• $1 billion reward proposed for development of new antibiotics

    An international group tasked with researching and developing new economic models to promote antibiotic development is calling for a $1 billion market entry reward for new antibiotics, saying the reward could significantly boost the number of new antibiotics coming to market over the next thirty years. The proposal was made by an international consortium of public health organizations, academic institutions, and pharmaceutical companies supported by the European Medicines Initiative. The $1 billion market entry reward is one of four incentives proposed by the group to stimulate research and development (R&D) for new antibiotics and ensure that critically needed antibiotics are used sustainably and continue to be accessible. “Without incentives, some scientifically promising treatments would probably never make it to patients,” says one expert.

  • The man who knew too much

    In November 2006, on orders of Vladimir Putin, Russian operatives used radioactive material to poison and kill Alexandr Litvinenko, a former KGB colleague who had turned a fierce critic of the Russian leader, and who was living with his family in London. Yesterday, the British government froze the assets of the two Russian agents – one of them has been awarded a medal by Putin, and is now a leading member of United Russia, Putin’s political party, in the Russian parliament. Ten years later, in November 2016, a leading British nuclear forensic scientist – who was part of the 2006 investigation and who was instrumental in tying the nuclear material used in the killing to the two Russian agents — was found dead in his home, after returning from an academic research trip to Russia. It was the 14th Russia-related killing on British soil since 2006. The number of individuals with inside knowledge of the Putin regime and its practices — and who have met an untimely end in mysterious circumstances — is growing, and British lawmakers urge the government to show more resolve in investigating this string of killings.

  • Radioactivity from oil, gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

    More than seven years after Pennsylvania officials requested that the disposal of radium-laden fracking wastewater into surface waters be restricted, a new study finds. The contamination is coming from the disposal of conventional, or non-fracked, oil and gas wastewater, which, under current state regulations, can still be treated and discharged to local streams.

  • Flu hospitalizations climb as U.S. season hits new heights

    Flu hospitalizations across the United States are still increasing, and at least by one metric the season has reached a height not seen since the 2009-10 pandemic, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s). In addition, despite elderly adults being the most hospitalized group, they often do not receive influenza tests, new research shows.

  • Flu spreads by aerosols, not just coughs, sneezes

    It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new study. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes or by touching contaminated surfaces. But, new information about flu transmission reveals that we may pass the flu to others just by breathing.

  • U.S. gun deaths in 2017: 15,549 (excluding suicides) – 3 percent increase over 2016

    At least 15,549 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2017, excluding most suicides, according to data collected by Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a nonprofit organization that tracks media and law enforcement reports of shootings. The number, which marks a 3 percent increase over the previous year. There were 31,157 firearm injuries in 2017, a rise of nearly 2 percent over the previous year. The number of people killed in mass shootings declined from 456 in 2016 to 433 in 2017.

  • 2018: Critical period of intensified risks

    The Global Risks Report 2018, published this week by the World Economic Forum cautions that we are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change. It highlights numerous areas in which we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars. The reports says that the structural and interconnected nature of risks in 2018 threatens the very system on which societies, economies, and international relations are based – but that the positive economic outlook gives leaders the opportunity to tackle systemic fragility.

  • Experts criticize lack of flu pandemic readiness, commitment

    Armed with 1940s-vintage flu vaccine technology and supported by only anemic funding for developing truly revolutionary vaccines, the world is woefully unprepared for the next influenza pandemic, and the Trump administration is ignoring the problem, two experts wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece. “There is no apparent effort to make [next-generation flu] vaccines a priority in the current administration. Its national security strategy published last month cites Ebola and SARS as potential bioterrorism and pandemic threats, yet makes no mention of the risk of pandemic influenza nor any aspect of critical vaccine research and development,” the two experts write.

