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Today's Headlines: April 16, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases 

Prion Disease in Dromedary Camels, Algeria ( Emerging Infectious Diseases) Prions cause fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in small ruminants, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy. After the BSE epidemic, and the associated human infections, began in 1996 in the UK, general concerns have been raised about animal prions. We detected a prion disease in dromedary camels ( Camelus dromedarius) in Algeria. Go to article

In Encouraging Sign, Ebola Vaccine Appears to Provide Long-lasting Protection ( STAT) An international consortium of researchers has reported that an Ebola vaccine appears to provide volunteers protection against the virus two years after they were injected - encouraging findings both for the public health community and the vaccine's manufacturer. Go to article

Chopped Romaine Tied to Growing Multistate E coli Outbreak ( CIDRAP) The source of a multistate Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak announced 3 days ago appears to be chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Az., growing region, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today. Go to article

'We're Out of Options': Doctors Battle Drug-resistant Typhoid Outbreak ( New York Times) The first known epidemic of extensively drug-resistant typhoid is spreading through Pakistan, infecting at least 850 people in 14 districts since 2016, according to the National Institute of Health Islamabad. Go to article

Rare Human Outbreak of Monkey Malaria Detected in Malaysia ( Nature) Several people in Malaysia have become infected with a species of monkey malaria parasite that, until recently, had been recorded in just one person outside of the lab. Although only a few cases have been detected, researchers are worried that the ongoing destruction of monkeys' forest habitat is increasing the amount of contact between people and primates, providing more opportunities for infections to jump to people. Go to article


Global Health Security

Despite High Hopes for Polio Eradication, Discouraging News Is Piling up ( STAT) very year for the past few years, supporters of the global effort to wipe out polio have made an optimistic declaration: This could be the year that polio ends. And this year, the 30th anniversary of the launch of the ambitious program, was no exception. But just three months into 2018, the projection is less rosy. Go to article

Will the Next Superbug Come from Yemen? ( New York Times) It was two days after the young Yemeni man was released from surgery that the doctors first noticed the smell. The bullet that wounded the leg of the 22-year-old college student had shattered bone and torn a hole in the soft tissue. Now, the wound was emitting a distinct smell, described in the medical literature as "offensive." It strongly suggested infection, perhaps life-threatening, and the wound was not getting better. Go to article

The Impact of a Fogarty International Center-Supported Tuberculosis Research Training Program in the Country of Georgia ( American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) In 2004, there existed limited tuberculosis research capacity in the country of Georgia. In response, a collaborative research training program supported by a National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center Global Infectious Diseases grant was formed between a US academic institution and the National Center for Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and other institutions in Georgia. We sought to assess outcomes of this RTP. Go to article


Government Affairs

USAID, State, and DOD to Release First-ever Stabilization Assistance Review ( devex) The Trump administration is releasing the first of its kind interagency review of US overseas involvement that creates a framework for how the State Department, US Agency for International Development, and Department of Defense can coordinate efforts to streamline diplomacy, aid, and military operations around the world and maximize resources and results. Go to article

HUD Sending Another $791 Million to State for Irma, Matthew Recovery ( Emergency Management) The US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week it will send another $791 million in disaster recovery funds Florida's way through its Community Development Block Grant program to help homes and buildings damaged by hurricanes Irma and Matthew. Go to article

Weapons Inspectors Say They Have Been Denied Access to the Site of a Suspected Syrian Chemical Attack ( Buzz Feed) The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' fact-finding mission has not yet been allowed access to the site in Douma, where it's claimed up to 75 people were killed in an alleged chemical weapons attack, according to its director-general. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

The Strike: Chemicals, Cancer, and the Fight for Health Care ( Longreads) Workers at Momentive Performance Materials had given their lives to the chemical plant. The strike was supposed to save what little they had left. Go to article

mHealth and the Legacy of John Snow ( Lancet) On Jan 14, 2018, during a tense final touchdown in a US National Football League playoff game, numerous Apple Watch users received an alert from their device telling them that they were having potentially harmful arrhythmias. Smartphones and wearable technology are increasingly used as public health tools because billions of people worldwide are digital users. Go to article

Ziad Memish: Two MERS-CoV Hospital Super Spreading Studies ( Avian Flu Diary) The most prolific author of studies on MERS-CoV is undoubtedly Dr. Ziad Memish; former (until 2014) Deputy Minister of Health for Saudi Arabia (see An Unexpected Announcement From The Saudi MOH). Go to article

Unintended Consequences and the Paradox of Control: Management of Emerging Pathogens with Age-specific Virulence ( PLOS: Neglected Tropical Diseases) We project forward total Zika virus disease under varying hazards of infection and consider how the age distribution of disease burden varies between these scenarios. Pathogens with age structured disease outcomes, such as rubella and Zika virus, require that management decisions consider their impact not only on total disease incidence but also on distribution of disease burden within a population. Go to article

Puerto Rico's Slow-going Recovery Means New Hardship for Dialysis Patients ( Kaiser Health News) Hurricane Maria totaled Vieques' hospital, which housed the island's only dialysis clinic. That set off an ongoing crisis for patients with kidney failure such as Garcia - who cannot survive without dialysis and for whom the thrice-weekly round trip to a dialysis center in Humacao on Puerto Rico's main island, including treatment, takes at least 12 hours. Go to article


Science & Technology

China Will Always Be Bad at Bioethics ( Foreign Policy) This April, potential sperm donors at one of Beijing's top hospitals found themselves facing a set of tough new standards. Listed as the first criteria, before any mention of infectious or hereditary diseases, was the requirement that potential donors have "a love for socialism and the motherland" and be "supportive of the leadership of the party." Go to article

We've Found the Cells Norovirus Targets - We Just Don't Know What They Do ( ars Technica) Norovirus inflames the stomach and/or intestines and causes pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is super contagious and kills tens of thousands of people each year. But until now, we did not even know which cells it targets to create all this havoc. A recent study by a public-private consortium working in universities and Genetech has just discovered the elusive cell type (in mice): they're called tuft cells, and they reside in the ilium and colon. Go to article

Personal Genomics and Cryptocurrency Team up ( JAMA) The newest entry into the field of personal genomics will let consumers sell access to their genomes for tokens that can be exchanged for other cryptocurrencies. The founders of Nebula Genomics--including sequencing pioneer George Church, PhD--announced the new genetic data sharing and analysis platform in a white paper in February. Go to article

How Do We Control Dangerous Biological Research? ( Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) No military wishes for an enemy with capabilities that match its own. Indeed, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has said he does not want American service members to ever have to face a fair fight. But how do you stay ahead of an adversary? The US tries to remain "overmatched" against any enemy by investing heavily in technological innovation, and today, a considerable part of that investment goes into the biological sciences. Go to article

Miniature Human Brains Grow for Months When Implanted in Mice Skulls ( STAT) The mice behaved just like others of their kind, as far as scientists could tell, and they also looked the same - except for the human mini brain that had been implanted into each rodent's own cortex, made visible by a little clear cover replacing part of their skull. Go to article


Other 21st Century Threats

A Hard Lesson in Syria: Assad Can Still Gas His Own People ( New York Times) A year ago, after President Trump rejected the Obama-era approach as naïve, he bombed an airfield where a new chemical attack by the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, had originated. Mr. Trump's newly appointed national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, predicted "a big shift on Assad's calculus," because it was "the first time the US has taken direct military action." Go to article


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