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Biodefense Headlines – February 14, 2018

Global Biodefense Market News

See what we’re reading at Global Biodefense on topics including the safest sample prep methods for MALDI-TOF analysis of threat agents, re-evaluating assumptions on monkeypox research, and looking at health security funding in the FY 2019 budget proposal.

Quick Index

SELECT AGENTS

Safety and Accuracy of MALDI-TOF MS for Identification of Highly Pathogenic Organisms

Sample preparation methods, including the direct, on-plate formic acid, and ethanol/formic acid tube extraction methods, were evaluated for their ability to render highly pathogenic organisms nonviable and safe for handling in a biosafety level 2 laboratory. Tube extracts from several agents of bioterrorism and their near neighbors were analyzed. Journal of Clinical Microbiology

Nigeria: When a Doctor, and a Government, Respond

In his newly released book, The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It, Jonathan D. Quick, MD analyzes local and global efforts to contain diseases like influenza, AIDS, SARS, and Ebola. Quick proposes a new set of actions, coined “The Power of Seven,” to end epidemics before they can begin. Global Health Now

How Valid Are Assumptions About Re-emerging Smallpox?

Models of smallpox re-emergence also tend to use the same limited available historical data sources but assume a wide range of different estimates for key parameters. Models use very optimistic assumptions of decreased population immunity, despite high uncertainty about duration and magnitude of post-vaccination immunity. This review reveals a paradox. A substantial proportion of the modern population is unvaccinated, never exposed to boosting from wild-type smallpox, or immunocompromised; furthermore, vaccine-induced immunity wanes over time. Failure to consider these factors in a model will lead to underestimating the true impact of a re-emergent smallpox epidemic in the contemporary population. Military Medicine

Yersinia pestis Survival and Replication in Potential Ameba Reservoir

Researchers conducted environmental genetic surveys and laboratory co-culture infection experiments to assess whether plague bacteria were resistant to digestion by 5 environmental ameba species. Emerging Infectious Diseases

Ghosts of Infections Past: Using Archival Samples to Understand a Century of Monkeypox Virus Prevalence Among Host Communities Across Space and Time

Here, we screened over 1000 museum specimens collected over the past 120 years to examine the historical distribution and prevalence of monkeypox virus (MPXV) in five species of African rope squirrel (Funisciurus sp.) collected across Central Africa. We found evidence of MPXV infections in host species as early as 1899, half a century earlier than the first recognized case of MPXV in 1958, supporting the suggestion that historic pox-like outbreaks in humans and non-human primates may have been caused by MPXV rather than smallpox as originally thought.  Royal Society of Science

BIOSAFETY + BIOSECURITY

Study Finds Workers Handling Medical Waste Need More Training

‘A Pilot Survey of the US Medical Waste Industry to Determine Training Needs for Safely Handling Highly Infectious Waste’ looks primarily at dealing with the aftermath of the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and found that workers and facilities were often unprepared to deal with the highly infectious waste that resulted from EVD, mainly due to complex regulations regarding the waste. Waste 360

Here’s How Wildlife Trade and Disease Spread Are Linked

It sounds dramatic, but it’s happened. The 2002-2003 SARS pandemic which spread all around the world has been traced back to a live-animal market in Guangdong, China. The index patient in that pandemic most likely caught the virus from a group of masked palm civets which were being sold in the market for their meat. EcoHealth Alliance

OUTBREAKS + THREAT SURVEILLANCE

Multiple Outbreaks Threaten the 2018 Winter Olympics

Since the norovirus outbreak began there have been 199 confirmed cases of norovirus, with the majority of cases being security guards for the games. 41 guards have been hospitalized and more than 1,200 security guards are under isolation after reports of severe gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition to the norovirus outbreak directly impacting Olympic games personnel, there is rising concern over swine flu and avian flu presence in the Korean peninsula. The Disease Daily

Valley Fever Outbreaks More Widespread Than Previously Thought

About 10,000 valley fever cases are reported each year in the United States. However, there are likely many more cases because it is underdiagnosed, according to researchers. Valley fever is caused by Coccidioides fungi, whose spores are found in soil. Patients can be exposed to it via airborne dust. It has been known to be endemic in the American Southwest, south-central Washington, northern Mexico and other parts of Latin America. The disease causes influenza-like symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fever and fatigue. Healio

Forecasting Flu Outbreaks

A forecasting tool that uses data routinely collected by state health departments could be used to forecast disease in the event of a bioterrorist attack or new influenza pandemic. EpiFX, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Melbourne and the Defence Science Technology (DST) Group, is already predicting the start and extent of the winter influenza season, sometimes up to weeks in advance. University of Melbourne

Health Chiefs in South West France Warn Public Over Deadly Measles Epidemic

The Nouvelle-Acquitaine region of western and south western France (see map below) has been hit by an epidemic of measles since November which has resulted in 269 confirmed cases, of whom 66 were admitted to hospital for treatment. Around one quarter of those admitted to hospital were treated in intensive care. The Local

Statement of the 16th IHR Emergency Committee – International Spread of Poliovirus

Concerned were raised about the stagnation in progress in Afghanistan and the ongoing risks to eradication posed by the number of inaccessible and missed children, particularly in the southern region, resulting in fourteen cases in 2017, and already three cases in 2018. Also noted in Nigeria there seemed to be signs of decreasing political commitment and increasing fatigue in fighting polio. There is ongoing concern about the districts of the neighboring countries of the Lake Chad basin region that have been affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, with the consequent lack of services and presence of IDPs and refugees. World Health Organization

POLICY + POLITICS

Trump Could Help Curb a Potential Pandemic. Instead, He Has Been Silent.

