Public health

  • A model for bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping systems

    Much attention has been given to dedicated, perennial bioenergy crops to meet the revised Renewable Fuel Standard mandating production of thirty-six billion gallons of biofuel by the year 2022. Even so, concern remains over the impending need to convert as much as thirty million acres of U.S. crop land, which would include food crops, to land for perennial energy crops in order to meet that demand. Researchers realize that biomass feedstocks will need to come from many different sources, including crop residues, forest residues, and municipal waste. The use of double-cropping systems — a winter annual biomass crop is grown then harvested in the spring, followed by a summer annual crop — has been suggested as an additional option.

  • Antibiotic resistant typhoid detected in countries around the world

    There is an urgent need to develop global surveillance against the threat to public health caused by antimicrobial resistant pathogens, which can cause serious and untreatable infections in humans. Typhoid is a key example of this, with multidrug resistant strains of the bacterium Salmonella Typhi becoming common in many developing countries. A landmark genomic study, with contributors from over two-dozen countries, shows the current problem of antibiotic resistant typhoid is driven by a single clade, family of bacteria, called H58 that has now spread globally.

  • In Kenya, human health and livestock health are linked

    It is that 300 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on their livestock as a main source of livelihood and nutrition. If a farmer’s goats, cattle, or sheep are sick in Kenya, how is the health of the farmer? Though researchers have long suspected a link between the health of farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa and the health of their livestock, a team of veterinary and economic scientists has quantified the relationship for the first time in a study.

  • Depletion of soil accelerates, putting human security at risk: Scientists

    Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century, warns a review paper authored by some of the top soil scientists in the country. The paper singles out farming, which accelerates erosion and nutrient removal, as the primary game changer in soil health.

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  • Keeping biotechnology research safe

    Increasingly, scientists across the world and in the Unites States are reporting new and groundbreaking innovations in biotechnology with transformative implications in human health and environmental sustainability. While these technologies are developed in laboratories, researchers are not only giving utmost consideration to the potential beneficial impacts but also to a new set of potential risks arising in synthetic biology research. It is crucial that scientists employ the highest level of safety measures within the laboratory to prevent any unintentional effects on human health or environment. The Wyss Institute is developing a proactive biosafety process to review all proposed biotechnology research and manage potential risks pre-emptively.

  • Warm ocean hot spots caused mid-1930s U.S. Dust Bowl

    The unusually hot summers of 1934 and 1936 broke heat records that still stand today. They were part of the devastating dust bowl decade in the United States when massive dust storms traveled as far as New York, Boston, and Atlanta, covering the decks of ships with silt 450 km off the east coast. Two ocean hot spots have been found to be the potential drivers of these hot 1934 and 1936 summers in the central United States, knowledge that may help predict future calamities.

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  • Halting response to the 4 Ebola cases in U.S. valuable in preparations for bioterror attacks

    The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 10,000 people to date. There were only four Ebola diagnoses in the United States, one of which resulted in a death, but many public health officials say the U.S. response to in-country cases is a lesson on how government can prepare for a bioterror attack. Experts warn, though, thatthe United States is only prepared to confront a fraction of the fifteen potential biological agents that could be released in an attack, adding that many U.S. cities would be left scrambling to respond.

  • Seattle infectious disease research center hosts “Rally for Global Health”

    Fourteen million people die from infectious diseases around the world every year. The Seattle, Washington-based Center for Infectious Disease Research (formerly Seattle BioMed) hosted the “Rally for Global Health” last week to raise awareness for the Washington state global health and life-sciences industries and formally launch a petition urging congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health. During the event, the Center for Infectious Disease Research, which is the largest independent nonprofit in the world focused solely on infectious disease research, officially announced the organization has changed its name and is no longer Seattle BioMed.

  • Deepwater Horizon consequences continues to plague Gulf Coast communities

    Five years after the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, communities along the Gulf of Mexico continue to struggle with the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to researchers. While most of the nation’s attention continues to focus on the environmental and financial toll of the spill that killed eleven workers and flooded Gulf waters with millions of gallons of oil, the less obvious consequences, including those related to public health, may prove the most long-lasting, the researchers say.

  • Developing a car wash to protect the food supply

    Whether it is a bacon cheeseburger that comes through a drive-thru window or a steak dinner at a five-star restaurant, food safety is universally important, and it starts long before a meal is on the table. This is a prime concern for the agricultural industry as they transport cattle, swine, and other livestock across the country in the hundreds of millions each year. One of the key elements to decreasing the effects of an outbreak is to decontaminate areas where animals have been located. This is no small feat, however.

  • What works and doesn’t in disaster health response

    On Saturday, 24 April 2015, a major (Magnitude 7.8) earthquake hit Nepal shortly after midday. At the moment, the most important question is how can the global community best respond? What can and what should international relief teams be prepared to do when responding to such an event? Research provides some well-documented evidence that many international health-oriented responses are poorly targeted and may be influenced by objectives that play well on the home front rather than what’s needed on the ground. As we respond to Nepal’s earthquake, and as we look forward to the next international earthquake responses, let us take into account what we have learned from past experiences, and, in coordination with our local hosts, provide the kinds of health assistance that are most likely to meet the needs of the people affected.

  • Coffee production starting to decline as a result of warming

    Coffee is the world’s most valuable tropical export crop and the industry supports an estimated 100 million people worldwide. Scientists have provided the first on-the-ground evidence that climate change has already had a substantial impact on coffee production in the East African Highlands region. The study, using data from the northern Tanzanian highlands, verifies for the first time the increasing night time (minimum) temperature as the most significant climatic variable being responsible for diminishing Coffea arabica coffee yields between 1961 and 2012 and proves that climate change is an ongoing reality.

  • Building healthier communities essential for recovering from disasters

    U.S. communities and federal agencies should more intentionally seek to create healthier communities during disaster preparation and recovery efforts — something that rarely happens now, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. By adding a health “lens” to planning and recovery, a community can both mitigate the health damage caused by disasters and recover in ways that make the community healthier and more resilient than it was before.

  • California vaccine bill on hold as opposing parents threaten to keep their children out of school

    California Senate Bill 277, which would require parents in California to vaccinate their children as a condition for enrollmentin either public or private schools, is facing opposition, after parents and lawmakers expressed their concerns that some children might be denied an education.

  • Mystery disease, which kills within 24 hours of infection, so far claims 30 in Nigeria

    A “mysterious” disease which that kills patients within twenty-four hours of infection has so far claimed at least thirty lives in a south-eastern Nigerian town, the Nigerian government said. “Twenty-three people were affected and eighteen deaths were recorded,” the Ondo state health commissioner said. The World Health Organization said it had information on fourteen additional cases, of which twelve had already died. WHO doctors said that common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness followed by death, occurring within twenty-four hours. Laboratory tests on samples from the bodies of those who died have so far ruled out Ebola or any other virus.