• Smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused more than 100,000 deaths

    In the fall of 2015, hazardous levels of smoke from agricultural fires blanketed much of Equatorial Asia. Schools and businesses closed, planes were grounded, and tens of thousands sought medical treatment for respiratory illness. In a new study, researchers estimate that the 2015 smoke event caused upward of 100,000 deaths across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

  • How Congress is failing on Zika

    Three times Congress has taken up legislation to fund the continuing response to the Zika outbreak. Three times the bill, which would allocate $1.1 billion to fight the disease, has fallen short of attracting bipartisan support. While Congress delays action on Zika, the number of infected people keeps climbing. As of mid-September, there were over 3,000 reported cases in the fifty states and close to 18,000 when you count in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. One thing the Zika crisis has made clear is that solving emerging disease outbreaks increasingly involves navigating treacherous political waters. Congress’ lack of understanding of the real scope of voucher program – which aims to spur development of new drugs for neglected diseases — compromises efforts to find new ways of encouraging R&D in neglected diseases like Zika. Its inaction when it comes to extending funding for a major outbreak may endanger the health of thousands of Americans.

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  • Neglected Tropical Diseases: Some progress toward addressing the chronic pandemic

    Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have been included in United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are now recognized as true markers of poverty. But there is still no recognition of the true level of mortality associated with this particular group of diseases. Around 12,000 people died as a result of the recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leonne, and Liberia, but experts say that during the same period of time at least ten times that many people died as a result of NTDs.

  • Star-shaped polymers, not antibiotics, kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria

    Currently, the only treatment for infections caused by bacteria is antibiotics. However, over time bacteria mutate to protect themselves against antibiotics, making treatment no longer effective. These mutated bacteria are known as “superbugs.” Tiny, star-shaped molecules are effective at killing bacteria that can no longer be killed by current antibiotics, new research shows. The research holds promise for a new treatment method against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs.

  • Vaccine against “flesh-eating” bacteria in sight

    Biochemists have uncovered patterns in the outer protein coat of group A Streptococcus that could finally lead to a vaccine against this highly infectious bacteria — responsible for more than 500,000 deaths a year, including toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis or “flesh-eating disease.”

  • Climate, air travel maps identify countries in Africa, Asia at greatest risk of Zika virus

    Many countries across Africa and Asia-Pacific may be vulnerable to Zika virus outbreaks, with India, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh expected to be at greatest risk of Zika virus transmission due to a combination of high travel volumes from Zika affected areas in the Americas, local presence of mosquitos capable of transmitting Zika virus, suitable climatic conditions, large populations, and limited health resources. The authors of a new study say that identifying where and when populations would be most susceptible to local transmission of Zika virus could help inform public health decisions about the use of finite resources.

  • Zika reference strain sequenced; will help in diagnosis, screening

    An international team of researchers has sequenced a strain of the Zika virus that will be used as a World Health Organization (WHO) reference strain to identify Zika virus infection in the blood, thus making it easier to diagnose the disease.

  • Water pollution across three continents poses health risks to hundreds of millions

    Water pollution has risen across three continents, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid. Pathogen and organic pollution rise in more than 50 percent of river stretches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Asia hit hardest by rise in severe pathogen pollution, with up to a half of all river stretches affected. Up to 323 million people on three continents at risk of infection from diseases caused by pathogens in water.

  • Florida teen only the 4th U.S. survivor of brain-eating amoeba claiming 97 percent mortality rate

    A 16-year-old South Florida boy has defied the odds by becoming only the fourth U.S. patient to survive an attack by brain-eating amoeba.Naegleria fowleri is a microscopic amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams. If the amoeba enters the body through the nose, it typically makes it way to the brain, causing an extremely rare and destructive infection of the brain. In the past fifty years, only four people in the United States have been reported to have survived out of the 138 cases reported, giving it almost a 97 percent mortality rate.

  • “Zombie drug” flakka causes “excited delirium,” but probably not cannibalism: Experts

    It was a gruesome sight: Florida police pulled a 19-year-old Florida State University student away from the bodies of his two victims, only to find that the one of them was severely bitten in the face. Police officers say the immediately knew who (or, rather, what) the culprit was: flakka, or bath salts, a powerful man-made drug. Experts say that “bath salts” drugs can cause “excited delirium,” but probably do not drive users to cannibalism.

  • Climate change to increase health risks from wildfires in U.S. West

    A surge in major wildfire events in the western United States as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades. The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than eighty-two million people will experience “smoke waves,” or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.

  • Six million Americans drink water with unsafe levels of toxic chemicals

    Levels of a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems exceed federally recommended safety levels in public drinking water supplies for six million people in the United States, according to a new study.

  • Brazil’s sewage woes reflect the growing global water quality crisis

    All eyes are turned toward Rio de Janeiro to watch top athletes compete, yet the headlines continue to highlight the problems with the water quality and the risks to the athletes who swim, row, and sail, and even to tourists simply visiting the beaches. But Brazil’s wastewater woes are hardly unique. The water quality of lakes, rivers, and coastal shorelines around the world is degrading at an alarming rate. In fact, pollution of the ten largest rivers on earth is so significant that it affects five billion people. While the spotlight is shining on the athletes over the next few weeks, let us also shine a spotlight on what we can do to improve and restore water quality around the world through our collective efforts, use of new tools, and risk frameworks, moving the political will one step closer toward sewage treatment and protection of the biohealth of the blue planet.

  • Researchers projecting epidemic’s spread say Zika cases are under-reported

    With the report from Florida governor Rick Scott on Monday that fourteen people in the state have been infected with the Zika virus most likely through mosquito transmission, the concern about outbreaks in the United States has intensified. A new study, along with interactive maps, provides current numbers as well projections for the number of Zika cases in the Americas through January 2017. It also provides projections for the number of microcephaly cases associated with the disease through October 2017, a date chosen to allow for the nine months of pregnancy.

  • In Zika, echoes of U.S. rubella outbreak of 1964-65

    Just over fifty years ago, a highly contagious but seemingly harmless virus swept through the United States, infecting as many as 12.5 million people. In both adults and children, the virus presented as a mild illness, but caused birth defects in some babies born to women who were infected while pregnant. Does this sound familiar? Though separated by time and place, there are surprising similarities in the social issues raised by the rubella outbreak of 1964-65 and the recent Zika outbreak in South America. Both viruses can cause birth defects, a fact that ties them to social issues surrounding pregnancy, women’s health, and the politics of abortion.