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Today's Headlines: February 9, 2018

Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

Polio This Week as of 07 February 2018 ( Polio Global Eradication Initiative) Summary of newly-reported viruses this week: Afghanistan: Two new cases of wild poliovirus type 1 have been confirmed in Kandahar province, following advance notification last week. One new WPV1 positive environmental sample collected from Kandahar province. Pakistan: Two new WPV1 positive environmental samples collected, from Islamabad and Punjab provinces. Democratic Republic of the Congo: One new case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 has been confirmed in Tanganyika province. See country-specific sections for further details. Go to article


Domestic Preparedness & Response

What Puerto Rico Is, and Isn't, Getting in Disaster Relief ( New York Times) Puerto Rican officials have for months denounced the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria, urging for more attention and action to help the island's hard-pressed storm survivors. This week, island leaders declared a rare victory when Senate leaders folded disaster relief funding into a two-year budget deal to avert a government shutdown. Go to article


Global Health Security

List of Blueprint Priority Diseases ( WHO R&D Blueprint) For the purposes of the R&D Blueprint, WHO has developed a special tool for determining which diseases and pathogens to prioritize for research and development in public health emergency contexts. This tool seeks to identify those diseases that pose a public health risk because of their epidemic potential and for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures. The diseases identified through this process are the focus of the work of R& D Blueprint. This is not an exhaustive list, nor does it indicate the most likely causes of the next epidemic. Go to article


Medicine & Public Health

Origin of a High-latitude Population of Aedes aegypti in Washington, DC ( American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) An overwintering population of Aedes aegypti has been documented in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC, since 2011. Mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) sequence data presented in a previous study traced the origin to the New World. Here, we use microsatellite and 14,071 single nucleotide polymorphisms along with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences on Washington Ae. aegypti samples and samples from potential sources to further narrow the origin of this population. Go to article

When Are Pathogen Genome Sequences Informative of Transmission Events? ( PLOS Pathogens) Recent years have seen the development of numerous methodologies for reconstructing transmission trees in infectious disease outbreaks from densely sampled whole genome sequence data. However, a fundamental and as of yet poorly addressed limitation of such approaches is the requirement for genetic diversity to arise on epidemiological timescales. Specifically, the position of infected individuals in a transmission tree can only be resolved by genetic data if mutations have accumulated between the sampled pathogen genomes. Go to article


Science & Technology

Phylodynamic Assessment of Intervention Strategies for the West African Ebola Virus Outbreak ( bioRxiv) The recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa witnessed considerable efforts to obtain viral genomic data as the epidemic was unfolding. If such data can be deployed in real-time, molecular epidemiological investigations could play a role in complementing contact tracing undertaken by public health agencies. Go to article

February 2018 Clive Brown Webcast Notes ( Omics! Omics!) A computational biologist's personal views on new technologies and publications on genomics and proteomics and their impact on drug discovery.
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Programming Gene and Engineered-cell Therapies with Synthetic Biology ( Science) Advances in synthetic biology are enabling the development of new gene and cell therapies. Kitada et al. review recent successes in areas such as cancer immunotherapy and stem cell therapy, point out the limitations of current approaches, and describe prospects for using synthetic biology to overcome these challenges. Broader adoption of these therapies requires precise, context-specific control over cellular behavior. Gene circuits can be built to give sophisticated control over cellular behaviors so that therapeutic functions can, for example, be programmed to activate in response to disease biomarkers. Go to article

Virologists--Heroes Need Weapons ( PLOS Pathogens) Virologists. You might know a couple of them, but unless you are a virologist yourself, the probability that you have collaborated with one in the past is low. The community is relatively small, but they pack a heavy punch and are expected to play a leading role in the research into pathogens that lies ahead. Go to article

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