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In February 2017, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security hosted a Track II dialogue on biosecurity between experts in India and the US in New Delhi, India. There are multiple goals for the dialogue: to expand knowledge and understanding between India and the US about biological threats; increase awareness and probability of exchanges for early warning and detection of unusual biological events; deepen relationships between participants to serve as technical resources to each other going forward; and to identify issues that may warrant official government-to-government priority. Read now

Today's Headlines: May 19, 2017
Biological Agents & Infectious Diseases

A Single Mutation May Explain Why Zika Exploded in the Americas ( ars Technica) A single mutation may explain why Zika suddenly erupted from obscurity to become the alarming re-emerging infectious disease it is today, researchers report in Nature. According to researchers from Texas and China, the mutation boosts Zika's ability to hop into feasting mosquitoes that can then shuttle the virus to more victims. Based on archived viral strains, the mutation popped up sometime between the virus' low-profile outbreaks in Southeastern Asia (which took place in 2007 and 2012) and Zika's explosive emergence in the Americas beginning in 2015. Go to article

Mosquitoes That Spread Zika Virus Could Simultaneously Transmit Other Viruses ( Eurek Alert!) A new study led by Colorado State University researchers found that Aedes aegypti, the primary mosquito that carries Zika virus, might also transmit chikungunya and dengue viruses with one bite. The findings shed new light on what's known as a coinfection, which scientists said is not yet fully understood and may be fairly common in areas experiencing outbreaks. Go to article

"Crypto" Outbreaks in Swimming Pools on the Rise ( CBS News) With summer quickly approaching, there's some nasty news to consider before heading to the pool. Outbreaks of a parasitic infection tied to swimming pools and water parks are on the rise, with twice as many outbreaks in 2016 as in 2014, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Go to article

WHO: Speed of Yemen Cholera Outbreak 'Unprecedented' ( Al Jazeera) Nearly 23,500 suspected cases of cholera have been registered in war-ravaged Yemen in the past three weeks, the World Health Organization said, as the death toll of the outbreak climbed to at least 242. Go to article

Global Health & Security

As Hopes for Polio Eradication Rise, the Endgame Gets Complicated, and a Vaccine Runs Short ( STAT) he world appears to be on the verge of finally putting an end to polio. But the endgame could get complicated. For more than a year there has been a severe shortage of the injectable polio vaccine known as IPV. Go to article

Clock Is Ticking for WHO Decision over Taiwan ( Nature) A showdown is looming at next week's annual meeting of the WHO in Switzerland. For almost a decade, Taiwan--despite not being a member of the UN--has been permitted to attend WHO events as an observer. But, so far, its invitation for this year's event in Geneva has not arrived. Go to article

The Global Health Law Trilogy: Towards a Safer, Healthier, and Fairer World ( Lancet) Global health advocates often turn to medicine and science for solutions to enduring health risks, but law is also a powerful tool. No state acting alone can ward off health threats that span borders, requiring international solutions. Go to article

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be Deployed Within a Week ( CIDRAP) In a telebriefing today on the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola outbreak, WHO officials said while the country has yet to make a formal request for the Ebola vaccine, such a requisition could be fulfilled within 1 week. Go to article

Government Affairs & National Security

Public to EPA on Cutting Regulations: 'No!' ( NPR) As part of President Trump's executive order to review "job-killing regulations," the Environmental Protection Agency last month asked for the public's input on what to streamline or cut. It held a series of open-mic meetings, and set up a website that has now received more than 28,000 comments, many of which urge the agency not to roll back environmental protections. Go to article

US, Jordan Work to Prevent Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation ( US Department of Defense) Fancy bikes. Professional golf clubs. Fertilizer. On the surface, these items seem relatively harmless. However, they all contain "dual-use material" such as carbon fiber or explosive chemicals that can be used to build weapons of mass destruction. While the manufacturers of these items have no intention of building WMD or missiles, it is incumbent upon all nations to have processes and procedures in place that allow them to ensure that nefarious actors cannot acquire or use dual-use materials for dangerous purposes. Go to article

