• Ohio man indicted on possession of deadly bioagent ricin

    Jeff Boyd Levenderis, 54, of Akron, Ohio has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a false statement and for the possession of ricin, a Schedule 1 substance capable of being processed and employed as a biological or chemical weapon according to the Chemical Weapons Convention; Levenderis’ attorney has said that no evidence has been found that his client had ever intended to harm anyone

  • Tool developed to monitor pandemic threats

    An Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) tool, known as “Predict,” will enable scientists and the public to track outbreaks of communicable animal diseases; Predict will monitor data from 50,000 Web sites with information from World Health Organization (WHO) alerts, online discussions by experts, wildlife trade reports, and local news

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  • Universal flu vaccine within sight

    People need to be vaccinated against flu every year because the flu virus is a scam artist: it uses a big, showy surface protein — and there are sixteen different varieties of this protein, called Hemagglutinin (HA) — to attract your immune system, then changes it so your immune system would not recognize it next time round; vaccines must thus change yearly to match it; scientists discover HA’s Achilles Heel: a vital part of the HA’s viral machinery does not vary much over time or between viruses, meaning that a vaccine based on the this part would be a universal flu vaccine

  • T cells offer new promise for vaccines for plague and bacterial pneumonias

    There is currently no licensed plague vaccine in the United States, which is too bad because Yersinia pestis is arguably the most deadly bacteria known to man; most of the plague vaccine candidates that have been studied aim to stimulate B cells to produce plague-fighting antibodies, but animal studies suggest that antibodies may not be enough to protect humans from pneumonic plague; new studies show that T cells can also fight plague — and may be better candidates with which to develop a plague vaccine

  • BioShield projects sees vaccine, treatments successes

    Efforts on behalf of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services to ensure that the United States has medical countermeasures (MCMs) available for responding to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) event have been successful in developing the first human vaccine for avian flu, as well as delivering treatments for anthrax (vaccines and therapeutics), radiation exposure, and botulism to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)

  • Curbing price speculation to prevent food riots

    Global food prices are hitting record highs in part due to environmental disasters and increased financial speculation; to secure food supplies and prevent riots, agriculture ministers are proposing regulations on agricultural speculation; world food prices rose 25 percent last year while the price of grain has soared 79 percent; in 2008 sharp increases in food prices sparked riots and political instability in thirty countries including Egypt and Haiti

  • Technology tracks produce from growth to delivery

    The new federal food safety bill has sparked a technology race among companies to provide simple electronic tracking systems for individual items of produce; the new law mandates that each part of the supply chain keep electronic records of where they received items from and where they shipped it to; this comes as a result of a large salmonella outbreak in 2008 that reached more than forty states and infected more than 1,300 people; poor records led to misidentification and slow recalls in that outbreak; every year 3,000 people die from food-borne illnesses while one in six people suffer from food poisoning

  • U.K. report warns of coming global food shortages

    By 2050 global food supplies will not be sufficient to feed an expanding population; the UN estimates that food production must rise by 70 percent to feed a world population of more than nine billion in 2050; rising demand and surging global population coupled with increasing resource conflicts over land, water, and energy will hamper food production; currently nearly a billion suffer from hunger and more than sixty food riots have occurred in more than thirty countries in the last several years; the report urges an immediate action and whole range of government solutions to adjust current policies on economics, climate change, resource use, and agricultural practices

  • Mystery of 200 dead Wisconsin cows solved

    Researchers find the cause of the mysterious deaths of 200 cows in Wisconsin: the sweet potato; the animals were killed by a poison found in spoiled sweet potatoes that were part of the cattle’s feed

  • Malaysia releases GM mosquitoes in landmark trial

    Dengue infection leads to a sudden onset of fever with severe headaches, muscle and joint pains, and rashes, which can lead to death if left untreated; the infection killed at least 134 people last year in Malaysia alone; Malasia’s health authorities have released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark trial slammed last week by environmentalists who say the experiment is unsafe

  • Medical isotopes could be made without a nuclear reactor

    Canadian researchers are racing to perfect a safe, clean, inexpensive, and reliable method for making isotopes used in medical-imaging and diagnostic procedures — a method which would not require a nuclear reactor and could, therefore, eliminate future shortages of technetium-99m, the most widely used medical isotope today; what is more, the new method generates virtually no radioactive waste materials that must be stored indefinitely

  • Enzyme provides protection against nerve gas

    Nerve agents disrupt the chemical messages sent between nerve and muscle cells, causing loss of muscle control, and ultimately leading to death by suffocation; protection against nerve gas attack is a significant component of the defense system of many countries around the world; nerve gases are used by armies and terrorist organizations, and constitute a threat to both the military and civilian populations, but existing drug solutions against them have limited efficiency; a multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, succeeded in developing an enzyme that breaks down nerve agents efficiently before damage to nerves and muscles is caused

  • Gerald Epstein: No military angle to debate over small pox sample retention

    There is an honest debate among scientists whether to destroy or retain the world’s last remaining smallpox sample; one argument that is not being made is these samples should be retained for possible use as a weapon; the assertion that some of U.S. scientists or government officials who argue for retaining the samples, do so because of the potential use of smallpox as a bioweapon, has no basis in fact; moreover, the indiscriminate spread of small pox makes it unsuitable as a weapon, since its effects could not be limited to the military forces or even the population of an attacking state

  • Smallpox remains a large threat and issue of contention

    Smallpox has been estimated to have taken the lives of an estimated 300-500 million people during the twentieth century; the last two known remaining locations of the virus which triggers the disease are the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR) near Novosibirsk in Russia; there is an intense debate among scientists about whether these last remaining samples should be destroyed; proponents of destruction say the remaining cultures may one day be used as bioweapons, while opponents of destruction say that destroying the cultures would not make any difference because terrorists could develop synthetic smallpox virus to use as weapon

  • Water test could enable post-earthquake cholera detection

    There are an estimated three to five million cholera cases and 100,000 to 120,000 deaths worldwide each year; a new technique developed by University of Central Florida (UCF) scientists could allow earthquake-relief workers to test water sources that could be contaminated with the cholera toxin