• 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    Out-of-date fisheries regulatory system has not kept up with the realities of global warming and shifting fish populations.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.

  • German police arrest man for building a biological weapon

    The police in Cologne, Germany, on Tuesday arrested 29-year old Sief Allah H. for trying to build biological weapons in his apartment. He came to Germany in 2016 and had been under police surveillance for terrorist sympathies. In mid-May he ordered 1,000 castor seeds — the main ingredient for used in ricin toxin — and a coffee grinder from an online store. In June he managed to produce the toxin June.

  • “Red flag” gun laws linked to reduction in firearm suicides

    Risk-based firearm seizure laws – also known as “red flag,” risk warrant, gun violence restraining order, or extreme risk protection order laws – provide ways for law enforcement to seize guns from individuals considered to pose an imminent risk of serious harm to themselves or others. Nearly 23,000 Americans died in suicide incidents involving a firearm in 2016. A new study provides evidence that risk-based gun seizure laws are saving lives.

  • Ebola case count reaches 60 as DRC neighbors take precautions

    The Ebola case count in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has now reached 60, as an official from the World Health Organization (WHO) announced 2 more suspected cases. There are now 37 confirmed cases, 14 probable, and 9 suspected, 2 more suspected cases than yesterday. The death toll still sits at 27. Former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, writing in Science, said the Ebola vaccine is only a tool—not a disease game-changer.

  • Biosecurity reduces invasions of plant pathogens over a national border

    A major new study examines more than a century of fungal pathogens, finding well-aimed biosecurity measures cut the spread of unwanted fungi into a nation, even in the face of increased globalized trade. “Although trade is closely tied to the number of new invasions we have from fungal pathogens, if we have targeted biosecurity we can start to break down this link,” said the study’s lead author.

  • Accelerating data solutions to identify emerging biothreats

    Biothreats — harmful pathogens that are either naturally or deliberately released — pose a risk to national security and public health. Biothreats are hard to immediately identify, but with new technologies and data sources, such as the wealth of open data generated by “smarter” cities, emergency managers may be able to detect and respond to an emerging problem more quickly.

  • U.S. pigs consume nearly as many antibiotics as people do

    A new report is taking the U.S. pork industry to task for irresponsible use of medically important antibiotics, saying the amount of antibiotics used in pigs is nearly the same as that used to treat humans. The report estimates that 27.1 percent of all medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are for pig production, while a roughly equivalent amount—27.6 percent—is sold for use in human medicine. The report argues that the heavy use of antibiotics in pig and other livestock production is contributing to the rise and spread of antibiotic resistance in both animals and people.

  • Increased IT security at hospitals does not equal fewer cyberattacks, breaches

    The Verizon Data Breach report indicates the health care sector is the top target for cyberattacks. And, as hospitals do more to guard against attacks, it’s not necessarily translating into fewer data breaches, according to new research. Researchers found that the increased use of information technology security systems by hospitals did not equal fewer breaches, contrary to predictions.

  • 25 more ill, 4 new deaths in E coli outbreak tied to Arizona lettuce: CDC

    A multistate Escherichia coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grew by 4 deaths and 25 cases, according to the CDC. The CDC has now confirmed 197 cases in 35 states and 5 deaths in this outbreak. No single grower or supplier of romaine lettuce has been implicated in this outbreak, but produce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region has been identified as the likely source of the harmful bacteria.

  • RAND to help oversee high-quality research on gun violence

    Every day in the United States, close to 100 people are killed by guns, and for every death, two more are injured. The gun-related murder rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than the rate in 22 other high-income nations. About two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides. The RAND Corporation has been selected to help oversee a philanthropic fund that will support high-quality research on issues related to gun violence.

  • Gun violence research gets $50 million boost from private funders

    In one swoop, a new $50 million initiative to boost funding for gun violence research is poised to eclipse the federal government’s efforts to understand the epidemic. Experts in the field say the fund, created by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, could advance understanding of the causes and effects of gun violence and inform public policy.

  • Bolstering the body’s defenses against public health, national security threats

    Military service members, first responders, and civilian populations face severe threats from pathogens with pandemic potential, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials, which can all quickly and powerfully overwhelm the body’s innate defenses. And though significant public and private investment has been focused on the development of traditional medical countermeasures such as drugs, vaccines, and biologics to guard against the worst effects of these health threats, current countermeasures are often limited in their effectiveness and availability during emergencies. PREPARE aims to develop new class of generalizable medical countermeasures that safely and temporarily tune activity of protective genes.