• As Ebola spreads in Congo, WHO weighs emergency declaration

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recorded six more cases of Ebola over the weekend, including three community deaths, which raise more concern about the spread of the disease in the region. The new cases lift the outbreak total to 211, including 135 deaths. Twenty-four suspected cases are still under investigation.

  • The 1800s Global Famine could happen again

    Researchers have completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives. She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

  • DRC Ebola cases mount, with in-school infection a new worry

    As the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reaches 194 cases and deaths hit 122, a humanitarian group yesterday added a new concern—the virus has now spread within a school. The group also said response efforts were again interrupted by regional violence. A World Health Organization (WHO) official says the epidemic will likely carry well into 2019.

  • Insect Allies: Friend or foe?

    In 2016 DARPA launched the Insect Allies project, budgeting $45 million over four years to transform agricultural pests into vectors that can transfer protective genes into plants within one growing season. Scientists are concerned that such technology might be used for nefarious purposes. In a recent Science article, the scientists note the profound implications of releasing a horizontal environmental genetic alteration agent – implications that touch on regulatory, economic, biological, security, and societal issues.

  • Discovering new molecules for military applications

    The efficient discovery and production of new molecules is essential for a range of military capabilities—from developing safe chemical warfare agent simulants and medicines to counter emerging threats, to coatings, dyes, and specialty fuels for advanced performance. Current approaches to develop molecules for specific applications, however, are intuition-driven, mired in slow iterative design and test cycles, and ultimately limited by the specific molecular expertise of the chemist who has to test each candidate molecule by hand. DARPA’s Accelerated Molecular Discovery (AMD) program aims “to speed the time to design, validate, and optimize new molecules with defined properties from several years to a few months, or even several weeks,” DARPA says.

  • France sued for “crimes against humanity” South Pacific nuclear tests

    French Polynesia is taking France to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for carrying out nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia, a Polynesian opposition leader said on Tuesday. France carried out 193 nuclear weapons tests on islands in the archipelago between 1960 and 1996 until French President Jacques Chirac ended nuclear testing.

  • Numbers, trends in health care data breaches nationwide, 2010-2017

    Health plans – entities that cover the costs of medical care – accounted for the greatest number of patient records breached over the past seven years, according to an analysis of U.S. health care data. The report examined changes in data breaches during a period when electronic health records were being widely adopted across the country. While the largest number of data breaches took place at heath care providers – hospitals, physician offices, and similar entities – breaches involving the greatest number of patient records took place at health plans.

  • Ramping up fight against antimicrobial resistance

    The U.S. government is challenging world leaders, corporations, and non-governmental groups to step up their efforts against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The AMR Challenge asks for at least one commitment in one of five areas: improving antibiotic use in humans and animals; reducing antibiotics and resistant bacteria in the environment; developing new antibiotics, vaccines, and diagnostics; enhancing data collection and sharing; and improving infection prevention and control.

  • Something’s going on here: Building a comprehensive profile of conspiracy thinkers

    By and large, people gravitate toward conspiracy theories that seem to affirm or validate their political views. Republicans are vastly more likely than Democrats to believe the Obama “birther” theory or that climate change is a hoax. Democrats are more likely to believe that Trump’s campaign “colluded” with the Russians. But some people are habitual conspiracists who entertain a variety of generic conspiracy theories.

  • DOD lagging on lab biosecurity: GAO

    For three years, the DoD has been attempting to implement security reforms after reports revealed that an Army lab at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah accidentally sent 575 live samples of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, to 194 labs over the course of a decade. The GAO says the Department of Defense (DoD) is still short of meeting goals meant to improve the department’s biosafety and biosecurity programs, leaving government labs still at risk.

  • Anxiety surrounding mass shootings closes ideological divides -- briefly

    People who feel anxious surrounding mass shootings tend to abandon their political ideology on typically divided issues, according to a study. Yet policymakers — especially those seeking gun law reforms trying to stem the number of mass shootings — in recent years have largely failed to capitalize on attitudes surrounding this type of anxiety.

  • This is not a drill: 5 reasons why the experts are worried about the next pandemic

    Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert for a disease that doesn’t exist yet. A potentially savage pathogen called Disease X.  “History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before,” says WHO. Warnings tell us the next global pandemic is a case of not ‘if’, but ‘when’. So, hypothetically, how is the world preparing itself?

  • White Houses unveils new National Biodefense Strategy

    The Trump administration on Tuesday released a new National Biodefense Strategy, along with an order from President Donald Trump that directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take the coordinating lead and establishes a cabinet-level biodefense steering committee. Some experts are praising the broad scope of the strategy, new elements that it covers, and the high-level attention and oversight built into the plan.

  • New FDA plan focuses on antibiotic development, stewardship

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week announced a multipronged strategy to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) that emphasizes new measures to spur development of antibiotics and alternative therapies, promote antibiotic stewardship in animal health, advance antibiotic resistance surveillance, and enhance regulatory science.

  • U.K. charges Russians in novichok case, May says “not a rogue operation”

    British prosecutors have announced charges against two Russian men they believe poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent, and Prime Minister Theresa May says the government has concluded the suspects were officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency.