• PerspectiveThe Presidential Candidates Are Ignoring One of the World’s Biggest Looming Threats

    Whoever sits in the Oval Office come January 2021, he or she will almost inevitably have to address pandemic disease as a foreign-policy issue. The well-being of Americans in today’s globalized world is inextricably linked to that of people around the globe, while the effects of pandemics are born disproportionately by the least powerful. The next U.S. president needs a proactive strategic initiative, based in global solidarity, to address today’s pandemics, tomorrow’s outbreaks, and the health impacts of climate change.

  • Perspective: War crimes12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.

    The Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria represents the Alawite minority (in 2011, about 75 percent of the Syrian population was Sunni , and about 12 percent were Alawites). Since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, the Assad regime, in the largest ethnic cleansing campaign since the end of the Second World War, has methodically, and successfully, pursued the goal of drastically reducing the number of Sunni Muslims in Syria. So far, the Assad regime has killed more than 500,000 Syrian Sunnis; has driven more than 5.6 million Sunnis out of Syria; and internally displaced more than 6.6 million Sunnis. One of the keys to Assad’s ethnic cleansing campaign has been the systematic destruction of hospitals and medical facilities in Sunni-majority areas and the killing of medical personnel. This strategy increases the number of dead and untreated wounded among the Sunnis, and along with the methodical destruction of water and sewage treatment facilities, makes life even more unbearable in Sunni areas of Syria. Since September 2015, the Russian air force has been doing most of the destruction of medical facilities and other civilian infrastructure in Sunni-majority areas.

  • PerspectivePresident Trump Bars Uninsured Immigrants from the U.S.

    On Oct. 4, President Trump issued a proclamation that bars otherwise qualified visa applicants from entry into the United States unless they are likely to obtain “approved health insurance” within 30 days of entry. The insurance test relies on 8 U.S.C.§ 1182(f), authorizing the president to bar entry of foreign nationals “detrimental to the interests of the United States”—the same provision that Trump used for his travel ban, which the Supreme Court upheld in Trump v. Hawaii. While the Supreme Court in Hawaii relied on the national security and foreign affairs rationale for the travel ban, the insurance test targets the very different issue of immigrants’ financial resources.

  • Preventable diseasesClose-Knit, Vaccine-Reluctant Communities Stoked Measles: CDC

    From 1 January to 1 October of this year, the United States tracked 22 measles outbreaks and 1,249 cases, according to a new overview published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). “Eight outbreaks —defined as three or more related cases — that occurred in underimmunized, close-knit communities accounted for 85 percent of all cases,” the CDC said. And 75 percent of all cases in 2019 were part of outbreaks among Orthodox Jewish populations in New York State and City.

  • GunsFunding for Research on Gun Injuries to U.S. Children Gets 30 Times Less Funding Per Death Than other causes

    Firearm injuries kill 2,500 American children each year and send another 12,000 to emergency departments. But a new study finds that the nation spends far less on studying what led to those injuries, and what might prevent and treat them, than it spends on other, less-common causes of death in children between the ages of 1 and 18 years.

  • Perspective: SuperbugsEngineered Viruses Could Fight Drug Resistance

    In the battle against antibiotic resistance, many scientists have been trying to deploy naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages that can infect and kill bacteria. Bacteriophages kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging. MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. These engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria, the researchers found.

  • Perspective: Lyme vaccinationWhy There’s Still No Lyme Vaccine for Humans

    There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, and Valneva, a French biotech company focused on developing vaccines for infectious diseases, hopes to change that. Valneva’s Lyme vaccine isn’t the first designed for people. Twenty years ago, Reeder could have been immunized. From 1999 to 2002, SmithKline Beecham—now GlaxoSmithKline—sold a Lyme vaccine called LYMErix. But the company pulled LYMErix off the market after a public backlash and a spate of lawsuits. If the new vaccine does make it to market, will it fare any better than LYMErix?

  • Food securityClimate Change Could Cause Drought in Wheat-Growing Areas

    In a new study, researchers found that unless steps are taken to mitigate climate change, up to 60 percent of current wheat-growing areas worldwide could see simultaneous, severe and prolonged droughts by the end of the century. Wheat is the world’s largest rain-fed crop in terms of harvested area and supplies about 20 percent of all calories consumed by humans.

  • Nuclear warIndia-Pakistan Nuclear War Could Kill Millions, Lead to Global Starvation

    A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could, over the span of less than a week, kill 50-125 million people—more than the death toll during all six years of World War II, according to new research. The researchers calculated that an India-Pakistan war could inject as much as 80 billion pounds of thick, black smoke into Earth’s atmosphere. That smoke would block sunlight from reaching the ground, driving temperatures around the world down by an average of between 3.5-9 degrees Fahrenheit for several years. Worldwide food shortages would likely come soon after. Today, India and Pakistan each have about 150 nuclear warheads at their disposal, and that number is expected to climb to more than 200 by 2025.

  • Food safetyFDA: New Food Safety Dashboard to Track FSMA Progress

    In an effort to enhance compliance with the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new dashboard that will track and monitor how companies are implementing parts of the law, and how those changes are affecting the food safety system.

  • Nuclear accidentsContaining a Nuclear Accident with Ground-up Minerals

    Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing a promising new way to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination and contain the hot molten mass that develops within a nuclear reactor during a catastrophic accident. A team of scientists discovered and patented a process for injecting sand-like minerals into the core of a nuclear reactor during an accident to contain and slow down the progression of a meltdown.

  • Perspective: PandemicsGlobal Pandemic Threat: “Human Error” Leak of Lab Virus Now a “Substantial Probability”

    Lynn Klotz, Senior Science Fellow at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said: “There is a substantial probability that a pandemic with over one hundred million fatalities could be seeded from an undetected lab-acquired infection.” Laboratories run by Ron Fouchier in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka in Madison, Wisconsin have begun a “research enterprise” aimed at creating mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic, avian-influenza live viruses. Such viruses could be transmitted through the air, similar to seasonal human influenza.

  • Perspective: PandemicsEbola One Year on: The Wins, the Setbacks, and the Way Forward

    The last five years have witnessed the two biggest outbreaks of Ebola, first in West Africa and currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is no stranger to Ebola and has battled the virus on nine previous occasions since 1976. The current outbreak, for a multitude of socio-political reasons, refuses to give in to efforts by an international team of health care workers, armed with vaccines and treatment regimes, which did not even exist during previous episodes. As the outbreak surpasses its one year mark, the virus has infected over 3000 people and claimed more than 2000 lives.

  • Medical informationWhat Data Hackers Can Get about You from Hospitals

    When hospitals are hacked, the public hears about the number of victims – but not what information the cybercriminals stole. New research uncovers the specific data leaked through hospital breaches, sounding alarm bells for nearly 170 million people.

  • PerspectiveAnthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

    On 18 August 2008—after almost seven years, nearly 10,000 interviews, and millions of dollars spent developing a whole new form of microbial forensics—some of the FBI announced that it had concluded that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for the fall 2001 anthrax letter attacks. “It’s been 10 years since the deadliest biological terror attack in U.S. history launched a manhunt that ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide, yet nagging problems remain,” Noah Shachtman writes. “Problems that add up to an unsettling reality: Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.”