• Scent-Tracking Dogs Help Hospitals Track Superbug

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year C difficile causes more than 450,000 infections in U.S. hospitals, is associated with more than 29,000 deaths, and costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $5 billion. One of the main reasons C difficile has become such a burden for hospitals is that it spreads easily—typically through contact between sick patients and healthcare workers—and it’s very hard to get rid of. One hospital fights C difficile by employing a dog trained to smell of the deadly bacterium.

  • Microplastics Harming Our Drinking Water

    Plastics in our waste streams are breaking down into tiny particles, causing potentially catastrophic consequences for human health and our aquatic systems. Approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year and up to 13 million tons of that is released into rivers and oceans, contributing to approximately 250 million tons of plastic by 2025. Since plastic materials are not generally degradable through weathering or ageing, this accumulation of plastic pollution in the aquatic environment creates a major health concern.

  • Designed Super Shrimp Could Increase Yield, Help Prevent Disease

    Single-sex prawns could help alleviate poverty, reduce disease and protect the environment, according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) who have developed a monosex prawn that may make this winning trifecta possible.

  • U.S. Measles Cases Hit 1,234 as Brooklyn Outbreak Called Over

    The other day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 19 new measles infections, raising the 2019 total to 1,234 cases in 31 states. One additional state has been affected since the CDC’s last update, but the number of active outbreaks has been reduced to four, down from six noted last week.

  • Is There a Role for the Biological Weapons Convention in Oversight of Lab-Created Potential Pandemic Pathogens?

    Fourteen labs in the United States are working on creating mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly-pathogenic, avian-influenza live viruses. These viruses are examples of lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens that bring up questions reflecting real concerns: Should details of this dual-use research be published? Could lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens be accidentally released from a laboratory into the community and seed a human pandemic? Could they be employed as biological weapons? The probability of accidental release into the community from one of the laboratories in this research enterprise is uncomfortably high. For these and other lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens, just one laboratory-infected researcher could seed a pandemic. Furthermore, a laboratory worker with hostile intent could introduce a potentially pandemic pathogen into the community.

  • Measles Epidemic: Parents Reluctant to Vaccinate Their Children Need to Hear of the Horrors of Forgotten Diseases

    There’s been a surge in measles cases across Europe, putting people’s lives at risk according to new findings from the World Health Organization. This has in part been put down to disinformation about the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine on social media putting parents off vaccinating their children. Why are people reluctant to have screening tests and vaccinations to prevent diseases? Sarah Pitt writes in The Conversation that while some of the reasons may include loss of trust in “experts” and people in authority, I wonder if it is also partly because the stories of such diseases have been long forgotten. “Gruesome photos on cigarette packages, for example, massively help to reduce tobacco use, so maybe something similar now needs to happen in terms of vaccinations to tackle the latest epidemic and anti-vaxxer campaigns around the world,” she writes.

  • Measles Outbreaks: Europe Losing Ground, with 4 Countries Losing “Measles Elimination” Status

    The number of measles cases in Europe is soaring, with four European countries — Britain, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Albania — losing their elimination status owing to measles outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the first six months of 2019, Europe saw 90,000 cases in 48 European countries, more than doubling last year’s total number. Close to 365,000 measles cases have been reported worldwide this year, the WHO said, almost three times as many as in the first half of 2018.

  • Hackers Could Have Breached U.S. Bioterrorism Defenses for Years, Records Show. We’ll Never Know Whether They Did

    The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation’s bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.

  • The Message of Measles

    If we have to pick a Patient Zero, Andrew Wakefield will do. Wakefield is the British gastroenterologist who produced the notorious article, published in The Lancet in 1998, linking the M.M.R. vaccine to autism. The study, which featured just twelve subjects, was debunked, the article was pulled, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine—as well as his reputation, in scientific circles anyway. But, owing to his persistence in the years since, his discredited allegations have spread like mold. In the anti-vaxxer pantheon, he is martyr and saint.

  • Texas Cities More Susceptible to Measles Outbreaks

    The growing number of children arriving at Texas schools unvaccinated makes the state increasingly vulnerable to measles outbreaks in cities large and small, according to a new study. The findings indicate that an additional 5 percent decrease in vaccination rates, which have been on a downward trend since 2003, would increase the size of a potential measles outbreak by up to 4,000 percent in some communities.

  • New Model Agrees with Old: Nuclear War Between U.S. and Russia Would Result in Nuclear Winter

    Most people who lived through the nuclear age have heard of nuclear winter, in which global cooling would result from a major nuclear war. Early fears of such an outcome have been bolstered by sophisticated computer models that showed what would happen if a large number of nuclear bombs were detonated in large urban areas. The planet would grow colder due to the huge amount of smoke generated by fires ignited by the atomic blasts—the smoke would cover the entire planet for years, blocking the sun.

  • Lawmakers Seek Probe of Controversial Bioweapons Defense System

    The Trump administration’s attempt to deploy a scientifically disputed system for detecting airborne anthrax or other infectious agents in terrorist attacks is facing increased scrutiny from a bipartisan group of House members. in a three-page letter, four Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an in-depth scientific evaluation of the new system, called BioDetection 21. Officials from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, signaled that they plan to open the inquiry.

  • How Does USAMRIID Shut Down Impact Nation’s Bioterrorism Laboratory Response Network?

    The Laboratory Response Network (LRN) is a collaborative federal effort run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with other federal agency and public health partners. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Special Pathogens Laboratory at Fort Detrick is one of only three National Laboratories at the top of the protective umbrella of the LRN structure, along with those operated by the CDC and the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), responsible for specialized characterization of organisms, bioforensics, select agent activity, and handling highly infectious biological agents. It begs the question then, what happens when an important component of the nation’s biopreparedness infrastructure fails to meet CDC biosafety requirements and has its Federal Select Agent certification pulled?

  • Governments Failing to Understand Global Catastrophic Risks: Report

    Governments are failing to understand the human-driven catastrophic risks that threaten global security, prosperity and potential, and could in the worst case lead to mass harm and societal collapse, say researchers. The plausible global catastrophic risks include: tipping points in environmental systems due to climate change or mass biodiversity loss; malicious or accidentally harmful use of artificial intelligence; malicious use of, or unintended consequences, from advanced biotechnologies; a natural or engineered global pandemic; and intentional, miscalculated, accidental, or terrorist-related use of nuclear weapons.

  • Evaluate AI capabilities in Helping Paramedics

    Paramedics must make numerous life-saving decisions, often in the back of an ambulance with limited time. While they at times call doctors for additional medical directives, precious seconds tick away for the patient during these back-and-forth conversations. DHS S&T partnered with its Canadian counterpart to examine whether artificial intelligence could be used to improve that information overload.