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Biosecurity Stakeholders Offer Recommendations for National Biodefense Strategy


More than 50 public and private sector biosecurity stakeholders gathered at a meeting convened by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security on June 22 in Washington, DC, to engage in a discussion about US biodefense capabilities and offer recommendations for the forthcoming National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan. Read now

Today's Headlines: July 14, 2017
Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases
Diarrhoea, Vomiting, Sudden Death...Cholera's Nasty Comeback ( The Guardian) Mohammad Shubo is motionless when he is wheeled into the clinic. He had started experiencing diarrhoea and vomiting that morning; by evening, he had no pulse. For those who have been fortunate enough not to see the effects of cholera first hand, David Sack, a professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, says Shubo's case, which appears on a 2011 Al Jazeera documentary, gives "a good sense of the disease". Go to article

Could a Tuberculosis Outbreak Happen Here? ( Slate) We like to think that tuberculosis is a public health issue exclusive to the developing world, but the disease has begun to resurface as a major concern in certain parts of the US, too. Last year, for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, the number of TB cases in the US actually increased. Go to article

An Outbreak of Ebola in the DRC Has Been Contained. What Went Right This Time? ( The Conversation) The WHO recently declared the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most recent outbreak was controlled more efficiently than the 2014 outbreak and sets an example for other countries. A combination of factors meant that it was possible to stop the disease from spreading. These included a prompt response, immediate diagnosis and treatment, a coordinated approach and the involvement of the community in identifying the case and minimising the spread of the outbreak. Go to article

Outbreak ( Science) Outbreaks of infectious diseases regularly shock human societies. Outbreaks may be unpredictable, but future events are inevitable. During an outbreak, the exigencies of current circumstances tend to be overwhelming, and all we can do is respond. Collectively, the international community fails to coordinate and plan interventions preemptively between crises. Why can't we predict outbreaks or mount faster and more effective responses? Go to article

Global Health & Security

WHO Warns of Cholera Risk at Annual Haj, Praises Saudi Preparedness ( Reuters UK) A cholera epidemic in Yemen, which has infected more than 332,000 people, could spread during the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in September, although Saudi authorities are well prepared, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Go to article

Protecting the United States from the Health Security Risk of Global Tuberculosis ( CSIS) Tuberculosis, an airborne infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is the number one infectious disease killer in the world and among the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Moreover, numbers of drug-resistant forms of TB, currently 5 percent of global TB cases, are rapidly rising, posing a health security threat to the US and the world. Go to article

UK Orders New Inquiry into Contaminated-blood Scandal ( New York Times) Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into how contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the deaths of at least 2,400 people and infected thousands more, an episode that members of Parliament have called "one of the worst peacetime disasters in Britain's history." Go to article

What Does Warming Planet Mean for Mosquito-bourne Diseases? ( Global Biodefense) As temperatures rise with climate change, mosquito season extends past the summer months in many parts of the world. The question has been how this lengthened season influences the risk of being infected with mosquito-born diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Go to article

Government Affairs & National Security

House Funding Bill for DHS Follows Trump Plan to Cut Research and Science Offices ( Cyber Scoop) The Homeland Security spending bill advancing in the House of Representatives follows the Trump administration's budget request in proposing severe cuts on the department's Science and Technology Directorate- slashing the research programs and technology development facilities that it runs, including its national laboratories. Go to article

National Security Implications of Climate Change ( Council on Foreign Relations) The US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hosted a series of roundtables tackling issues on climate change. On July 12, 2017 in Washington, DC, Ambassador John Campbell participated in the "Science and Policy Perspectives: National Security Implications of Climate Change" roundtable, where he discussed climate change and its effect on Nigeria, a close strategic partner. Go to article

Reps. Walden, Murphy Push for Stronger Reporting, Investigation Practices for Pathogen Incidents ( Homeland Preparedness News) US Reps. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Greg Walden (R-OR) recently sent a public letter to the National Institutes of Health, regarding the Blue Ribbon Panel's review of the 2014 smallpox virus incident on the NIH campus that called into question a number of missed opportunities to discover vials of the virus. Go to article

Medicine & Public Health

Social Justice Should Be a Key Part of Educating Health Professionals (STAT) Here's a sad fact about the US, the country with the highest per-capita spending on health care in the world: Wealthy people are significantly healthier than poor people. That gap exists in part because the rich can afford better health care than the poor. But there's much more to it than that. Go to article

Verily's Mosquito Factory Accelerates the Fight Against Zika ( Wired) Early this morning, a white Mercedes Sprinter van began a delivery route along the streets of Fancher Creek, a residential neighborhood on the southeastern edge of Fresno, California. Its cargo? 100,000 live mosquitoes, all male, all incapable of producing offspring. As it crisscrossed Fancher Creek's 200 acres, it released its payload, piping out swarms of sterile Aedes aegypti into the air. It'll do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, from now until the end of December. Go to article

Experimental Vaccines Might Shield Fetus from Zika ( US News and World Report) Two experimental vaccines might help protect human fetuses against the Zika virus, a new mouse study suggests. Researchers found female mice that were vaccinated before they got pregnant had babies with no sign of Zika infection. Go to article

Science & Technology

Forget the Science. These Investors Think They Can Pick Biotech Winners by Algorithm ( STAT) Investing in biotech startups is a laborious business. Venture capitalists spend months poring over data before deciding whether to back a fledgling company. They'll scour the scientific literature for signs that the core ideas are valid. They'll call in the founding team for interminable grillings. They may even hire outside researchers to try to replicate key experiments. Go to article

Jennifer Doudna: 'I Have to Be True to Who I Am as a Scientist' ( The Guardian) Jennifer Doudna, 53, is an American biochemist based at the University of California, Berkeley. Together with the French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, she led the discovery of the revolutionary gene-editing tool, Crispr. The technology has the potential to eradicate previously incurable diseases, but also poses ethical questions about the possible unintended consequences of overwriting the human genome. Go to article

One Man's Plan to Make Sure Gene Editing Doesn't Go Haywire ( The Atlantic) Kevin Esvelt argues that the tremendous power of CRISPR can only be contained if scientists are open about their research. Go to article

21st Century Threats

Era of 'Biological Annihilation' Is Underway, Scientists Warn ( New York Times) From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds. Go to article

We Must Do More to Protect Our Farms from Terror Threats ( Des Moines Register) Then-President Bill Clinton issued a presidential directive in May 1998 calling on most of the federal agencies to develop plans for protecting from attack the country's "critical infrastructures...essential to the minimum operations of the economy and government." Inexplicably, the US Department of Agriculture wasn't on the distribution list. Go to article

When Rising Seas Hit Home--Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal Communities ( Union of Concerned Scientists) We can imagine hurricanes and neighborhoods underwater, as after levees failed in New Orleans, Louisiana, during Hurricane Katrina. But many important consequences of climate change are more subtle and slower moving than disasters. One such consequence is sea level rise. Unlike the catastrophic flooding that can accompany hurricanes, sea level rise impacts can take time to manifest. Go to article

Clinicians' Biosecurity News, July 14, 2017
CCHF in Spain: Geographic Dynamics, Nosocomial Spread. Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a select agent, is a tickborne viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) that is widespread over many parts of the world. In Europe, the virus has generally been believed to be restricted to the southeastern parts of the continent. A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine proves that this geographic restriction no longer holds, as 2 autochthonous cases were identified in Spain..  Read Now

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