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A delegation of staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security is attending the 2017 Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, from Dec. 4-8, alongside representatives from 179 nations that have signed and ratified the treaty.  Read now
Today's Headlines: December 5, 2017

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

Madagascar Plague Outbreak: External Situation Report #14--4 December 2017 ( Relief Web) Due to concerted national and international response the current and unprecedented outbreak of plague in Madagascar, which started on 1 August 2017, has been contained. Go to article

Why a Brazilian State Went from 0 Cases of Dengue to 35,000 A Year ( goats and soda) For a long time, the residents of Acre State in Brazil were lucky. They lived in the right climate for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue fever. But that mosquito was nowhere to be found, and there were no recorded cases of dengue in the state.  Go to article

Thirty-Six People Die in Food Related Disease Outbreak in South Africa ( New York Times) Thirty-six people have died in South Africa from an outbreak of the food-borne disease listeriosis, the country's Department of Health said on Tuesday. By the end of last month, 557 cases had been confirmed, compared with about 80 cases annually in past years, the department said. It could not estimate how many deaths had usually occurred in the past. Go to article


Global Health & Security

WHO Guidance for Surveillance During an Influenza Pandemic ( WHO) This guidance is an update to an earlier document "Global surveillance during an influenza pandemic", published in April 2009. It takes the lesions learned from the 2009 influenza pandemic into consideration and focuses on the key surveillance components needed during an influenza pandemic. Go to article

Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS Moves Toward Feasible Targets, UNAIDS Finds ( devex) Without a vaccine or a cure for HIV/AIDS, it could prove difficult to end the epidemic by 2030, according to Simon Bland, the director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS New York office. Go to article

'Opiophobia' Has Left Africa in Agony ( New York Times) Uganda has a strategy for giving scarce morphine to patients in pain. But many poor nations won't emulate it, over fear of an opioid epidemic. Go to article


Government Affairs & National Security

Return to Geneva: The Opening of the 2017 Meeting of States Parties ( BWPP) The 2017 Meeting of States Parties of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC/BTWC) opened on Monday morning with Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India in the Chair. As the Eighth Review Conference had concluded on 25 November 2016, this was the longest gap between formal BWC meetings since the Third Review Conference in 1991. Go to article

House Dems Introduce Bill to Provide $45B for Opioid Epidemic ( The Hill) Four House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday to provide $45 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid epidemic. In late October, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency--a move that didn't free up millions of dollars to fight the increasing rate of opioid overdose deaths. Go to article

A Food Fight Has Broken Out Between the USDA and FDA ( Five Thirty Eight) The USDA and the FDA are in a rare public dust-up concerning oversight of an obscure group that helps determine international food standards. The FDA and former USDA officials have expressed concern that the move will put business interests ahead of food safety and could hurt the US's ability to exert influence abroad. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

We Might Absorb Billions of Viruses Every Day ( The Atlantic) The viruses, Jeremy Barr realized, were in the wrong place. Barr and his colleagues at San Diego State University had grown a layer of gut cells in a dish, much like those that line the surface of our own twisting intestines. The cells formed such tight connections with each other that bacteria couldn't sneak past them. Even a dye couldn't get through. The layer was meant to be impermeable, until the team infused the water on one side of it with viruses called phages. Go to article

Army-Developed Zika Vaccine Induces Strong Immune Responses in Three Phase 1 Studies ( EurekAlert) Three Phase 1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published today in The Lancet. Go to article

See also: Preliminary Aggregate Safety and Immunogenicity Results from Three Trials of a Purified Inactivated Zika Virus Vaccine Candidate: Phase 1, Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials ( The Lancet) A safe, effective, and rapidly scalable vaccine against Zika virus infection is needed. We developed a purified formalin-inactivated Zika virus vaccine candidate that showed protection in mice and non-human primates against viraemia after Zika virus challenge. Here we present the preliminary results in human beings. Go to article

Gene-Based Zika Vaccine is Safe and Immunogenic in Healthy Adults ( NIH) Results from two Phase 1 clinical trials show an experimental Zika vaccine developed by government scientists at the NIAID, part of NIH, is safe and induces an immune response in healthy adults. The findings will be published on Dec. 4 in The Lancet. Go to article

See also: Safety, Tolerability, Immunogenicity of Two Zika Virus DNA Vaccine Candidates in Healthy Adults: Randomised, Open-Label, Phase 1 Clinical Trials ( The Lancet) The Zika virus epidemic and associated congenital infections have prompted rapid vaccine development. We assessed 2 new DNA vaccines expressing premembrane and envelope Zika virus structural proteins. Go to article


Science & Technology

US Military Agency Invests $100m in Genetic Extinction Technologies ( The Guardian) Technology could be used to wipe out malaria carrying mosquitos or other pests but UN experts say fears over possible military uses and unintended consequences strengthen case for a ban. Go to article

Everything You Need to Know About CRISPR Gene Editing ( Wired) In the last 5 years, biology has undergone a seismic shift as researchers around the globe have embraced a revolutionary technology called gene editing. It involves the precise cutting and pasting of DNA by specialized proteins--inspired by nature, engineered by researchers. Go to article
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