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Biodefense Headlines – 2 May 2019

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome virus particles (yellow) attached to the surface of an infected VERO E6 cell (blue). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

See what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including: biosafety considerations in Animal BSL-3 labs; transforming the Strategic National Stockpile; and U.S. hospital preparedness for high-consequence pathogens.

Biodefense Headlines - Global Biodefense

BIOPREPAREDNESS

What the Future May Hold for the Strategic National Stockpile for Biodefense

Future stockpiles may benefit from an emerging approach to disease treatment: shifting countermeasures from today’s emphasis on protein-based vaccines and antitoxins to a new system primarily focused on nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) coding for genes that help the body protect itself from myriad infectious diseases and toxins. This approach offers the long-term prospect of a stockpile that could simultaneously be more comprehensive and vastly cheaper to establish and maintain. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Are Frontline Hospitals Ready for a Patient With Ebola?

Investigators sampled 5 major frontline hospitals in Maricopa County, Arizona, to perform a gap analysis in how their response would be for a patient with Ebola or another high-consequence pathogen. From entering the hospital through the emergency department to cleansing and disinfecting protocols, the investigators evaluated whether health care workers could still answer the questions that were heavily drilled into these hospitals in 2014 following the Ebola cluster in Dallas. Contagion Live

Why Officials In Oregon Are Practicing for a Plague Outbreak

Quick, organized responses don’t happen without funding, planning, and practice. From April 30 to May 2, emergency responders and public health agencies are rehearsing their response to a simulated bioterrorism attack unleashing Yersinia pestis on the port city of 650,000. Forbes

With Vigilance Slipping and a Hard-pressed Health System, is Hong Kong Ready for the Next Deadly Epidemic?  

SARS heroes caution that it is always possible for the virus to make a comeback – and that ‘the son of SARS’ had already emerged in the shape of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. “History always repeats itself,” warned top microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, a professor at the University of Hong Kong. Yuen was named one of Time magazine’s “Asian heroes of the year” in 2003 for helping crack the mystery of the Sars epidemic, which had no obvious cause or source, and the identify of the coronavirus behind it. South China Morning Post

Disaster Planning for Animals in Hazardous Agent Containment Units

Disaster response planning for laboratory animal facilities is a time- and personnel-intensive undertaking. This article outlines numerous considerations in formulating a plan for disaster response in a high containment animal unit. The review further uses elements of the planning process to explore the difficulties of euthanasia of animals treated with hazardous agents. Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (subscription required)

SELECT AGENTS

Effectiveness of Dettol Antiseptic Liquid for Inactivation of Ebola Virus in Suspension

The efficacy of Dettol Antiseptic Liquid (DAL) for inactivating Ebola virus (Makona C07 variant) (EBOV/Mak) within an organic load in suspension was evaluated. The rapid and substantial inactivation of EBOV/Mak by DAL suggests that use of this hygiene product could help prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease during outbreaks. Scientific Reports

Biosafety and Data Quality Considerations for Animal Experiments With Highly Infectious Agents at ABSL-3 Facilities

Animal experiments involving risk grade 3 agents such as SARS CoV, HIV, M.tb, H7N9, and Brucella must be conducted in an Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL-3) facility. Because of the in vivo work, the biosafety risk in ABSL-3 facilities is higher than that in BSL-3 facilities. Undoubtedly, management practices must be strengthened to ensure biosafety in the ABSL-3 facility. This paper addresses main safety issues and factors affecting animal experiment results at this containment level and proposes management practices. Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity

Establishment of a National Inventory of Dangerous Pathogens in the Republic of Uganda

The Ugandan Inventory of Dangerous Pathogens is different from an institute-specific pathogen inventory system, as it is intended to store the information collected from all laboratories in the country working with dangerous pathogens in one centralized secure location. Health Security

OUTBREAK NEWS + THREAT SURVEILLANCE

Ebola Outbreak in the DRC Hits Record Number of Cases in a Single Day

The number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo is rising faster, reaching a high of 27 confirmed cases in one day, according to the country’s health ministry. That surpasses the last record, set a few weeks ago, of 20 cases in one day. New Scientist

Mapping All Flu Routes From Bird to Human

Scientists at Fred Hutchinson comprehensively mapped the alterations in a key influenza protein that allow bird flu to grow better in people. They focused their attention on a bird flu protein called PB2, part of the molecular complex the virus uses to copy its genome. The researchers mutated the PB2 gene to make every possible change to every building block of the PB2 protein. Then she tested whether each change helped bird flu grow better in human cells. Fred Hutch

HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS

Four Lessons from a Century of Pandemics

Medical historian Mark Honigsbaum has chronicled the outbreaks and epidemics of the twentieth century in his new book, The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris.“I don’t think we should necessarily be reassured by the fact that we have medical technologies that weren’t available in 1918 because everything that scientists have discovered about the Spanish Flu tell them this was an unusually virulent virus and we might find that it’s just as hard to contain it now as it was then.”  WCAI

The Biological Warfare Dilemma

The year was 1979, and approximately 850 miles east of Moscow, the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk was faced with somewhat of an unusual attack. It seemed as if an anthrax outbreak had occurred, with the Soviet government claiming the culprit to be infested meat. Medium

SPECIAL INTEREST

This Week in Virology: Biocrimes and Misdemeanors with Jens Kuhn

Jens Kuhn from Fort Detrick returns to TWiV Podcast to explain Select Agents, Priority Pathogens, Australia List Pathogens, Risk Group Agents, biosafety, biosecurity, and biosurety. American Society for Microbiology

Future Defenders: NBAF Scientist Training Program Supports Student Development And Biodefense Workforce

As the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, takes shape adjacent to Kansas State University’s Manhattan campus, several graduate students look forward to launching their own careers there. The NBAF Scientist Training Program offers support for students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees in microbiology, virology, molecular biology, diagnostics, veterinary medicine and other fields related to the facility. Kansas State University

Red Blood Cells and Red Artist Interpretation of Ebola Virus Structure

Ebola Situation Worsening and Still Only Half of Response Budget is Funded

Bacteriophages

Phage Therapy to Prevent Cholera Infections – and Possibly Those Caused by Other Deadly Bacteria