• Secrets of plague unlocked with stunning new imaging techniques

    Sandia Labs researchers have developed a super-resolution microscopy technique that is answering long-held questions about exactly how and why a cell’s defenses fail against some invaders, such as plague, while successfully fending off others like E.coli

  • New insect repellant may be thousands of times stronger than DEET

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been supporting a major interdisciplinary research project to develop new ways to control the spread of malaria by disrupting a mosquito’s sense of smell; as part of the project, Vanderbilt University researchers developed an insect repellant which is not only thousands of times more effective than DEET — the active ingredient in most commercial mosquito repellants — but also works against all types of insects, including flies, moths, and ants

  • California schools struggle to vaccinate millions against whooping cough

    After experiencing its worst whooping cough outbreak in more than six decades, California is taking extra precautions to ensure that children are vaccinated against the preventable disease; California lawmakers mandated that all children entering the seventh grade and up must have a whooping cough booster vaccine; but parents and school districts are still scrambling to get children vaccinated before the Fall when students will be prohibited from entering a classroom without it; nearly three million students must be vaccinated making it a logistical nightmare for schools to process paperwork; in 2010, there were than 7,800 cases of whooping cough and the disease claimed the lives of ten children

  • Promising anthrax treatment study results

    Researchers find that a multi-agent prophylaxis which is initiated within twenty-four hours after the infection, prevented the development of fatal anthrax respiratory disease; treatment which combines antibiotics with immunization and a protective antigen-based vaccine offered long-term immunity against the disease

  • Information about Maryland biolabs scarce

    High-level containment laboratories and storage facilities that handle dangerous biological agents exist in Frederick County, Maryland, outside the secured gates of Fort Detrick, but state law mandates that the number and location of each remains confidential; supporters of the current system say that confidentiality is critical to maintain the security and safety of the labs, but critics argue that the secrecy makes it impossible for emergency services in the neighborhood to prepare properly for accidents

  • Supreme Court ruling renders vaccine manufacturers immune to lawsuits

    The Supreme Court ruled in favor of vaccine manufacturers declaring that they could not be sued in state court for damages as a result of design-defects in their products; the court found six to two that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act protects vaccine manufacturers from design-defect claims; the law was passed in response to a massive increase in litigation against vaccine manufacturers that led to a shortage of vaccines; Justice Sotomayor and Ginsberg dissented; the two argued that the decision leaves a regulatory void and insufficient oversight over vaccine manufacturers; proponents say that this helps stabilize the vaccine market and protects children

  • BARDA awards Novavax $179 million contract

    Maryland-based Novavax, a biopharmaceutical company that produces Virus-Like Particle (VLP)-based recombinant vaccines, has been awarded a $179 million contract by Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to continue developing its new vaccines for seasonal and pandemic flu

  • Vaxinnate secures BARDA contract

    New Jersey-based Vaxinnate Corp. said it has secured a contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the research and development authority part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for up to $196.6 million to help develop its seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines

  • Universal flu vaccine within sight

    People need to be vaccinated against flu every year because the flu virus is a scam artist: it uses a big, showy surface protein — and there are sixteen different varieties of this protein, called Hemagglutinin (HA) — to attract your immune system, then changes it so your immune system would not recognize it next time round; vaccines must thus change yearly to match it; scientists discover HA’s Achilles Heel: a vital part of the HA’s viral machinery does not vary much over time or between viruses, meaning that a vaccine based on the this part would be a universal flu vaccine

  • T cells offer new promise for vaccines for plague and bacterial pneumonias

    There is currently no licensed plague vaccine in the United States, which is too bad because Yersinia pestis is arguably the most deadly bacteria known to man; most of the plague vaccine candidates that have been studied aim to stimulate B cells to produce plague-fighting antibodies, but animal studies suggest that antibodies may not be enough to protect humans from pneumonic plague; new studies show that T cells can also fight plague — and may be better candidates with which to develop a plague vaccine

  • Dr. Kavita Berger, biosecurity expert

    Project BioShield, launched in 2004 with a $5 billion funding from Congress, aims to encourage the development of vaccines against bioterror agents; the project has divided the scientific community with regard to the direction of R&D effort funded by the project; some scientists in the field argue that the development and stock-piling of vaccines for known diseases, such as polio, plague, botulism, and anthrax, is a waste of funding — funding which could, and should, be used to develop a universal vaccine which would counteract not only known bioterror agents, but yet-unknown agents, also called “designer pathogens”

  • Randall Larsen, executive director of the WMD Commission

    Critics point out that Project BioShield, created in 2003 to address the lack of medical countermeasures to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear terrorism agents, is yet to deliver a single vaccine to any of the known bioterror agent; they also point out to the cancellation of a $877.5 million contract with an inexperienced San Francisco company to develop an anthrax vaccine as emblematic of the program; Randall Larsen, executive director of the WMD Commission, argues that “There are always going to be problems when you’re making a new stealth bomber, nuclear powered submarine, or pharmaceutical for biodefense—- “; he also points out that the EPA R&D budget is about half the budget of the Marine Corp. marching band

  • California mandates vaccinations after worst Whooping Cough epidemic in 60 years

    In 2010 California experienced the worst epidemic of whooping cough since 1947; the disease killed ten and infected more than 7,800 people; to avoid another outbreak a new California law requires children in seventh to twelfth grades to be vaccinated against Whooping Cough; the outbreak may have been the result of decreases in vaccinations among children

  • Mosquito-repelling light barriers will reduce spread of malaria

    Malaria accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths in Africa; a Columbia University experimental physicist is developing a “light shield” consisting of light barriers that can repel mosquitoes by throwing off the insects’ ability to navigate and detect humans via light and heat

  • GAO: HHS does not have plan for IT pandemic surveillance

    The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department has not developed a strategic plan for a national electronic network for public health situational awareness four years after being told to do so by Congress, according to the GAO