Public health

  • Food securityIf global warming is left unchecked, fish will have to find new habitats -- or perish

    The goods and services our oceans provide are valued at hundreds of billions of dollars per year. A new study assessed the impact of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems, ocean chemistry, tourism, and human health. The study specifically analyzed how warming will impact fisheries and the global economic gains we receive from these fisheries. It found that Climate change is forcing fish out of their current habitats and into cooler waters and many more species will soon be affected if climate goals are not met. “From looking at the surface of the ocean, you can’t tell much is changing,” said one researcher. “The oceans are closely tied to human systems and we’re putting communities at high risk.”

  • Food securityRising fossil fuel energy costs risk global food security

    Ongoing efforts to feed a growing global population are threatened by rising fossil-fuel energy costs and breakdowns in transportation infrastructure. Without new ways to preserve, store, and transport food products, the likelihood of shortages looms in the future. In an analysis of food preservation and transportation trends, scientists warn that new sustainable technologies will be needed for humanity just to stay even in the arms race against the microorganisms that can rapidly spoil the outputs of the modern food system.

  • Food securityMuzzle biometrics for cattle ID reduces food fraud

    Meat products are currently a vital part of the global food supply, with beef being a major component of that trade. However, international markets, emerging infectious diseases, and criminal activity mean that there is always a risk of inferior products hitting the supermarket shelves. Researchers are developing a biometric identification system for cattle that could reduce food fraud and allow ranchers to control their stock more efficiently. The system uses the unique features of a prominent part of the animal to identify the beasts — their muzzles.

  • Public healthCalifornia's strict vaccine bill would not allow vaccination waiver

    Last Thursday, the California State Assembly passed SB227, an amendment to the current vaccine bill which would eliminate a waiver for parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. The proposal passed on a 46-31 vote and is now going back to the Senate this week to confirm the amendments.Under SB277, students who are not vaccinated would have to be homeschooled or participate in off-campus study programs.

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  • Food securityPrecision agriculture: Sensors and drones as farmers’ best friends

    The precision agriculture sector is expected to grow at a high rate over the coming years. This new way of farming is already a reality in northwest Italy, where technologies are being used to keep plants in a good state of health but also to avert the loss of quality yield. Sensors and drones can be among the farmers’ best friends, helping them to use less fertilizers and water, and to control the general condition of their crops.

  • BiosafetySafety concerns dog new Level 4 Biolab being built in the middle of Tornado Alley

    The new Department of Homeland Security’s(DHS) animal pathogen-research facility, a Level 4 Biolab being built in Manhattan, Kansas and aiming to replace the aging New York’s Plum Island lab, is situated in the middle of Tornado Alley, leading researchers and security experts to question the wisdom of the decision to build it there. Why place a lab in which research is conducted on pathogens for which no cure or treatment has yet been found – fir example, foot-and-mouth disease – not only in an area known for being routinely hit by powerful tornadoes, but also in the middle of a region where most U.S. cattle is being raised?

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  • BioterrorismHow anthrax spores grow in cultured human tissues

    Cultured human lung cells infected with a benign version of anthrax spores have yielded insights into how anthrax grows and spreads in exposed people. The study will help provide credible data for human health related to anthrax exposure and help officials better understand risks related to a potential anthrax attack. The study also defined for the first time where the spores germinate and shows that the type of cell lines and methods of culturing affect the growth rates.

  • Food securityUsing technology to defeat a tiny beetle which threatens grain stores

    Invasive insect species pose a considerable threat to U.S. agriculture and natural resources – making it imperative that known invasive species are detected and their introduction prevented throughout global trade pathways. The tiny khapra beetle poses a major threat to unprotected grain stores. Scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) are helping the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Plant Protection Quarantine (PPQ) find an easier, more effective way to inspect bulk food supply for khapra beetles.

  • SuperbugsNo one wants to fund the development of new antibiotics

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are like a ticking time bomb. The world needs new antibiotics. Scientists, veterinarians, and doctors have been describing this crisis for some time. So why is so little happening? The honest truth is money. No one wants to foot the bill. The pharmaceutical companies have to make money, which they generally do not do on antibiotics.

  • AnthraxNo government agency oversees handling of deadly pathogens in 1,495 U.S. labs

    According to the CDC, 181 “organizations or entities” in the United States are registered as working with live anthrax, and 321 in total working with live pathogens. Within these 321 entities, roughly 1,495 laboratories are accredited under the Federal Select Agent Program to work with live pathogens such as anthrax. There is no official government agency to oversee production and research of bioweapons that does not – as the CDC does — engage in its own active pathogen research. “Even one spore is a sufficient seed stock from which an amount could grow to mount a biological weapons attack,” says one expert. “The sad circumstance is that this massive effort [U.S. research on anthrax] since 2001 has dramatically increased the chances of a biological weapon attack on the U.S., precisely by distributing a highly lethal strain of the agent with no structure and no ability to record where they have gone.”

  • AnthraxPentagon, CDC investigating live anthrax shipping mishap

    Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has announced that the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating the recent accidental shipment from a U.S. Army laboratory in Utah of live bacterium anthrax samples to fifty-one facilities in eighteen states and three foreign countries. The investigators have already identified the West Desert Test Center (WDTC), the testing area for Dugway Proving Ground, as the source of the mix up.

  • Infectious diseaseCHIKV Challenge winners --- forecasting the spread of infectious diseases

    The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is quickly spreading through the Western Hemisphere; as of 15 May 2015, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had tallied close to 1.4 million suspected cases and more than 33,000 confirmed cases since the virus’ first appearance in the Americas in December 2013. Spread by mosquitoes, chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause debilitating joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea, fatigue and rash, and poses a growing public health and national security risk. Governments and health organizations could take more effective proactive steps to limit the spread of CHIKV if they had accurate forecasts of where and when it would appear. But such predictions for CHIKV and other emerging infectious diseases remain beyond the reach of current modeling capabilities. To accelerate the development of new infectious disease forecasting methods, DARPA launched its CHIKV Challenge competition last year.

  • Food securityPurdue to host fourth Global Food Security summer program

    The fourth annual Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security will be held 7-20 June at Purdue University, aiming to challenge graduate students from around the country to pool their research in various areas of study in finding innovative ways to alleviate world hunger. In attendance will be forty graduate students selected from twenty-three universities from across the United States.  

  • Bioweapons51 labs in 17 states may have received live anthrax samples: Pentagon

    Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said yesterday (Wednesday) that the Pentagon may have shipped live anthrax samples to fifty-one labs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. Word also said that it was likely that the numbers of labs which might have received live anthrax will go up as the Pentagon’s investigation into the shipments continues. All the samples shipped belonged to three lots, dating back to 2007, stored at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. CDC raises questions about the effectiveness of the method used by the Dugway lab to deactivate anthrax spores.

  • HealthNanosensor bandage measures wound oxygenation

    There is nothing new in the understanding that with combat come injuries, sometimes extreme injuries. In treating and healing wounds, however, physicians must overcome one obstacle which always challenges the healing of wounds: lack of oxygen. Thus, it is necessary to make certain that sufficient oxygen is reaching the healing wound. Chemists have developed a nanosensor bandage which measures the level of oxygen in wounds – a bandage which uses a changing color scheme to inform doctors of the level of oxygen supply in the treated wound.