Containing Ebola in a Conflict Zone, Algorithm vs. Animal Tox Testing, Measles Outbreak in Brazil

See what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including the difficulties of containing Ebola in a conflict zone, mining data to predict toxicological properties, and measles spreading to Brazil from the Venezuela crisis.

POLICY + INITIATIVES

Joint NGO Statement to Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of Experts 1

In preparing for the 2018 Meetings of Experts, the NGO community drafted a Position Paper setting out collective views on key action points for the forthcoming meetings. The Position Paper has to date been endorsed by around 50 institutions and individuals. UNOG

UN Stepping Up Ebola Screening of Refugees Fleeing DR Congo

The U.N. refugee agency is working closely with DRC authorities and other agencies on actions to contain Ebola on the national and regional level. But, its main focus is to monitor possible Ebola infections among refugees fleeing across the border, mainly to Uganda, from conflict ridden North Kivu and Ituri. Voice of America

Synthetic Biology: The Promise and Peril of a New Dual-Use Technology

Similar to the biotechnology boom of decades past, the challenge will be to develop U.S. government policy that does not overly hamper industry but allows for some degree of oversight against the dangers of misusing biotechnology. War on the Rocks

OUTBREAK NEWS

Congo’s Latest Ebola Outbreak Taking Place in a War Zone

In a new reminder of the dangers in containing an Ebola outbreak in a war zone, suspected rebels killed seven people overnight in northeastern Congo and sent residents fleeing, an official said Saturday. Global health officials have warned that combating this virus outbreak is complicated by multiple armed groups in the mineral-rich region and a restless population that includes 1 million displaced people. Washington Post

Brazil Slams Venezuela as Measles Spreads Across Border

Brazil complained on Thursday that Venezuela was doing nothing to stop the spread of an outbreak of measles in Brazil and other neighboring countries that has been sparked by an exodus of Venezuelans fleeing economic collapse. The outbreak has prompted the Brazilian government to launch a nationwide campaign to vaccinate 11 million children, plus adults who request it. Reuters

MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES

Long-term Effectiveness of Bivalent, Whole-Cell Oral Cholera Vaccine in Haiti

In a setting of epidemic and newly endemic cholera in Haiti, single-dose vaccination with killed, bivalent, whole-cell oral cholera vaccination provided short-term protection; however, vaccination with two doses was required for long-term protection, which lasted up to 4 years after vaccination. The Lancet Global Health

Is Priority Review Program Stimulating Drug Development for Tropical Diseases?

Using a comprehensive drug development database, researchers found that development programs for voucher-eligible tropical diseases have increased since Congress enacted PRV legislation. However, the rate of failure remains high. Most tropical disease drug development programs begun between 2007–2013 have already failed, many without even reaching clinical development. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases

U.S. FDA Panel Backs Approval of Paratek’s Antibiotic

An FDA expert panel this week voted in favor of approval of Paratek Pharmaceuticals Inc’s antibiotic to treat bacterial pneumonia and skin infections. The panel voted 17-1 in favor of the drug’s safety and effectiveness in treating acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections, and voted 14-4 for treating community acquired bacterial pneumonia. Reuters

China Must Eradicate Swine Fever Epidemic as Soon as Possible

Local authorities must step up their coordination and eradicate the epidemic as soon as possible to safeguard the stable and healthy development of the hog industry, China’s deputy agriculture minister Yu Zhen said on Tuesday. Reuters

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Researchers Used CRISPR to Analyze Development of Mouse Tissues

To tag cells in developing mice, researchers used CRISPR’s habit of leaving behind a sign when editing DNA to create a barcode of 60 such marks across their genomes. Every time a cell divided, a new edit mark integrated into its DNA creating a unique combination over many rounds of division. By analyzing the collective signature of edits picked up by a cell, the team could trace its entire history. The Scientist

The Surprise Attack—An Increase in Bacterial Resistance to Disinfecting Products

The results of a new study indicate that we are ignoring the efficacy of existing disinfectants clinicians used by clinicians. Researchers found that despite a greater focus on hand hygiene and the presence of hand rubs and washes that include isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, E. faecium infections were increasing in hospitals. Was it possible that this bug had become resistant to alcohol-based hand disinfectants? Contagion Live

Toxicity Testing: The Algorithms Have It

A US study shows that database analysis more reliable than animal testing for toxic chemicals and could lead to computer algorithms replacing standard toxicology tests. The researchers mined a large database of known chemicals and mapped the relationships between structure and toxicological properties. They then demonstrated that it was possible to automatically predict the toxic properties of a given chemical compound more accurately than a single animal test would do. Spectroscopy Now

Scientists Discover the Secret Weapon of Stomach Viruses

New research published Wednesday in Cell Host & Microbe found that stomach infections, like norovirus and rotavirus, are more contagious and more potent when the virus particles cluster together. NPR

HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS

How Smallpox Claimed Its Final Victim

In the summer of 1978, the last known case of smallpox was reported, claiming the life of 40-year-old medical photographer Janet Parker. But how did the disease, thought to have been eradicated across the world, come to be in Britain’s second city? BBC

The Great War’s Greatest Killer

A hundred years ago, at the tail end of the First World War, a deadly new strain of influenza emerged that would infect one in three people. The ensuing pandemic cut short the lives of between 50 million and 100 million human beings. It was the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death of the 14th century, and possibly in the whole of human history. Chatham House

SPECIAL INTEREST

Iowa’s Public-Health Warrior Retiring

As Iowa’s lead public health protector, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk knows all about learning on the job. Many potentially life-threatening health issues — the Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus, the H1N1 flu pandemic — were unknown infectious disease occurrences when she took on the role of state epidemiologist for the Iowa Department of Public Health 24 years ago. The Gazette

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