Why You Should Care About the Formation of the Nuclear Crisis Group ( Teen Vogue) On Friday, an elite group of the world's nuclear experts and advisers launched a Nuclear Crisis Group, to help manage the growing risk of nuclear conflict. The group includes leading diplomats with decades of experience, and retired military officers who were once responsible for launching nuclear weapons if given the order to do so. China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the US, all countries that have nuclear weapons, are represented. The group intends to create a "shadow security council," or an expert group capable of providing advice to world leaders on nuclear matters. Go to article

Pott County--Vanier: NBAF on Schedule, Within Budget ( The Mercury) The National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility is on schedule and within budget, Marty Vanier told Pottawatomie County commissioners Monday. Vanier, director of partnership development for the $1.25 billion facility, gave the commission an update of NBAF's progress. Go to article

Biodefense: Coordinating Our Response to Deadly Disease ( Lawfare) Although every US president since Bill Clinton has developed policies to tackle the threat posed by deadly pathogens, at their core those biodefense efforts have left the nation dangerously vulnerable. Go to article

Medicine & Public Health

How Kids Would Fare Under the American Health Care Act ( Atlantic) Since the American Health Care Act's passage in the House, the future of US health policy now rests in the hands of the Senate. What happens next is unclear: The Senate's version of the legislation could move to the left or right, or the chamber could draft an entirely new bill as a starting place. Go to article

How Plagues Help Scientists Puzzle Out the Past ( Popular Science) Like many bioarchaeologists, I have a fondness for plagues. They upend the natural order of things, cutting across the normal risk factors for ending up in archaeological samples and giving a snapshot, captured in death, of not just the old and the infirm but also a sample of the whole (unlucky) population. The tragedy of mass causalities exposes lives that would, statistically, rarely be unearthed, including the adolescents and adults who form the bulk of a living population, so rarely represented in a cemetery. Go to article

In Minnesota, a Measles Outbreak Exposes the Gaps in Public Health ( PRI) The Riverside Plaza high-rise apartments, the iconic symbol of the Somali community in Minneapolis, are a short walk from the People's Center Health Services, where most of the patients are of Somali descent. A parent with sick children, or an elder who needs diabetes care, does not have to travel far to see a doctor. Generally speaking, Somalis in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are not facing a lack of access to health care providers. At least, not in terms of distance. At a community meeting on Wednesday night in the neighborhood, the actual issues of access to health care were on display. Go to article

New Drug Industry Alliance Will Tackle Antibiotic Resistance ( devex) Industry leaders from the drug industry have come together to tackle the growing threat of drug-resistant infection, which experts warn could cause the deaths of 10 million people each year by 2050. Go to article

Science & Technology

Antibodies from Ebola Survivor Protect Mice and Ferrets Against Related Viruses ( National Institutes of Health) The fight to contain the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was hampered by the lack of an effective treatment or vaccine. Researchers funded in part by the NIAID, part of the NIH, have studied the blood of an Ebola survivor, searching for human antibodies that might effectively treat not only people infected with Ebola virus, but those infected with related viruses as well. Now the researchers have identified two such antibodies that hold promise as Ebola treatments. Go to article

See Also: Antibodies from a Human Survivor Define Sites of Vulnerability for Broad Protection Against Ebolaviruses ( Cell) Experimental monoclonal antibody therapies have shown promise for treatment of lethal Ebola virus infections, but their species-specific recognition of the viral glycoprotein has limited their use against other divergent ebolaviruses associated with human disease. Here, we mined the human immune response to natural EBOV infection and identified mAbs with exceptionally potent pan-ebolavirus neutralizing activity and protective efficacy against three virulent ebolaviruses. Go to article

21st Century Threats

Looming Floods, Threatened Cities ( New York Times) Over tens of millions of years, thin layers of snow falling on Antarctica--in many places, just a light dusting every year --were pressed into ice, burying mountain ranges and building an ice sheet more than two miles thick. Under its own weight, that ice flows downhill in slow-moving streams that eventually drop icebergs into the sea. If that ice sheet were to disintegrate, it could raise the level of the sea by more than 160 fee--a potential apocalypse, depending on exactly how fast it happened. Go to article


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