• 139 countries could be powered by 100 percent wind, water, and solar energy by 2050

    The latest roadmap to a 100 percent renewable energy future from twenty-seven experts is the most specific global vision yet, outlining infrastructure changes that 139 countries can make to be entirely powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050 after electrification of all energy sectors. Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over twenty-four million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs.

  • Distinguishing virulent from harmless bacteria to help biological surveillance

    Biological “detectives” are tracking down biothreats such as the bacteria that causes tularemia (“rabbit fever”), but they constantly face the challenge of avoiding false positives. Sounding the alarm over a bioattack, only to find it’s a harmless relative in the same genus, reduces credibility and public trust. Researchers are narrowing down the confusion over Francisella bacteria, a few species of which include highly virulent human and animal pathogens, fish pathogens, opportunistic human pathogens, tick endosymbionts, and free-living isolates inhabiting brackish water.

  • Identifying vulnerabilities posed by synthetic biology

    Given the possible security vulnerabilities related to developments in synthetic biology – a field that uses technologies to modify or create organisms or biological components – a new report by the National Academies of Sciences proposes a framework to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern associated with the field. “While biotechnology is being pursued primarily for beneficial and legitimate purposes, there are potential uses that are detrimental to humans, other species, and ecosystems,” says one of the report’s authors.

  • Millions may face protein deficiency as a result of human-caused CO2 emissions

    If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of eighteen countries may lose more than 5 percent of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops. Researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is the first study to quantify this risk.

  • DNA sequencing tools vulnerable to cybersecurity risks

    Rapid improvement in DNA sequencing has sparked a proliferation of medical and genetic tests that promise to reveal everything from one’s ancestry to fitness levels to microorganisms that live in your gut. A new study finds evidence of poor computer security practices used throughout the field. Researchers have also demonstrated for the first time that it is possible — though still challenging — to compromise a computer system with a malicious computer code stored in synthetic DNA. When that DNA is analyzed, the code can become executable malware that attacks the computer system running the software.

  • Biomedical research community should build resilience to disasters

    The academic biomedical research community should improve its ability to mitigate and recover from the impacts of disasters, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences. The consequences of recent disasters, from hurricanes to cyberattacks, have shown that the investments of the U.S. federal government and other research sponsors — which total about $27 billion annually — are not uniformly secure. “Continuing scientific advancement and the promise of future discoveries will require a commitment to resilience — and an unparalleled partnership across the emergency management and academic research sectors,” says one of the report’s authors.

  • Helping prepare for livestock disease outbreaks

    The United States is the world’s largest producer of beef. In 2015, the latest year data is available, the beef industry was valued at $105 billion Protecting millions of cattle from potential disease outbreaks is thus a crucial part of our nation’s economic security, as well as a public health priority. Two new web-based tools funded by the DHS S&T are making it easier for public officials and livestock farmers to predict cattle shipments and prepare for potential disease outbreaks.

  • Hospital admissions for older adults continue to increase for weeks after natural disaster

    Older adults may still be checking into hospitals for weeks after a natural disaster, past the expected three days of anticipated injuries and health issues, a new research shows. The study found that in the thirty days after a rash of tornadoes swept through the U.S. Southeast and Midwest in 2011, hospital admissions for adults 65 and older rose an average of 4 percent in the swatch of affected zip codes in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee.

  • Replacing some old pipes does not resolve problem of lead-contaminated water

    Lead in drinking water is a decades-old problem and still poses serious public health risks today. In response, utilities are replacing segments of old lead pipes that are causing the contamination. Although partial line replacements can decrease lead levels in tap water, concentrations spike right after line replacement and can remain elevated for months afterward.

  • House passes bill to prevent sale of Plum Island to highest bidder

    The House of Representatives on 25 July passed a bipartisan bill, the Plum Island Preservation Act (H.R. 2182), which would prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder. H.R. 2182, which you can view here, was sponsored by Representative  Lee Zeldin (R-New York), and has received unanimous support from the Long Island and Connecticut House delegations, as well as a coalition of over sixty-five local and national environmental groups.

  • Farming practices require dramatic changes to keep pace with climate change

    Major changes in agricultural practices will be required to offset increases in nutrient losses due to climate change. To combat repeated, damaging storm events, which strip agricultural land of soil and nutrients, farmers are already adopting measures to conserve these assets where they are needed. Researchers investigating nutrients in runoff from agricultural land warn that phosphorus losses will increase, due to climate change, unless this is mitigated by making major changes to agricultural practices.

  • Breakthrough in countering deadly VX

    First developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, VX is one of the most toxic chemical weapon threats facing soldiers on the battlefield – and civilians as well, as the use by VX by Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad shows. DoD currently uses the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) for broad-spectrum agent elimination on unbroken skin, but a capability gap exists for treating chemical agent exposure to large affected areas or open wounds.

  • Halting the spread of zika, dengue, and chikungunya

    Researchers have created a mathematical model that can serve as a guide to make monthly predictions on when people are at greatest risk for contracting mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya, due to climate conditions. This model can be used as a tool to create early warning systems to help halt the spread of these potentially deadly viruses.

  • Bridges and roads as important to your health as what’s in your medicine cabinet

    Two seemingly unrelated national policy debates are afoot, and we can’t adequately address one unless we address the other. Health care reform has been the hottest topic. What to do about America’s aging infrastructure has been less animated but may be more pressing. What if a solution to bridging both the political and sectoral divides between health care and infrastructure was, literally, a bridge? Sure, bridges are core elements of infrastructure, but what do bridges have to do with health care? As it turns out, a lot. Moving the health care debate to a discussion on infrastructure might accomplish two vital needs. It might advance the health care debate by both walking away from the current gridlock and approaching the destination from a fresh perspective. It might also advance public health by making America’s highways, neighborhoods and water systems safer, mediating the risks of health care and bridge collapses.

  • Treating gun-shot victims: Initial hospital costs just “tip of the iceberg”

    Gun violence resulted in initial hospitalization costs of more than $6.6 billion nationwide from 2006 through 2014 — an average of $734.6 million per year, according to a new study.The $6.6 billion figure is just the tip of the iceberg: It does not include costs of emergency room visits or hospital readmissions.American tax payers bear about 40 percent of the total costs of treating victims of gun violence.