places insufficient value on human life. The review suggests it may need to be ten times higher — between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

  • Emerging threatsWorld leaders urged to take action to avert existential global risks

    World leaders must do more to limit risk of global catastrophes, according to a report by Oxford academics. He academic define global catastrophe as a risk “where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.” Three of the most pressing possible existential risks for humanity are pandemics, extreme climate change, and nuclear war.

  • SuperbugsStep closer to developing major new drug in fight against antimicrobial resistance

    Scientists have for the first time determined the molecular structure of a new antibiotic which could hold the key to tackling drug resistant bacteria. This development is an important next step in understanding how different derivatives of teixobactin function, and which building blocks are needed for it to successfully destroy drug resistant bacteria.

  • ISISISIS followers hack U.K. National Health Service

    ISIS-linked hackers have attacked and defaced several NHS (U.K. National Health Service) websites in a series of cyberattacks. The hackers, going by the name of Tunisian Fallaga Team, targeted six websites three weeks ago, replacing legitimate web pages with graphic photos of the war in Syria. The attacks said they were retaliating for the West’s interference in the Middle East.

  • U.S-MexicoTexas agriculture experts: Mexico may retaliate if U.S. imposes tariffs

    By Mariana Alfaro

    Texas agricultural experts say President Trump’s threatened tariff on Mexican goods could lead to retaliation that would hurt Texas farmers and ranchers — as well as consumers. The idea of a tariff on Mexican imports or a radical change to the North American Free Trade Agreement worries many Texas agriculture industry leaders, who say it is in the state’s best interest to continue fostering a positive trade relationship with Mexico rather than imposing tariffs on their imports.