  • Preventing viral disease outbreaks

    Avian influenza (H7N9). MERS coronavirus. Ebola. Hepatitis E. Yellow Fever. Lassa. Zika. When you consider the viral infectious diseases that emerged and reemerged around the world in 2017 alone, what many of them have in common is that they originated in animals and spilled over into humans after a series of mutations that enable the pathogens to jump species. DARPA’s PREEMPT aims to predict and contain viral mutations to prevent cross-species transmission of disease from animals and insects to humans.

  • Supercharged antibiotics could combat superbugs

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – superbugs – cause 700,000 deaths worldwide each year, and a UK government review has predicted this could rise to 10 million by 2050. An old drug supercharged by researchers has emerged as a new antibiotic that could destroy some of the world’s most dangerous superbugs.

  • Allowing mentally ill people to access firearms is not fueling mass shootings

    As has been the case with the overwhelming majority of other mass shootings in recent memory, media and political coverage focus on his mental health status of the shooter. This narrow focus on mental illness reignited calls for broader restrictions on firearm access for people with mental illnesses, despite evidence that mental illness contributes to less than 5 percent of all violent crimes and that most individuals with severe mental illness do not behave violently. Still, these calls beg the question: Are mentally disordered people with access to firearms really driving America’s gun violence problem? Our study finds that the reality of firearm-related risk among individuals with mental illness lies not in the potential for harm to others, but in the risk of harming oneself. There is certainly an argument to be made for the temporary removal of firearm access for individuals actively experiencing mental health crises. However, the threat of permanent loss of one’s Second Amendment right could cause harm, as people might avoid treatment for fear of losing their guns. One of the most disturbing aspects of our study is that it emerges from what amounts to an empirical vacuum. The 1996 passage of the Dickey Amendment effectively prohibits federal funding of gun violence research. Since its enactment, scholars have been unable to conduct comprehensive research projects to better understand gun violence. The Dickey Amendment is also the reason that no comprehensive, nationally representative studies have been conducted in recent years to examine the causes of gun violence. As a result, gun lobbyists have been free to compose the narrative of their choice, namely that mass shootings are a mental health problem. We just don’t have enough data to know the causes.

  • Antibiotic alternatives should focus on mild infections: Experts

    Given the challenge of discovering and developing new antibiotics for the most serious multidrug-resistant pathogens, and how quickly antibiotic resistance can emerge, scientists and biotechnology companies have in recent years turned their attention to alternative therapies to target these bacteria. These antibiotic alternatives include bacteriophages, phage lysins, antimicrobial peptides, antibodies, probiotics, and vaccines. The hope is that, ultimately, products other than classic antibacterial agents will help provide a long-term solution to the antibiotic resistance crisis. Yet, many of these alternative therapies are a long way off, and even those in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials will likely be used as adjuncts to antibiotics, rather than true alternatives.

  • Gaps in FDA food recall process

    A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was lacking when it came to following food recall protocols. Timeliness, or lack thereof, was the theme of the HHS’s report.

  • An X-factor in coastal flooding: Natural climate patterns create hot spots of rapid sea level rise

    Many scientists have found evidence that climate change is amplifying the impacts of hurricanes. For example, several studies just published this month conclude that human-induced climate change made rainfall during Hurricane Harvey more intense. But climate change is not the only factor making hurricanes more damaging. A recent study showed that two converging natural climate processes created a “hot spot” from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Miami where sea levels rose six times faster than the global average between 2011 and 2015. We also showed that such hot spots have occurred at other points along the Eastern Seaboard over the past century. Now we see indications that one is developing in Texas and Louisiana, where it likely amplified flooding during Harvey – and could make future coastal storms more damaging. Accelerations in sea level rise are hard to predict, and it is unclear whether they will become more serious over time. But they make it even more urgent for coastal communities to take sea level rise seriously today.

  • Humidity may intensify heat stress to a point exceeding human endurance

    Climate scientists say that killer heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in many regions as climate warms. However, most projections leave out a major factor that could worsen things: humidity, which can greatly magnify the effects of heat alone. Now, a new global study projects that in coming decades the effects of high humidity in many areas will dramatically increase. At times, they may surpass humans’ ability to work or, in some cases, even survive.