One in 10 Americans who died last week were killed by flu — more than from opioid addiction or breast cancer. The 2018 flu outbreak is on track to rival the swine flu epidemic of 2009, which made 60 million Americans sick, hospitalized more than a quarter of a million and killed more than 12,000. Washington Post

FY2019 Health Security Funding Outlook: Quick Take Based on President’s Budget Request

The Strategic National Stockpile program would move from its long-time home in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) over to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). CDC Preparedness and Response would be cut by $20 million, Influenza Planning would get a slight boost, and Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases programs would be cut by $60 million. DHS would create a new Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office and reorganize health-security related programs from across the Department into CWMD. Bifurcated Needle

New California Ballot Initiative Could Create a Utopia for Non-Evidence Based Science

Called the “California Clean Environment” initiative, the petitioners seek to eliminate vaccine requirements  for daycares and schools, ban more than 300 chemicals including fire retardants ban smart meters due to spurious concerns about “radiation” (which have been proven to be unfounded by the World Health Organization), prohibit fluoride and chlorine treatment for water, and ban GMOs. Big Think

RESEARCH + TECH

UV Light Could Zap Flu Pandemics Before They Start

A recent study from the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University shows that continuous low doses of a specific type of UV light known as “far ultraviolet C” (far-UVC) light can kill airborne flu viruses without harming human tissues. Popular Mechanics

Cardiovascular Complications in Patients with Zika Virus-Induced Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Although myocarditis and pericarditis have been attributed to flavivirus infections including dengue, chikungunya fever and West Nile virus infection, the direct contribution of Zika virus to acute heart diseases is poorly investigated. Researchers show that Zika Virus infection-associated GBS may lead to the development of severe dysautonomic complications with related cardiovascular complications. Science Direct

OPPORTUNITIES

IIAD and Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Public Health Internship Program

Veterinary students of any year or classification and graduate students are eligible to apply to the 10-week summer program. Interns will gain hands-on experience while working on projects related to the economics and detection, control, and mitigation of high consequence transboundary animal diseases. Applications due March 16, 2018. Institute for Animal Infectious Diseases

Protection Operations Specialist / CBRN Test and Evaluation Analyst

Collaborate with senior level participants across the DoD Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) to include the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense (DASD(CBD)), the Combatant Commands (CCMDs), Military Services, the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO), and the Test and Evaluation community. Battelle

Time-Sensitive Research on Health Risk and Resilience after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

The objective of this funding is to better understand the short-term health risks and health impacts of the hurricanes, including onset of acute conditions, exacerbation of existing chronic conditions, and risk for future onset of chronic disease. This initiative will use a shortened submission timeline with expedited peer review, council concurrence and award issuance. The entire cycle, from submission to award, is expected to be within 3-4 months. NIH Grants

CREATE Bio Development Track: Nonclinical and Early-Phase Development for Biologics

The NINDS Cooperative Research to Enable and Advance Translational Enterprises for Biologics (CREATE Bio) program is dedicated to biotechnology products and biologics-based therapies, which broadly include modalities such as peptides, proteins, oligonucleotides, gene therapies, cell therapies, and novel emerging therapies. Due date: 20 Feb. Grants.NIH.gov

Zika Training for Healthcare Providers

An overview of training resources including: preparing for Zika transmission in the U.S.; diagnosis, evaluation and management of Zika virus; instructional video on measuring infant head circumference; clinician outreach activities; and Zika training for pediatricians. CDC

LVN/MLT Infection Control Surveillance – Military Treatment Facility

The U.S. Air Force JBSA-Randolph Contracting Squadron is seeking a Licensed Vocational Nurse or Medical Laboratory Technician to perform Infection Control Surveillance duties at a Department of Defense Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) in Lackland, Texas. FBO.gov

Tissue Mapping Centers for the Human BioMolecular Atlas Program

The vision for the Human BioMolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP) is to catalyze development of a framework for mapping of the human body at high resolution to transform our understanding of tissue organization and function. HuBMAP will scale-up the scope of tissues, technologies, data management and community engagement that are being addressed during the eight-year duration of the program. Applications due: 2 March 2018. NIH Grants

SPECIAL INTEREST

A Mosquito Emoji for Public Health Takes Flight

The mosquito emoji is coming to your smartphone this summer. The emoji was proposed last year by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The idea was to make it easier for people to communicate about the public health hazards of the most dangerous animal on Earth. Because mosquitoes spread diseases like malaria, Zika, dengue and yellow fever, they contribute to several million deaths and hundreds of millions of illnesses every year. Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs

Ebolavirus infection of NHP ovary

Ebola Virus Can Infect Reproductive Organs of Macaques

Notable CBRN Contracts

General Atomics Awarded DARPA Contract for Portable Diagnostic Device