• Warning: Prospecting for Unknown Viruses Risks a Deadly Outbreak

    The coronavirus pandemic which swept the globe offered a scary case study in how a single virus of uncertain origin can spread exponentially. The pandemic has also challenged conventional thinking about biosafety and risks, casting a critical light on widely accepted practices such as prospecting for unknown viruses.

  • Fighting Biological Threats

    Modeling the emergence and spread of biological threats isn’t as routine as forecasting the weather, but scientists in two of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories were awarded funding to try to make it so. The scientists will work together to advance computational tools and solutions for known and unknown diseases.

  • New Statistical Model Accurately Predicts Monthly U.S. Gun Homicides

    The United States experiences a staggeringly high rate of gun homicides, but accurately predicting these incidents – especially on a monthly basis – has been a significant challenge. A new methodology, overcoming limitations of official government data, could change that.

  • COVID Omicron Variant Infection Deadlier Than Flu: Studies

    Two new studies suggest that COVID-19 Omicron variant infection is deadlier than influenza, with one finding that US veterans hospitalized with Omicron in fall and winter 2022-23 died at a 61% higher rate than hospitalized flu patients.

  • How Russia Turned America’s Helping Hand to Ukraine into a Vast Lie

    Russia’s sustained disinformation campaign about a fictional U.S. bioweapons program in Ukraine is an example of how, “In a world that connects billions of people at a flash, the truth may have only a fighting chance against organized lying,” the Washington Post writes. “Disinformation is not just “fake news” or propaganda but an insidious contamination of the world’s conversations. And it is exploding.”

  • The Origin of SARS-CoV-2: Animal Transmission or Lab Leak?

    The origin of the virus that causes COVID-19, which spread from China to the rest of the world and has killed millions of people, is a scientific mystery, the answer to which has strong political implications. Gigi Kwik Gronvall writes that “by comparison to past deadly epidemics, what we know about the early days of SARS-CoV-2 is less obscure. Though the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is now the focus of hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and headlines focused on whether the virus emerged from nature or a laboratory, the most likely origin of SARS-CoV-2 is animal-to-human transmission, like most emerging diseases.”

  • What Makes a Global Killer

    Larry Brilliant, doctor who helped vanquish smallpox, assesses COVID response and warns of rising threats, including lack of trust. “The first lesson is that we live in a cause-and-effect world. Truth matters and communicating that truth in as transparent and honest a way as you possibly can matters” Brilliant says.

  • mRNA Vaccine Beats Infection for Key Defense against COVID-19: Stanford Scientists

    The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine directed at COVID-19 is much better than natural infection at revving up key immune cells called killer T cells to fight future infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • Guns Now Kill More Children and Young Adults Than Car Crashes

    For the past few decades, motor vehicle crashes were the most common cause of death from injury— and the leading cause of death in general—among children, teenagers, and young adults in the U.S. But now, firearms exceed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury-related death for people ages one to 24.

  • A Spill Outside Philadelphia Adds to the Growing List of Chemical Accidents This Year

    There have already been 50 chemical spills or fires in the U.S. this year, and it’s only March.

  • COVID-19 Origins: New Evidence, and More Politics

    Last week, researchers released a report linking SARS-CoV-2 to six near-complete samples of raccoon-dog mitochondrial DNA sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The report says that “These results provide potential leads to identifying intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV-2 and potential sources of human infections in the market.”

  • It’s Time to Talk about Food and Agriculture Security

    When large scale threats affect food and agriculture supplies, they become matters of national security. Many different threats to our food and agriculture sector exist, and any disruption to the supply chain can cause shortages at your local grocery store and limit the availability of food.

  • Report Describes SARS-CoV-2 Market Sequences, Biden Signs COVID Intel Declassification Bill

    In two major developments regarding investigations into the source of SARS-CoV-2, an international research group that examined genetic sequences from the animal market detailed their findings in a new report, and President Joe Biden signed a bill to declassify US intelligence on virus origins.

  • A Major Clue to COVID’s Origins Is Just Out of Reach

    Last week, the ongoing debate about COVID-19’s origins had yet another plot twist added to it. A French evolutionary biologist stumbled across a trove of genetic sequences extracted from swabs collected from surfaces at a wet market in Wuhan, China, shortly after the pandemic began. Katherine J. Wu writes that the sequences bolster the case for the pandemic having purely natural roots. “But what might otherwise have been a straightforward story on new evidence has rapidly morphed into a mystery centered on the origins debate’s data gaps.” Wu says that public access to the sequences was locked, and, as a result, a key set of data which could have shored up the case for a purely animal origin became unavailable to scientists.

  • Predicting Threats to Food Security

    Pests and diseases remain one of the biggest threats to food production, increasingly destabilizing food security and livelihoods across climate-vulnerable regions around the world,” says one expert. Mathematical modelling can prevent crop devastation and preserve livelihoods.