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Global Virome Project, Japan Preps for Olympics, Smallpox Slideshow

A selection of news and research updates from the team at Global Biodefense.

POLICY + POLITICS

UN Investigates Alleged Use of White Phosphorus in Syria

The OPCW said on Friday that chemical weapons inspectors are gathering information following accusations that burning white phosphorus was used by Turkish forces against children in Syria earlier this week. The Kurdish Red Crescent said in a statement that six patients, both civilian and military, were in hospital in Hasakah with burns from “unknown weapons” and it was working to evaluate what had been used. The Guardian

W.H.O. Continues Emergency Status for Ebola Outbreak in Congo

New cases are down to 15 a week from a high of 128 in April, but outbreaks are still popping up in remote and dangerous mining areas. Money is still a problem, with the agency only having received $126 million of the $394 million requested for the current phase of the response. For a separate category — preparedness in nearby countries — the agency asked for $66 million and has received less than $5 million, “so it’s not even close,” Dr. Tedros said. NY Times

Fort Detrick Laboratory Leaders Aim for End of Year to Resume Full Operations

Fort Detrick leaders said this week that biosafety level 3 and 4 research — work that deals with microbes and materials that can spread serious or even lethal disease if untreated — should resume at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases by the end of this year. Frederick News Post

Do We Need A Global Virome Project?

There is debate in the scientific community about whether the animal-human infectious disease nexus warrants substantially more funding, science effort, and global policy discussion. One promising idea is to develop a global atlas of pathogens that are, as yet, unknown but might threaten humanity already or are likely to evolve into clear threats. The Lancet

SEC Obtains Final Judgments Against Bio Defense Corp. and Senior Officers

The Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained final judgments against a Mass.-based company Bio Defense Corp. and five former senior executives and consultants, all of whom the agency charged in 2012 with defrauding company investors out of $26 million. The original complaint alleged that Bio Defense Corp., which was purportedly in the business of building and selling machines that irradiated mail to destroy biological agents like anthrax, offered and sold unregistered securities to investors for over six years. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

BIOPREPAREDNESS

Ebola Lessons from Sweden: Health Care Preparedness is Vital

A Swedish hospital recently experienced the critical nature of special pathogen preparedness when a patient in Sweden’s Skane University Hospital sought care after returning from an Ebola virus disease affected area. Contagion Live

This Town Gives Out Free Flu Vaccinations as Part of Emergency Medical Preparedness Exercise

In the event of an actual public health emergency, it may be necessary for the Department of Health and Human Services to activate points of dispensing (PODs) to distribute large amounts of vaccinations, antibiotics, and other medicines to a large number of people. This exercise will practice the city’s coordination and response to this type of emergency and will include responders from the Fire Department, Police Department, and EMS along with volunteer staff. Patch.com

Why Japan Imported Ebola Ahead of the 2020 Olympics

The Japanese health ministry says researchers will use the samples, which include Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Lassa virus, and the viruses that cause South American haemorrhagic fever and Crimean–Congo haemorrhagic fever, to validate tests under development. Nature

RESEARCH + TECH

Lincoln Laboratory Researchers Develop a Fabric That Can Sense Chemical Vapors

The color-changing “pH fabric” could deliver early warning of an exposure to a harmful chemical. The fabric sensor is highly sensitive to chemical vapors and can automatically alert personnel wearing the fabric to the presence of harmful chemical vapors. This technology could help address the evolving threat of chemical releases, including those from industrial incidents or terrorist attacks. MIT Lincoln Lab

We Should Create A Global DNA Threat-Detection Network to Fight Future Pathogens

To make a DNA-sensitive threat-detection network viable, we’d first need a more equitable distribution of medical technologies across the world, especially when it comes to DNA surveillance. Three of the most low-cost and highly effective global public health strategies are hygiene, quarantine, and vaccines—all of which require constant, keen observation to be effective. ARS Technica

Multi-Scale Modelling of Bacterial Infections

Here researchers outline the main mathematical concepts involved in the development of a multi-scale model of bacterial infections, and show the applicability of this approach by focusing on the mathematical and computational description of Francisella tularensis infection. Institute of Mathematics & Its Applications

SPECIAL INTEREST

‘Toxic Work Environment’ Plagues National Microbiology Lab

Administrative staff at Canada’s high containment National Microbiology Laboratory are helping to facilitate ground-breaking, life-saving research — but they’re doing it in a “toxic work environment” with a “significant lack of trust” between employees and their managers, according to a recent workplace health assessment report. CBC

You’re Swabbing a Dead Gorilla for Ebola. Then It Gets Worse.

Carrion flies inside your hood. Sweat turns your gloves into water balloons. This is tough work, but it could predict disease outbreaks. Weeks or months before each human Ebola outbreak, dead gorillas and chimpanzees were reported, sometimes hundreds of them. NY Times

HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS

Sarin Gas Attack Survivor Recalls Near Miss on Tokyo Subway

Twenty years is a long time. But to Atsushi Sakahara, the morning commute he took exactly two decades ago today will stay with him forever. On that day, thirteen commuters and station workers died after members of the cult calmly pierced sachets of sarin gas with the sharpened tips of umbrellas. South China Morning Post

Researchers Find Just Two Plague Strains Wiped Out 30%-60% of Europe

Researchers have traced the genetic history of the bacterium believed to be behind the plague in a recent paper published in Nature Communications. They found that one strain seemed to be the ancestor of all the strains that came after it, indicating that the pandemic spread from a single entry point into Europe from the East—specifically, a Russian town called Laishevo. ARS Technica

National Geographic Smallpox Slideshow

Smallpox is thought to have originated in India or Egypt at least 3,000 years ago. The earliest evidence for the disease comes from the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses V, who died in 1157 B.C. His mummified remains show telltale pockmarks on his skin. Nat Geo

Highly Diluted Dose of Ebola Vaccine Shown Effective in Primate Study

Philips and DoD Develop Breakthrough Tech to Identify Infection 48 hours Before Observable Symptoms