Red-Teaming Bioterrorism, Radiological Emergency Preparedness, Ancient Bubonic Plague

Biodefense Headlines

See what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including bioterrorism red-team vulnerability probes, characteristics of pandemics, and why the human side lags behind in One Health.

Quick Index


Red Teaming the Biological Sciences for Deliberate Threats

This article describes the use of “red teaming” to analyze and forecast biological threats to U.S. national security. This paper includes a timeline of historical examples of both biological red team simulations and vulnerability probes, and discusses the challenges of conducting realistic, cost-effective modeling of biological agents. Center for Health Security

Characteristics of a Pandemic—The Devil is in the Details

Mode of transmission is, of course, vital, and those pathogens that are transmitted through the respiratory route are more likely to lead to pandemic spread. The timing of transmission will also play a key factor and viruses, especially RNA viruses, are most likely to have the capacity to cause a pandemic. Increasing specific diagnoses of infectious diseases in clinical environments would provide the means to increase our chances of identifying an emerging pathogen with pandemic potential. Contagion Live

HHS Launches New Initiative to Address Health Concerns as National Security Threats

The Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new initiative that aims to accelerate innovations for addressing systemic health concerns with a similar approach that’s been taken for addressing manmade health threats. Fierce Healthcare

Why the Human Side Lags Behind in One Health

Pioneers of the One Health movement to blend human, veterinary and environmental health are gaining respect, epidemic by epidemic, but capturing the attention of the human health care establishment remains a challenge. Veterinary Practices

Will We Be Prepared For ‘Disease X’ – The Next Pandemic?

Ebola is back, again active in Africa. Influenza is about to begin this year’s march in Australia. Measles outbreaks are broadly reported and the list goes on. What’s next in the world of infectious diseases? Globe and Mail


Chemical Weapons Have No Place. We Must Hold This Line.

Chemical weapons asphyxiate, choke, blister and poison. Where not lethal, their effects can last a lifetime. During the 20th century they were used on and off the battlefield with horrific consequence. National Post

Why America is 11 Years Late in its Promise to Destroy its Chemical Weapons

The U.S. government maintains that its decades-long delay is due to a lack of funding, specialized equipment, and time. This argument is at least partially supported by history: the Desert Army Chemical Depot in Toole, Utah, which once stored 43 percent of American chemical weapons, is now empty and being dismantled — but safely gutting the chemicals and the accompanying munitions took 16 years. Inverse

CBRNe Convergence 2018 Call for Papers

Papers related to CBRNe or HazMat will be considered for a poster or a speaking slot at the fall meeting. Speakers will receive free entry and accommodation for the duration of the conference and workshops. Poster submissions will receive a 20% discount off government delegate rates. CBRNe World

Training First Responders to Prepare for a Potential Radiological Emergency

The training course covers topics such as exposure pathways, the effects of radiation exposure, radiation monitoring and decontamination of the public, responders, vehicles and equipment. Participants will learn about international public protection guidelines and how to process and register members of the public who may have been exposed to radiation. International Atomic Energy Agency


FDA Approves Mylan Drug as First Biosimilar to Amgen’s Neulasta

Mylan NV beat a clutch of drugmakers racing to get a biosimilar to Amgen Inc’s blockbuster drug, Neulasta, to market, with U.S. health regulators approving its version of the infection-fighting treatment for cancer patients. Reuters

Gap in Regulating Biotech Drug Copies Prompts WHO to Step In

The World Health Organization (WHO) is stepping in to assess the quality of such so-called biosimilars, offering a global stamp of approval that could make them more widely available, while also raising the quality bar. Reuters

Ebola Outbreak Opens Way to Chaotic Jockeying to Test Experimental Drugs

Experts say the maneuvering for space in which to try vaccines and drugs brings to mind the frantic days of the West African Ebola outbreak, when there were so many research teams in the field that a free-for-all of experimental testing ensued. Most of the clinical trials produced little in the way of insight into what actually might work against Ebola. Scientific American


Ticks on Migratory Birds Found to Carry Newly Discovered Hemorrhagic Fever Virus

In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University and other institutions have identified genetic material from the recently identified Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever virus in the tick species Hyalomma rufipes. The discovery was made after thousands of ticks were collected from migratory birds captured in the Mediterranean basin. The results indicate that birds could contribute to spreading the virus to new geographical areas. Medical Xpress

India Is Panicking About a Virus Passed by Bat Poop

The Nipah virus is awful. Hysteria makes it worse. Since fear rarely bothers to rest on a foundation of fact, the Indian outbreak has spawned outsized fears of spread and contagion around the world (if not yet in the West). It already dominates the news on the Indian subcontinent and in Middle Eastern countries with large Indian and Bangladeshi labor forces. The UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, in particular, have all banned import of various Indian foods and livestock.

