Public health

  • Infectious diseaseUsing artificial intelligence to forecast future infectious disease outbreaks

    Most emerging infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, with more than a billion people suffering annually. Safeguarding public health requires effective surveillance tools. Researchers used machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence — to pinpoint rodent species that harbor diseases and geographic hotspots vulnerable to new parasites and pathogens.

  • Radiation risksINL training military for response to radiological hazards

    Military branches from across the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) sent candidates for an intensive Radiological Hazards and Operators Training and Field Exercise course (RHOT) conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Center and School. These students were brought to the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site where they begin training to use radiological monitoring equipment, perform radiological calculations, and implement protective measures. Two weeks of intense training have transformed these responders into a cohesive unit able to work together to take decisive actions to secure and survey an area for radiological hazards.

  • BiolabsDHS S&T awards $834 million contract for construction of Manhattan, Kansas biolab

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the award of a contract for the final phase of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. The $834 million award by S&T’s procurement support partner, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), modifies the existing contract for McCarthy Mortensen NBAF Joint Venture, which was selected in 2009.

  • BioterrorismFormer agent sues FBI for retaliating against him for criticizing anthrax letters investigation

    Richard L. Lambert, a former senior FBI agent who, for four years, ran the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the FBI, accusing the agency of trying “to railroad the prosecution of [Bruce E.] Ivins” – the main suspect in the attacks — and, after Ivins’s 2008 suicide, of creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that Ivins was guilty. Lambert’s lawsuit also charges that the FBI and the Justice Department forced the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to dismiss him from his job as senior counterintelligence officer there in retaliation for his critique of the FBI’s conclusions in the anthrax case.

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  • Food securityBiofuel policies affect food prices

    U.S. biofuel mandates require a percentage of gasoline consumed in the U.S. to contain ethanol. Since ethanol prices are dependent on crude oil and gas prices, oil and food prices have become increasingly intertwined. As the prices of gasoline and crude oil rise, prices of world grains and oilseeds markets follow. Researchers found that 80 percent of price increases of grain since 2007-8 are due to biofuel policies, thereby having a huge impact on value-added agricultural producers and food consumers worldwide.

  • Radiation yNew blood test quickly determines severity of radiation injur

    A novel blood test could greatly improve triage of victims of radiation accidents by rapidly predicting who will survive, who will die, and who should receive immediate medical countermeasures. In pre-clinical trials, the test was able to reveal within twenty-four hours whether survivable doses of radiation or doses that caused severe injury to the bone marrow and other organs would eventually prove fatal. Use of such a test, the researchers said, could “facilitate timely medical intervention and improve overall survival of exposed individuals.”

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  • Food securityWorld population-food supply balance becoming increasingly unstable: Study

    Researchers report that as the world population increases and food demand has grown, globalization of trade has made the food supply more sensitive to environmental and market fluctuations. This leads to greater chances of food crises, particularly in nations where land and water resources are scarce and therefore food security strongly relies on imports. The study assesses the food supply available to more than 140 nations (with populations greater than one million) and demonstrates that food security is becoming increasingly susceptible to perturbations in demographic growth, as humanity places increasing pressure on use of limited land and water resources.

  • Food securityA model for bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping systems

    Much attention has been given to dedicated, perennial bioenergy crops to meet the revised Renewable Fuel Standard mandating production of thirty-six billion gallons of biofuel by the year 2022. Even so, concern remains over the impending need to convert as much as thirty million acres of U.S. crop land, which would include food crops, to land for perennial energy crops in order to meet that demand. Researchers realize that biomass feedstocks will need to come from many different sources, including crop residues, forest residues, and municipal waste. The use of double-cropping systems — a winter annual biomass crop is grown then harvested in the spring, followed by a summer annual crop — has been suggested as an additional option.

  • SuperbugsAntibiotic resistant typhoid detected in countries around the world

    There is an urgent need to develop global surveillance against the threat to public health caused by antimicrobial resistant pathogens, which can cause serious and untreatable infections in humans. Typhoid is a key example of this, with multidrug resistant strains of the bacterium Salmonella Typhi becoming common in many developing countries. A landmark genomic study, with contributors from over two-dozen countries, shows the current problem of antibiotic resistant typhoid is driven by a single clade, family of bacteria, called H58 that has now spread globally.

  • African public healthIn Kenya, human health and livestock health are linked

    It is that 300 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on their livestock as a main source of livelihood and nutrition. If a farmer’s goats, cattle, or sheep are sick in Kenya, how is the health of the farmer? Though researchers have long suspected a link between the health of farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa and the health of their livestock, a team of veterinary and economic scientists has quantified the relationship for the first time in a study.

  • Food securityDepletion of soil accelerates, putting human security at risk: Scientists

    Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century, warns a review paper authored by some of the top soil scientists in the country. The paper singles out farming, which accelerates erosion and nutrient removal, as the primary game changer in soil health.

  • BiosafetyKeeping biotechnology research safe

    Increasingly, scientists across the world and in the Unites States are reporting new and groundbreaking innovations in biotechnology with transformative implications in human health and environmental sustainability. While these technologies are developed in laboratories, researchers are not only giving utmost consideration to the potential beneficial impacts but also to a new set of potential risks arising in synthetic biology research. It is crucial that scientists employ the highest level of safety measures within the laboratory to prevent any unintentional effects on human health or environment. The Wyss Institute is developing a proactive biosafety process to review all proposed biotechnology research and manage potential risks pre-emptively.

  • Extreme weatherWarm ocean hot spots caused mid-1930s U.S. Dust Bowl

    The unusually hot summers of 1934 and 1936 broke heat records that still stand today. They were part of the devastating dust bowl decade in the United States when massive dust storms traveled as far as New York, Boston, and Atlanta, covering the decks of ships with silt 450 km off the east coast. Two ocean hot spots have been found to be the potential drivers of these hot 1934 and 1936 summers in the central United States, knowledge that may help predict future calamities.

  • BioterrorismHalting response to the 4 Ebola cases in U.S. valuable in preparations for bioterror attacks

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 10,000 people to date. There were only four Ebola diagnoses in the United States, one of which resulted in a death, but many public health officials say the U.S. response to in-country cases is a lesson on how government can prepare for a bioterror attack. Experts warn, though, thatthe United States is only prepared to confront a fraction of the fifteen potential biological agents that could be released in an attack, adding that many U.S. cities would be left scrambling to respond.

  • Infectious diseaseSeattle infectious disease research center hosts “Rally for Global Health”

    Fourteen million people die from infectious diseases around the world every year. The Seattle, Washington-based Center for Infectious Disease Research (formerly Seattle BioMed) hosted the “Rally for Global Health” last week to raise awareness for the Washington state global health and life-sciences industries and formally launch a petition urging congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health. During the event, the Center for Infectious Disease Research, which is the largest independent nonprofit in the world focused solely on infectious disease research, officially announced the organization has changed its name and is no longer Seattle BioMed.