• EbolaSymptomless Ebola – questions need to be answered before the next outbreak

    By Edward Wright

    Scientists know that Ebola can cause anything from severe hemorrhagic fever to no symptoms at all (asymptomatic infections). What wasn’t known, until now, is the number of people who experienced asymptomatic infections during the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. While the new report of asymptomatic cases of Ebola virus infection is not unique, it does raise important questions that need to be answered. Over the last couple of years, governments and global public health agencies have increased resources to tackle these questions. Hopefully, we will be better equipped and prepared for the next outbreak.

  • SuperbugsSupercomputer simulations help develop new approach to tackle antibiotic resistance

    Supercomputer simulations at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have played a key role in discovering a new class of drug candidates that hold promise to combat antibiotic resistance. Researchers combined lab experiments with supercomputer modeling to identify molecules that boost antibiotics’ effect on disease-causing bacteria.

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  • Blood systemChanges required to fortify U.S. blood system against financial, biological threats

    The U.S. blood system collects, tests, processes, and distributes the blood that is ultimately used in clinical practice. In 2013, more than 14 million units of blood were collected in the United States from about 15.2 million individuals, with 13.2 million units transfused. Medical advances have reduced the demand for blood in the United States, creating financial pressure on the nation’s blood collection centers and threatening their future survival.

  • BiosecurityImproving biosafety, biosecurity in West Africa

    The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and United States Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (DTRA/SCC-WMD) have selected CH2M to lead efforts in West Africa to broaden its Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) on the African continent and reduce the threat of infectious diseases. The CBEP, developed by the Department of Defense to address global health security issues, was used in 2014 to support international efforts to combat the Ebola virus outbreak and other threats to global health security.

  • ResilienceIsrael Red Cross affiliate building underground blood bank to ensure supply during crises

    Magen David Adom, the Israeli affiliate of the Red Cross, is building an underground blood bank in order to secure the country’s blood supply in case of attacks or natural disasters. “With all blood transfusions stored in an underground space, the facility will ensure that they remain unharmed even when the building is under a massive barrage of missiles,” Magen David Adom director said. The terror organization Hezbollah has an estimated arsenal of over 130,000 rockets capable of firing at Israel — more than the combined amount of the twenty-seven non-U.S. NATO member states.

  • EbolaPeople with Ebola may not always show symptoms

    A research team determined that 25 percent of individuals in a Sierra Leone village were infected with the Ebola virus but had no symptoms, suggesting broader transmission of the virus than originally thought. These individuals had antibodies to the virus, suggesting they had been infected at one time — yet said they had had no symptoms during the time of active transmission in the village. Theresearch confirms previous suspicions that the Ebola virus does not uniformly cause severe disease, and that people may be infected without showing signs of illness.

  • GunsStronger gun laws linked to decreased firearm homicides

    Stronger firearm laws are associated with reductions in firearm homicide rates, concludes a study which reviewed all available articles published in peer-reviewed journals from January 1970 to August 2016 that focused specifically on the connection between firearm homicide and firearm laws. Specifically, the laws that seemed to have the most effect were those that strengthened background checks and those that required a permit to purchase a firearm. Laws that banned assault weapons, improved child safety, or aimed to limit firearm trafficking had no clear effect on firearm homicide rates. Laws that aimed to restrict guns in public places had mixed results.

  • MalariaUltra-long acting pill releases daily doses of medicine for a month

    Imagine swallowing a pill today that continues releasing the daily dose of a medicine you need for the next week, month, or even longer. Investigators have developed a long-acting drug delivery capsule that may help to do just that in the future. To test the capsule’s real-world applications, the team used both mathematical modeling and animal models to investigate the effects of delivering a sustained therapeutic dose of a drug called ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness. Ivermectin has an added bonus of helping keep malaria-carrying mosquito populations at bay.

  • Killer haze2015 Indonesian fires exposed 69 million to “killer haze”

    More than 69 million people living in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia were exposed to unhealthy air quality conditions during the 2015 wildfires in Equatorial Asia during the autumn of 2015. The wildfires are linked to as many as 17,270 premature deaths. “The wildfires of 2015 were the worst we’ve seen for almost two decades as a result of global climate change, land use changes, and deforestation. The extremely dry conditions in that region mean that these are likely to become more common events in the future, unless concerted action is taken to prevent fires,” said one researcher.

  • Killer fogMystery of historic 1952 London killer fog, current Chinese haze solved

    Few Americans may be aware of it, but in early December 1952 a killer fog that contained pollutants covered London for five days, causing breathing problems and killing more than 12,000 people of all ages, sending more than 150,000 to hospitals, and killing thousands of animals in the area. It is still considered the worst air pollution event in the European history. The exact chemical processes that led to the deadly mix of fog and pollution have not been fully understood over the past sixty years – until now. Scientists have now established that coal burning was the main culprit: sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning, and this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning. The study shows that similar chemistry occurs frequently in China, which has battled air pollution for decades.

  • Gene drivesCaution about emerging technologies is compatible with science

    Precautionary approaches to governance of emerging technology, which call for constraints on the use of technology whose potential harms and other outcomes are highly uncertain, are often criticized for reflecting “risk panics,” but precaution can be consistent with support for science.

  • EbolaDuring 2013-16 epidemic, Ebola adapted to better infect humans

    By the end of the Ebola virus disease epidemic in 2016, more than 28,000 people had been infected with the virus, and more than 11,000 people died from Ebola virus disease. Researchers have identified mutations in Ebola virus that emerged during the 2013-2016 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa that increased the ability of the virus to infect human cells. “It’s important to understand how these viruses evolve during outbreaks,” says one researcher. “By doing so, we will be better prepared should these viruses spill over to humans in the future.”

  • InfrastructureEconomic impact of inland waterway disruptions potentially in the billions

    What would happen if a lengthy disruption befell the major mode of transportation of U.S. corn and soybeans? What ramifications would that have on U.S. producers and the national economy? How would that affect U.S. competitiveness in world grain markets? While hypothetical, these concerns are very real as the barge corridor in question contains a total of thirty-six locks and dams that have long since surpassed their designed lifespan. This corridor is the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway (UMR-IWW) that serves as the primary corridor for the movement of bulk commodities in the United States. Corn and soybeans comprise nearly 90 percent of food and farm products on these waterways.

  • SuperbugsFirst cases of drug-resistant Candida auris fungal infection reported in U.S.

    Thirteen cases of Candida auris (C. auris), a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection that is emerging globally, have been identified in the United States, according to CDC. . C. auris is often resistant to antifungal drugs and tends to occur in hospitalized patients. In June 2016, CDC issued a clinical alert describing the global emergence of C. auris and requesting that laboratories report C. auris cases and send patient samples to state and local health departments and CDC.

  • Zombie invasionChicago would quickly succumb to a zombie invasion: Study

    In the unlikely event of the zombie apocalypse, it would take less than two months for the undead to take control of the city, says a new study. Using a computational model developed to study the spread of less fictional diseases such as MRSA and Ebola, scientists found that it would take only sixty days for two million Chicagoans to be zombified.