Rapid Detection of Ricin, Novichok Investigation, Melioidosis in Africa

Biodefense Headlines - Lassa Fever, NBACC, Avian Flu in SeabirdsSee what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including research on rapid detection of ricin toxin, the ongoing Novichok investigation, the value of mosquito surveillance programs, and the polio outbreak in the DRC.

POLICY + PRACTICES

If We Really Want to Eradicate Diseases Such as Ebola, We Need a New Strategy

The turn toward high-tech solutions for distribution of vaccines has overshadowed the more pressing issue: the need to solve the underlying infrastructure problems that make their use necessary. Washington Post

Roadmap for Biosecurity and Biodefense Policy in the United States

Complicating the system for countering biological threats is the rapidly changing biotechnology landscape, which simultaneously presents new opportunities for building technological capabilities for defending against biological threats and for enabling security risks and vulnerabilities. Gryphon Scientific (.pdf)

Tuberculosis, HAZMAT Suits, and Tons of Confusion

Most hospital infection prevention and control programs have a handful of stories regarding an incident involving an infectious disease that resulted in a lot of hysteria and not a lot of critical thinking. The latest high-visibility example of this occurred at Johns Hopkins Hospital when a vial of frozen tuberculosis virus sample was dropped. Contagion Live

The Incredible Value of Mosquito Surveillance and Control Programs

The most important aspect of an Integrated Vector Management framework is a clear focus on the ecology and evolution of the target mosquito vector species. Monitoring requires significant investment and funding in manpower, transportation, specialized expertise and laboratory capabilities. Bug Bitten

OUTBREAK NEWS + THREAT SURVEILLANCE

Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak in Manhattan Grows to 16 Cases

Seven people were in the hospital as a result of the Legionnaires’ cluster in lower Washington Heights and northern Hamilton Heights. Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia contracted by breathing in water droplets contaminated with the bacterium Legionella. Most cases can be traced to plumbing systems where conditions are favorable for Legionella growth. NBC New York

Uncontrolled Polio Outbreak Continues to Spread in the DRC

Polio continues to spread across the Democratic Republic of the Congo despite efforts to contain the disease, sparking concerns it could spread into neighboring countries and perhaps even further across the African continent. The Telegraph

The Strange and Curious Case of the Deadly Superbug Yeast

A pathogen that resists almost all of the drugs developed to treat or kill it is moving rapidly across the world, and public health experts are stymied how to stop it. The name of the yeast is Candida auris. It’s been on the radar of epidemiologists only since 2009, but it’s grown into a potent microbial threat, found in 27 countries thus far. Wired

Emerging Sex Disease MG ‘Could Become Next Superbug’

A little known sexually transmitted infection could become the next superbug unless people become more vigilant, experts are warning. Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) often has no symptoms but can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave some women infertile. MG can be missed – and if it is not treated correctly, it can develop resistance to antibiotics. BBC

MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES

Novartis Drops Antibiotic Development Program

Antibiotic development efforts were dealt a blow yesterday when drug maker Novartis AG announced its decision to drop its antibacterial and antiviral research programs. The decision means Novartis will no longer be working on several antimicrobial projects currently in development, at a time when new antibiotics are desperately needed. CIDRAP

Pushback Against Immunization Laws Leaves Some California Schools Vulnerable to Outbreaks

Two years after California adopted one of the toughest child vaccination laws in the nation, the state’s immunization rates are near record high levels. Yet there remain schools and neighborhoods with dangerously low vaccination rates, largely because a growing number of parents are obtaining doctors’ notes exempting their kids from the required shots. LA Times

Oral Tecovirimat for the Treatment of Smallpox

Efficacy of tecovirimat in nonhuman primate (monkeypox) and rabbit (rabbitpox) models in accordance with the FDA Animal Efficacy Rule, which was interpreted for smallpox therapeutics by an expert advisory committee. New England Journal of Medicine

FDA to More Aggressively Tackle Disruptive Drug Shortages

The agency announced plans for a task force to find ways to improve the supply of crucial drugs. It’s a new approach for the drug regulator, which has very little control over drug makers’ operations. Most shortages involve low-profit generic pills and injections that are hospital workhorses, including injected painkillers, old cancer drugs, and saline solution needed to give IV medicines. STAT

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

‘Small Bottle’ of Novichok Found by Police in U.K. Victim’s Home

The British police announced on Friday that they had found “a small bottle” containing Novichok, providing a possible break in the four-month-old investigation into an attack on a former Russian spy and the inquiry into the poisoning of two British citizens. NY Times

After Salisbury, How Ready is the UK?

With nerve agents having been deployed in Syria, Malaysia and Salisbury, the 100 year taboo on the use of chemical weapons is in danger of collapse. The stakes could not be higher as gene-editing technologies put a new generation of weapons within reach of almost anyone. The Telegraph

Ask Putin About the Nerve Agents

In 1973 in Shikhany 1, a secret Russian military nerve gas laboratory near the city of Volsk on the Volga River, two scientists developed a nerve gas many times more powerful than any the world had seen. They called it Novichok, which means newcomer. NY Times

SELECT AGENT RESEARCH

Effectiveness of a Full-Scale Exercise of Epidemiologic Capacity for Bioterrorism Response

Themes identified include: benefits to exercising epidemiology’s role in public health preparedness; identification of gaps in real-time communication between public health and epidemiology; need to incorporate epidemiology into future exercises; importance of exercising realistic epidemiology scenarios in real-time; and identification of strengths and weakness in exercise coordination and logistics. De Gruyter (abstract)

Rapid Analysis of Ricin Using Hot Acid Digestion and MALDI‐TOF

A novel strategy is reported here for rapid detection of ricin based on microwave‐assisted hot acid digestion and MALDI‐TOF mass spectrometry. Ricin samples are subjected to aspartate‐selective hydrolysis, and biomarker peptide products are characterized by mass spectrometry. Journal of Mass Spectrometry (abstract)

Polysaccharide Deacetylases Serve as New Targets for Inhibitors Against Bacillus Anthracis

The compound reported on can serve as lead for the development of inhibitors targeting the conserved active sites of the multiple polysaccharide deacetylases (PDAs) of both Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus cereus. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry (abstract)

Melioidosis in Africa: Time to Uncover the True Disease Load

A recent study concludes that large parts of Africa are environmentally suitable for B. pseudomallei. Twenty-four African countries and three countries in the Middle East were predicted to be endemic, but no cases of melioidosis have been reported yet. Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease (abstract)

Calcium Channel Blocker Demonstrates Efficacy in Marburg Model

Bepridil, a calcium channel blocker developed for treating angina, was identified as a potent inhibitor of filoviruses in vitro, including Ebola and Marburg viruses, and Ebola virus in vivo. This paper reports on efficacy of bepridil in a lethal mouse model of Marburg virus disease. The Journal of Infectious Diseases (abstract)

SPECIAL INTEREST

Fragments of Plague

The visual collection this project draws together constitutes a new intervention into the existing archival evidence of the pandemic as a global event. This new arrangement queries photography as a transparent historical source. The University of Edinburgh (.pdf)

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