• Predicting epidemics

    Ecologists have taken an important step in their efforts to develop an early warning system for infectious disease outbreaks. The researchers created a mathematical model that analyzes statistical patterns in public health reports to identify when a population is approaching an epidemic threshold—the point at which a disease outbreak is possible.

  • Novartis drops antibacterial and antiviral development program

    Antibiotic development efforts were dealt a blow Wednesday when drug maker Novartis AG announced its decision to drop its antibacterial and antiviral research programs. The decision means Novartis will no longer be working on several antimicrobial projects currently in development. The decision means that another large pharmaceutical company is getting out of antibiotic development at a time when new antibiotics are desperately needed. AstraZeneca Plc sold its antibiotics unit to Pfizer Inc. in 2016. The last new class of antibiotics was discovered and developed more than thirty years ago.

  • Soligenix receives European, Canadian patents for its ricin toxin vaccine (RiVax) formulation

    Soligenix, Inc., a late-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has received notice of allowance for European and Canadian patent applications further extending protection around ThermoVax  including coverage of the company’s ricin toxin vaccine, RiVax. RiVax potentially would be added to the Strategic National Stockpile and dispensed in the event of a terrorist attack.

  • Preparing for quick radiation diagnostic test in case of a nuclear disaster

    Researchers are attempting to create a better diagnostic test for radiation exposure that potentially could save thousands of lives. A new study compiled a list of genes reported to be affected by external ionizing radiation (IR), and assessed their performance as possible biomarkers that could be used to calculate the amount of radiation absorbed by the human body.

  • Changing health messaging to help stop the next pandemic

    Changing public health messaging to focus on the impact of our actions — for example, the potentially harmful impact of infecting a colleague with a cold, rather than whether we will infect them if we go into work in the first place — could have significant implications for how we deal with global threats, according to a new study.

  • 3 reasons why the U.S. is vulnerable to big disasters

    During the 2017 disaster season, three severe hurricanes devastated large parts of the U.S. The quick succession of major disasters made it obvious that such large-scale emergencies can be a strain, even in one of the world’s richest countries. Why do some countries better withstand and respond to disasters? The factors are many and diverse, but three major ones stand out because they are within the grasp of the federal and local governments: where and how cities grow; how easily households can access critical services during disaster; and the reliability of the supply chains for critical goods. For all three of these factors, the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. In many ways, Americans are becoming more vulnerable by the day.

  • Bipartisan bill offers new “pull” incentives for priority antibiotics

    Last week lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan bill to encourage the development of new antibiotics, a move one expert called the most important antibiotic legislation in a generation. Currently, only a few large drug companies are involved in antibiotic research and development, because the cost of developing the drugs is so high and profit margins are so slim. Most new developments are modifications of existing drugs, and it’s been three decades since the last new class of antibiotics was discovered.

  • Nature’s remedies: Using viruses against drug-resistant bacteria

    With microbial resistance to antibiotics growing into a major global health crisis, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with national research institutions and private industry, are leveraging hard-won expertise to exploit a natural viral enemy of pathogenic bacteria, creating North America’s first Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH). The plan is to use viruses as new weapon against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

  • Deep-sea sponges may offer key to antibiotic drug resistance

    Infectious diseases remain a major threat to human health causing millions of deaths worldwide, especially in medically less-developed countries and regions. In 2016, there were an estimated 1.2 million tuberculous deaths, 1.03 million HIV/AIDS deaths, and 719,600 malaria deaths. This situation is significantly worsened by the prevalence of multi-drug resistance. Researchers may have a solution to this problem using sea sponges collected from the ocean depths.

  • German police find large quantities of castor seeds in bioweapon suspect’s apartment

    German police investigators have found more than 3,000 castor bean seeds in the Cologne apartment of a 29-year old Tunisian, who was arrested last week for making a biological weapon. The quantity of castor seeds was much larger than initially thought. Castor beans are used in making the toxin ricin. The suspect, who is married to a German woman, had been under police surveillance for contacts with Islamist extremists.

  • Climate change will soon hit billions of people, and many cities are taking action

    By mid-century, billions of people in thousands of cities around the world will be at risk from climate-related heat waves, droughts, flooding, food shortages and energy blackouts, but many cities are already taking action to blunt such effects, says a new report from a consortium of international organizations.

  • Synthetic biology could be misused to create new weapons

    Synthetic biology expands the possibilities for creating new weapons — including making existing bacteria and viruses more harmful — while decreasing the time required to engineer such organisms, concludes a new report by the National Academies of Sciences. Although some malicious applications of synthetic biology may not seem plausible right now, they could become achievable with future advances.

  • An outbreak of Nipah virus in India can help explain the future of infectious disease

    India’s Kerala state has just faced an outbreak of Nipah virus. Seventeen people have died so far. That wouldn’t seem so serious, but only eighteen people were infected. To make matters worse, there is no known cure or vaccine for Nipah – all doctors can offer is supportive treatment while the victim’s immune system attempts to fight off the virus, which causes brain damage. Nipah is a near perfect example of an emerging infectious disease. Its history and evolution follow the pattern of almost every new virus.

  • Police carry out more raids in Cologne, Germany, after biological weapon arrest

    Police in the German city of Cologne on Friday searched several empty apartments in a high-rise, following the Tuesday discovery of the highly toxic substance ricin in one of the apartments. On Thursday, police charged a 29-year-old Tunisian man with producing a biological weapon and for “preparing a serious act of violence against the state.”

  • Tensions among fishing countries rise as climate change drives fish to new habitats

    Out-of-date fisheries regulatory system has not kept up with the realities of global warming and shifting fish populations. New fisheries are likely to appear in more than seventy countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries.