• World unprepared to deal with the effects of a thermonuclear attack

    The world is not prepared to deal with the devastating effects of a thermonuclear attack, says an University of Georgia’s Cham Dallas. He said that the development of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea is a transformative event, especially from the point of view of the medical and public health response to a thermonuclear detonation.

  • Water supply, quality in U.S. West affected by increased wildfire-caused erosion

    A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs. The area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.

  • New biosecurity initiative to advance benefits, reduce risks of life sciences research

    A new biosecurity initiative at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) aims to identify and mitigate biological risks, both natural and man-made, and safeguard the future of the life sciences and associated technologies. The biosecurity initiative will seek to advance the beneficial applications of the life sciences while reducing the risks of misuse by promoting research, education and policy outreach in biological security.

  • Hospitalization costs of gun injuries exceeds $622 million a year

    Hospitalization costs associated with gun injuries in the United States exceeded $622 million a year, according to a new study. 57 percent of all firearm hospitalization costs were either paid by Medicaid—at more than $205 million—or not paid at all, as uninsured victims accounted for $155 million of the costs. More than 80 percent of firearm injury hospitalizations were among individuals age 15 to 44, with the highest annual rate of 28.9 per 100,000 among those age 15 to 24.

     

  • Radiation analysis software from Sandia Lab helps emergency responders

    When law enforcement officers and first responders arrive at an emergency involving radiation, they need a way to swiftly assess the situation to keep the public and environment safe. Having analysis tools that can quickly and reliably make sense of radiation data is of the essence. Sandia National Laboratories developed a tool called InterSpec, available for both mobile and traditional computing devices, can rapidly and accurately analyze gamma radiation data collected at the scene.

  • Biosecurity and synthetic biology: it is time to get serious

    Synthetic biology has only been recently recognized as a mature subject in the context of biological risk assessment — and the core focus has been infectious diseases. In the case of biosecurity, we’re already dependent on biology [with respect to food, health etc.] but we still have an opportunity to develop biosecurity strategies before synthetic biology is ubiquitous. There is still an opportunity to act now and put norms and practices in place because the community is still relatively small. “If scientists are not taking care of biosecurity now, other people will start taking care of it, and they most likely will start preventing researchers from doing good science.”

  • Flooding from Hurricane Harvey causes a host of public health concerns

    Houston’s drinking water system is being stressed by overflowing water reservoirs and dams, breached levees and possible problems at treatment plants and in the water distribution system. Failure of drinking water systems could lead to water shortages. Raw sewage, dead bodies in the water and release of dangerous chemicals into the floodwaters could lead to the spread of disease through contact with contaminated water and to infection through open wounds. Houston has at least a dozen sites that have been designated environmentally hazardous, so there is a risk of petrochemical contamination. Indeed, companies have reported that pollutants from refineries have already been released. As if those are not bad enough, the “unprecedented” amount of water leads to the perfect breeding opportunities for mosquitoes, which are vectors of Zika and many other infectious diseases.

  • Harnessing AI to catch disease fast

    Up to 27,000 microbiology laboratories around the world could benefit from a ground-breaking automation technology. The Automated Plate Assessment System (APAS) can automatically screen microbiology culture plates for the presence of various disease-causing pathogens, revolutionizing the workflow in modern microbiology labs. The smart software uses artificial intelligence to analyze microbial growth in much the same way as a microbiologist would, but with faster and more consistent results.

  • 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.