• EPA awards $100 million to Michigan for Flint water infrastructure upgrades

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week awarded a $100 million grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Michigan. The funding, provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, or WIIN, enables Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements.

  • Targeting of Syrian healthcare as “weapon of war” sets dangerous precedent: Experts

    The strategy of using people’s need for healthcare against them by violently denying access sets a dangerous precedent that the global health community must urgently address, researchers say. As new estimates of death toll for health workers are published, experts say the deliberate and systematic attacks on the healthcare infrastructure in Syria – primarily by government forces – expose shortcomings in international responses to health needs in conflict.

  • Universal public coverage of 117 essential medicines would improve access, save billions

    A list of 117 essential medicines — including antibiotics, insulin, heart medication, anti-depressants, oral contraceptives, and more — accounted for 44 percent of all prescriptions written in Canada in 2015, and up to 77 percent of all prescriptions when therapeutically similar medications were considered. Researchers calculated that publicly funding these 117 essential medicines could cover the cost of nearly half of all prescriptions in Canada, removing financial barriers for Canadians while saving $3 billion per year.

  • DHS-developed software powers humanitarian project

    Software – called Krona — originally developed at the at the DHS’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) to sequence DNA for biodefense is now being used by Microsoft to sequence mosquito DNA in the fight against disease. Krona is a unique visualization tool that enables users to quickly analyze massive quantities of data — such as more than 100 million sequences of DNA in a single mosquito sample. Mosquitoes collect blood samples from every animal and human they bite and in turn can be an early warning indicator of disease. Microsoft is using Krona to analyze the complex DNA collected by mosquitos.

  • Looking for practices to thwart antimicrobial resistance

    The death last year of a woman in Reno, Nevada, from an infection resistant to every type of antibiotic available in the U.S. highlights how serious the threat of antimicrobial resistance has become. Scientists are addressing growing global concern about the spread of antimicrobial resistance in Africa, where the World Health Organization predicts that, by 2050, drug resistant tuberculosis and other bacteria could lead to the deaths of 4.15 million people each year. Their work identifying practices that lead to bacterial transmission could help save African lives and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria to the United States and other parts of the globe.

  • Lasers to keep poultry safe from avian bird flu

    Last week, the British government has extended the avian influenza (bird flu) prevention zone to April 2017. Also, the requirements of the zone have changed, meaning keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place. One such biosecurity measure is an automated laser which repels unwanted – and potentially infected — birds without causing harm to the wild birds, the chickens being protected, and the surrounding environment.

  • Why farmers and ranchers think the EPA Clean Water Rule goes too far

    President Trump issued an executive order 28 February directing federal agencies to revise the Clean Water Rule, a major regulation published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015. Framers and ranchers are particularly worried that the Clean Water Rule could expand federal regulations that impact their private property rights. However, regulatory agencies and the regulated community need to know the limits of the Clean Water Act’s reach so they can take appropriate measures to protect water resources. If the rule is scrapped, we still will need to know which water bodies require protection under the law. If the Trump administration withdraws or weakens the Clean Water Rule, it is likely to leave regulators interpreting case by case whether tributaries and adjacent waters are covered, as they have been doing since 2006, and land and water owners guessing about what they can do with their resources. So in the end, repealing the rule won’t answer the underlying question: how far upstream federal protection extends.

  • WHO issues list of bacteria for which new antibiotics are urgently needed

    WHO today published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” – a catalogue of twelve families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health. The list was drawn up in a bid to guide and promote research and development (R&D) of new antibiotics, as part of WHO’s efforts to address growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.

  • Fewer grain dust explosions reported in U.S. in 2016

    The number of grain dust explosions in the United States fell to a 10-year low in 2016, but two of the incidents resulted in the first reported fatalities since 2013, according to an annual report released by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. There were five grain dust explosions in 2016, compared to eight in 2015 and a 10-year average of 9.2 per year.

  • Global food production needs to keep increasing, but not as fast as previously thought

    Food production must double by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population.” This truism has been repeated so often in recent years that it has become widely accepted among academics, policymakers and farmers, but now researchers are challenging this assertion and suggesting a new vision for the future of agriculture. Production likely will need to increase between 25 percent and 70 percent to meet 2050 food demand – meaning that production needs to keep increasing, but not as fast as many have claimed.

  • Risk of Ross River Virus could be next global epidemic

    Australia’s Ross River Virus (RRV) could be the next mosquito-borne global epidemic according to a new research. The virus has been thought to be restricted largely to Australia and Papua New Guinea where it is harbored by marsupial animals, specifically kangaroos and wallabies, and spread by mosquitoes. The research shows that the virus may have been circulating silently in the South Pacific ever since a large epidemic of more than 500,000 cases in 1979-80, thought to have been started by an infected Australian tourist who travelled to Fiji.

  • Major deposit in the world’s largest seed collection in the Arctic

    A major seed deposit critical to ensuring global food security was made to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle today. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest collection of agricultural biodiversity in the world. Located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the Seed Vault is owned by the Norwegian government. Seed samples for some of the world’s most vital food sources like the potato, sorghum, rice, barley, chickpea, lentil, and wheat will be deposited at Svalbard in the coming days, bringing the total number of seed samples at the facility to 930,821.

  • Device rapidly, accurately, inexpensively detects Zika virus at airports, other sites

    About the size of a tablet, a portable device that could be used in a host of environments like a busy airport or even a remote location in South America, may hold the key to detecting the dreaded Zika virus accurately, rapidly and inexpensively using just a saliva sample. While scientists across the world are scrambling to find some sort of immunization, researchers are working to develop a diagnostic tool to reduce the impact of the outbreak until a vaccine is identified.

  • Contact tracing, targeted insecticide spraying can curb dengue outbreaks

    Contact tracing — a process of identifying everyone who has come into contact with those infected by a particular disease — combined with targeted, indoor spraying of insecticide can greatly reduce the spread of the mosquito-borne dengue virus. The new approach of using contact tracing to identify houses for targeted insecticide spraying was between 86 and 96 percent effective in controlling dengue fever during the Cairns outbreak. By comparison, vaccines for the dengue virus are only 30 to 70 percent effective, depending on the type of virus — or serotype — involved.

  • Terrorists could kill 30 million people within a year using bioweapons: Bill Gates

    Bill Gates, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, compared the dangers to nuclear war and bioterrorism. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus, or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” he said. “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than thirty million people in less than a year.”