When It Rains, It Pours: The Simultaneous Occurrence of Ebola, MERS & Nipah

While MERS, Nipah, and Ebola may differ significantly in their taxonomy and clinical presentation, the similarities in response highlight the continued need for better infection control practices and enhanced disease surveillance in healthcare settings. Outbreak Observatory

Cholera ‘Third Wave’ Threatens Yemen

More than half of the country’s 30 million people now face a risk of cholera infection in a possible third wave. The disease causes severe watery diarrhoea which, in within hours, can develop into dehydration and hypovolemic shock. About half the patients who catch the disease can lose their lives without appropriate dehydration treatment. SciDevNet

Anthrax Confirmed in a Jim Hogg County, Texas, Calf

Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials confirmed anthrax in one calf on a Jim Hogg County premises on June 1. This is the first anthrax case in Texas this year. Equimanagement

Insights on the Daily Fluctuations of Case Totals in Ebola Outbreak

Those closely watching the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak – or any outbreak – will have noticed that some of the daily numbers go up and down very quickly. This churn is mostly due to the suspected cases; ill people who have signs and symptoms of disease that cannot easily be distinguished from those due to infection by Ebola virus without the use of laboratory testing. Virology Down Under

Nipah Virus, Rare and Dangerous, Spreads in India

The rare, brain-damaging virus has infected at least 18 people and killed 17 of them, according to the W.H.O. The current outbreak likely began when people drew water from a bat-infested well, according to the India’s National Centre for Disease Control, which is leading the investigation. NY Times

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): A Primer

MERS is a rare, acute and sometimes fatal human disease affecting mostly those who live in (or travel to) the Arabian Peninsula. First identified in 2012, this disease affects the respiratory system and is fatal in 20-40% of those infected. Infection Control Tips


Bats are “Blind” to the Deadly Effects of Viruses

A natural reservoir for the Marburg virus is Rousettus aegyptiacus, the Egyptian fruit bat. An intriguing detail regarding bats infected with highly lethal viruses is that they are unique in their hosting duties: Infected bats don’t get sick. Science Immunology

UV-Light Cleaning Shown to Cut Superbugs Hospital-Wide

A new study led by researchers from Duke University has found that adding short-wavelength ultraviolet-C light (UVC) to standard room cleaning strategies modestly decreases hospital-wide incidence of two common healthcare-associated infections. CIDRAP

Study on Infection Prevention Programs Find Urgent Need for Increased Staffing

Hospitals spend a lot of time looking at nursing ratios for patients and ensuring enough staff are on the units, but what about the infection prevention program? If one considers that surveillance alone accounts for over 50% of the IP’s daily time, it’s not surprising that the needs aren’t being met. Contagion Live

Antibiotics Weren’t Used to Cure These Patients. Fecal Bacteria Were

C. difficile kills 14,000 people annually in the United States. In a small study, doctors used so-called fecal transplants to treat a serious gut infection in patients. The transplants, from healthy donors, were as effective as antibiotics. New York Times


A Set of Ancient Teeth Unlock a Bacterial Secret About the Bubonic Plague

Nearly 4,000 years ago, a woman and a man were buried together just east of the Volga River in modern-day Russia, with a secret locked away in the pulp of their teeth. The bodies were uncovered just a few years ago, the teeth pulled and sent westward to the Max Planck Institute in Germany, where Maria Spyrou was working on a Ph.D. in paleogenetics. When she subjected the pulp to a bevy of genetic tests, she found something surprising: an ancestor of the bacteria responsible for the Black Death. STAT

USAMRIID Temporarily Halts Activity at BSL-3 and BSL-4 Laboratories

Southeast Asia Biosurveillance and Epidemiology Research for U.S. Navy