• New FDA initiative to reduce overuse of antibiotics in animals met with skepticism

    Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Approximately 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that the agency will soon be implementing a 5-year blueprint to advance antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. The FDA wants to further its efforts to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs and combat the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. Critics charge the new FDA’s initiative is too timid.

  • German prosecutors widen bioterrorism plot probe

    German prosecutors have widened their investigation into a thwarted biological terror attack. Two suspected accomplices were arrested in Tunisia, one of whom planned a “simultaneous” attack in Tunisia. In June, Sief Allah H. was arrested in a police raid on his apartment in the western city of Cologne. Investigators found “toxic substances” that were later determined to be deadly ricin poison. The 29-year-old was also found to have bomb-making materials in his possession.

  • Death toll from Hurricane Maria larger than previously thought

    The number of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria — which hit Puerto Rico on 20 September 2017 — may be as high as 1,139, surpassing the official death count of 64, according to researchers. The researchers used official government records to calculate the number, which took into account not just those who died from the immediate effects of the hurricane, but also from secondary effects in the following months.

  • Differences in social status, politics encourage paranoid thinking

    Paranoia is the tendency to assume other people are trying to harm you when their actual motivations are unclear, and this tendency is increased when interacting with someone of a higher social status or opposing political beliefs, according to a new study.

  • Fecal bacteria contaminated surface water after Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented rain event that delivered five consistent days of flooding and storms to Texas last August. Now, researchers have substantiated that the storm caused high levels of fecal contamination to be introduced into waterways draining into the Gulf of Mexico and impairing surface water quality.

  • Climate taxes on agriculture may lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself

    New research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change. Smarter, inclusive policies are necessary instead.

  • Low antibiotic levels in the environment may spur drug resistance

    A new study is providing new evidence that low concentrations of antibiotics in the environment could be contributing to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The researchers report that even when bacterial communities in wastewater are exposed to small amounts of the antibiotic cefotaxime, selection pressure for clinically important antibiotic-resistant genes occurs. Moreover, they also found that the selection pressure for resistance may be just as strong as when exposed to high concentrations of the drug.

  • How climate change will alter our food

    The world population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. With 3.4 billion more mouths to feed, and the growing desire of the middle class for meat and dairy in developing countries, global demand for food could increase by between 59 and 98 percent. This means that agriculture around the world needs to step up production and increase yields. But scientists say that the impacts of climate change—higher temperatures, extreme weather, drought, increasing levels of carbon dioxide, and sea level rise—threaten to decrease the quantity and jeopardize the quality of our food supplies.

  • Ricin attack plotters in Germany tested biological weapon on a hamster

    German prosecutors have arrested the wife of a Tunisian man who was detained last month for plotting a biological attack. The couple bought a hamster to test a chemical substance before they were going to use it in a planned terrorist attack.

  • Creating “criminal database” of drug-resistant pathogens

    Using a big-data approach and a network of hospitals and clinical laboratories around the world, a new non-profit initiative aims to create a comprehensive “criminal database” of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that can be recognized by their genetic fingerprint. The Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Analysis and Diagnostics Alliance (ARMADA) will create this global biobank of bacterial strains by collecting bacterial isolates from hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinical labs, and veterinary sources and then analyzing them to understand their resistance profiles, their genetic identity, and their epidemiological history.

  • Warming temperatures could increase suicide rates across the U.S., Mexico

    Researchers compared historical temperature and suicide data and found a strong correlation between warm weather and increased suicides. They estimate climate change could lead to suicide rate increases across the U.S. and Mexico.

  • Better decisions during a radiological emergency

    Whether a catastrophe is natural or man-made, emergency managers need to respond quickly with the optimal solution. Making decisions on the fly can be difficult, which is why significant planning must go into a disaster response strategy. Many conversations need to happen, and they need to cover a range of possible scenarios. The Radiation Decontamination tool Rad Decon was developed to facilitate those very discussions during a radiological emergency.

  • New nerve gas detector made of a smartphone and Lego bricks

    Researchers have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks, which could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin.

  • Treatment with antibiotics should be stopped before resistance tipping point

    Treatments using antibiotics should stop as soon as possible to prevent patients passing the “tipping point” of becoming resistant to their effects, new research has shown. The research has uncovered new evidence that suggests reducing the length of the antibiotic course reduces the risk of resistance.

  • Scavenger hunt for simulated nuclear materials

    Competing in a fictitious high-stakes scenario, a group of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) bested two dozen other teams in a months-long, data-driven scavenger hunt for simulated radioactive materials in a virtual urban environment. The competition platform was also built and managed by Lab researchers.