Public health

  • No one wants to fund the development of new antibiotics

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are like a ticking time bomb. The world needs new antibiotics. Scientists, veterinarians, and doctors have been describing this crisis for some time. So why is so little happening? The honest truth is money. No one wants to foot the bill. The pharmaceutical companies have to make money, which they generally do not do on antibiotics.

  • No government agency oversees handling of deadly pathogens in 1,495 U.S. labs

    According to the CDC, 181 “organizations or entities” in the United States are registered as working with live anthrax, and 321 in total working with live pathogens. Within these 321 entities, roughly 1,495 laboratories are accredited under the Federal Select Agent Program to work with live pathogens such as anthrax. There is no official government agency to oversee production and research of bioweapons that does not – as the CDC does — engage in its own active pathogen research. “Even one spore is a sufficient seed stock from which an amount could grow to mount a biological weapons attack,” says one expert. “The sad circumstance is that this massive effort [U.S. research on anthrax] since 2001 has dramatically increased the chances of a biological weapon attack on the U.S., precisely by distributing a highly lethal strain of the agent with no structure and no ability to record where they have gone.”

  • Pentagon, CDC investigating live anthrax shipping mishap

    Pentagon chief Ashton Carter has announced that the Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is investigating the recent accidental shipment from a U.S. Army laboratory in Utah of live bacterium anthrax samples to fifty-one facilities in eighteen states and three foreign countries. The investigators have already identified the West Desert Test Center (WDTC), the testing area for Dugway Proving Ground, as the source of the mix up.

  • CHIKV Challenge winners --- forecasting the spread of infectious diseases

    The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is quickly spreading through the Western Hemisphere; as of 15 May 2015, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had tallied close to 1.4 million suspected cases and more than 33,000 confirmed cases since the virus’ first appearance in the Americas in December 2013. Spread by mosquitoes, chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause debilitating joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea, fatigue and rash, and poses a growing public health and national security risk. Governments and health organizations could take more effective proactive steps to limit the spread of CHIKV if they had accurate forecasts of where and when it would appear. But such predictions for CHIKV and other emerging infectious diseases remain beyond the reach of current modeling capabilities. To accelerate the development of new infectious disease forecasting methods, DARPA launched its CHIKV Challenge competition last year.

  • Purdue to host fourth Global Food Security summer program

    The fourth annual Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security will be held 7-20 June at Purdue University, aiming to challenge graduate students from around the country to pool their research in various areas of study in finding innovative ways to alleviate world hunger. In attendance will be forty graduate students selected from twenty-three universities from across the United States.  

  • 51 labs in 17 states may have received live anthrax samples: Pentagon

    Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said yesterday (Wednesday) that the Pentagon may have shipped live anthrax samples to fifty-one labs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. Word also said that it was likely that the numbers of labs which might have received live anthrax will go up as the Pentagon’s investigation into the shipments continues. All the samples shipped belonged to three lots, dating back to 2007, stored at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. CDC raises questions about the effectiveness of the method used by the Dugway lab to deactivate anthrax spores.

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  • Nanosensor bandage measures wound oxygenation

    There is nothing new in the understanding that with combat come injuries, sometimes extreme injuries. In treating and healing wounds, however, physicians must overcome one obstacle which always challenges the healing of wounds: lack of oxygen. Thus, it is necessary to make certain that sufficient oxygen is reaching the healing wound. Chemists have developed a nanosensor bandage which measures the level of oxygen in wounds – a bandage which uses a changing color scheme to inform doctors of the level of oxygen supply in the treated wound.

  • Most Americans could be fed by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes

    The popularity of “farm to table” has skyrocketed in the past few years as people become more interested in supporting local farmers and getting fresher food from sources they know and trust. Even large chain restaurants are making efforts to source supplies locally, knowing more customers care where their food comes from. New farmland-mapping research published the other day shows that up to 90 percent of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes.

  • Pentagon accidentally ships live anthrax from Utah to labs in nine states

    The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday admitted it had accidentally shipped samples of a live anthrax spores – a potential bioweapon — across nine states and to a U.S. air base in South Korea. The Pentagon revealed what it described as an “inadvertent transfer of samples containing live Bacillus anthracis” from a DoD laboratory in Dugway Proving Ground, Utah to labs in nine states. The mishap alarmed biosafety experts. “These events shouldn’t happen,” said one.

  • Groundbreaking for new Biosafety Level 4 lab in Kansas

    Officials on Wednesday broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a $1.25 billion animal research facility near the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF will be the U.S. only Level 4 biosafety lab – a designation which means that the lab is secure enough to handle, and conduct research on, pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. Critics argue that locating the lab on the campus of KSU — in the heart of cattle country and the middle of Tornado Alley – would not be a good idea. NBAF will replace the aging biolab in Plum Island, New York.

  • New biosensor can detect listeria contamination in two minutes

    Engineers have developed a biosensor that can detect listeria bacterial contamination within two or three minutes. The same technology can be developed to detect other pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, but listeria was chosen as the first target pathogen because it can survive even at freezing temperatures. It is also one of the most common foodborne pathogens in the world and the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States.

  • Using artificial intelligence to forecast future infectious disease outbreaks

    Most emerging infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, with more than a billion people suffering annually. Safeguarding public health requires effective surveillance tools. Researchers used machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence — to pinpoint rodent species that harbor diseases and geographic hotspots vulnerable to new parasites and pathogens.

  • INL training military for response to radiological hazards

    Military branches from across the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) sent candidates for an intensive Radiological Hazards and Operators Training and Field Exercise course (RHOT) conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Center and School. These students were brought to the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site where they begin training to use radiological monitoring equipment, perform radiological calculations, and implement protective measures. Two weeks of intense training have transformed these responders into a cohesive unit able to work together to take decisive actions to secure and survey an area for radiological hazards.

  • DHS S&T awards $834 million contract for construction of Manhattan, Kansas biolab

    DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the award of a contract for the final phase of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. The $834 million award by S&T’s procurement support partner, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), modifies the existing contract for McCarthy Mortensen NBAF Joint Venture, which was selected in 2009.

  • Former agent sues FBI for retaliating against him for criticizing anthrax letters investigation

    Richard L. Lambert, a former senior FBI agent who, for four years, ran the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, has sued the FBI, accusing the agency of trying “to railroad the prosecution of [Bruce E.] Ivins” – the main suspect in the attacks — and, after Ivins’s 2008 suicide, of creating “an elaborate perception management campaign” to bolster its claim that Ivins was guilty. Lambert’s lawsuit also charges that the FBI and the Justice Department forced the Energy Department’s lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to dismiss him from his job as senior counterintelligence officer there in retaliation for his critique of the FBI’s conclusions in the anthrax case.