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Biodefense Headlines – 2 November 2020

These patients’ samples were to be tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serologic test.

News highlights on health security threats and countermeasures curated by Global Biodefense

This week’s selections include partnering with schools for pandemic flu preparedness; validation analysis of the Global Health Security Index; and the hurdles of contact tracing across America.

Contents

COVID-19 RESPONSE

COVID-19 And Neglected Tropical Diseases: Why We Must Fight Them in Tandem

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of 20 infectious diseases that are prevalent in tropical and subtropical conditions of some 149 countries worldwide. They affect more than 1.5 billion people and cause an estimated 500,000 annual deaths globally. Despite these shocking figures, they are termed ‘neglected’ because they continue to receive little attention. Health Policy Watch

Internal Documents Reveal COVID-19 Hospitalization Data the Government Keeps Hidden

The documents — reports sent to select agency staffers — highlight trends in hospitalizations and pinpoint cities nearing full hospital capacity and facilities under stress. They paint a granular picture of the strain on hospitals across the country that HHS does not post online. “Hospitalization data is invaluable in looking ahead to see where and when outbreaks are getting worse…we’re trying to put more emphasis on predicting where systems will be overwhelmed.” But what’s missing for this kind of planning is “exactly the information” that appears in the internal report. NPR

The Public’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccination: Recommendations to Enhance Awareness, Access, and Acceptance

Recommendations from a 23-person expert working ground on readying the public for a COVID-19 vaccine include transparent decisions and public oversight mechanisms; forecasting a range of vaccine possibilities; vaccine distribution at familiar, convenient locations that feel safe; and involving communities as active partners and not passive subjects. Vaccine

Where Is the Contact-Tracing Army We Were Supposed to Get?

Why has America failed to build the contact tracing force it needs? As it turns out, there are significant systemic challenges. The workforce needed varies day to day based on how many new cases are identified, which in turn stems from the access and uptake of COVID-19 testing. Further, the administrative aspect of hiring contact tracers is highly variable from state to state. Slate

Why Many Americans Refuse to Participate in Contact Tracing

Reluctance to share information about coronavirus infections or contacts seems to run deep in the US — all the way to the White House, where an investigation into the spread of the virus there was called off soon after the outbreak was discovered. A new Pew survey found 41 percent of people said they were not very likely to talk to a public health official about the coronavirus. Vox

Europe is Locking Down a Second Time. But What is Its Long-Term Plan?

Most countries are reacting without a long-term plan, simply trying to avoid the worst. Officials differ about the best way to bring the numbers down again, and how low a level they should strive for. And no one knows what comes next. Short of vaccines to save the day, countries may face an exhausting series of lockdowns—a sawtooth pattern. Science

BIOPREPAREDNESS

Validation Analysis of Global Health Security Index (GHSI) Scores

The COVID-19 pandemic powerfully demonstrates the consequences of biothreats and lack of preparedness. The GHSI is a broad, independent assessment of 195 countries’ preparedness for biothreats. Here researchers aim to validate the GHSI against a range of external metrics to assess how it could be utilized by countries moving forward. BMJ Global Health

Priorities for the Next President to Reduce Biological Threats

Recommendations include: Rescind U.S. withdrawal from the WHO; Call for and support a 2021 heads-of-state summit on biological threats; advocate for the establishment of a permanent UN facilitator and unit within the Office of the UN Secretary-General dedicated to responding to high-consequence biological events; and support the launch of a dedicated global entity focused on reducing the risk of biotechnology catastrophe. NTI:bio

Why Universal Health Coverage Is Key to Pandemic Management

Experience with previous outbreaks — such as Ebola in 2014 — tells us that testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, and other scientifically proven preventive measures, coupled with the continued use of primary and secondary care, are crucial to avoiding deaths caused by outbreak-related disruptions. Devex

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in the US: Partnering with Schools

On any given day, educational institutions (usually) house more 20 percent of the United States population. This equates to more than 60 million students, facility, and staff.  In addition, more than 47,000 nurses are employed by educational facilities in the U.S., representing a workforce that can be leveraged in public health responses. NACCHO

Infectious Diseases, Chemical Threats, Nuclear Attacks: Here’s How the FDA is Advising Hospitals to Prepare for the Worst

On Friday the FDA released a list of 223 drug and biological product essential medicines and medical countermeasures, along with 96 medical devices, deemed “medically necessary to have available at all times in an amount adequate to serve patient needs and in the appropriate dosage forms —as a preparedness measure to mitigate mass shortages in the event of a potential public health emergency stemming from a terrorist attack with a biological, chemical, or radiological/nuclear material, or a naturally occurring emerging disease. Yahoo

MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES

SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibody LY-CoV555 in Outpatients with Covid-19

Eli Lilly halted a study of LY-CoV555 in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 this week as mAB therapies look to be better suited for earlier intervention. Here researchers report an interim analysis on a separate ongoing phase 2 trial involving mild or moderate COVID-19 outpatients receiving one of three doses of neutralizing antibody LY-CoV555 which appeared to accelerate the natural decline in viral load over time. NEJM

Australia’s Star Vaccine Maker Not Immune to Virus Anxiety

While the pandemic has lifted CSL Ltd’s investment profile, virus anxieties are also hitting its most lucrative business: taking blood from donors and converting it into medical treatment. That pressure comes on top of growing ethical concerns about the way CSL taps paid U.S. donors. As one of the few countries where it is legal to pay for blood donations, the U.S. is home to 94% of CSL’s 277 plasma collection centers. Reuters

Who Should Be Prioritized for COVID-19 Vaccines?

This draft schema proposes prioritization of groups at risk of severe infection, including those with non-communicable diseases (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease); high-risk occupational groups including those working in public facing roles, such as those in security and transport; outcomes in COVID-19 should also be considered, and an effective strategy would include vaccination of those living in overcrowded conditions or in institutions such as care homes. The Lancet

Antigenic and Genetic Characteristics of Zoonotic Influenza A Viruses for Pandemic Preparedness Countermeasure Development

This document summarizes the latest genetic and antigenic characteristics of recent zoonotic influenza viruses (e.g. H9N2, H5, H1, H3N2) circulating in animals that are relevant to candidate vaccine virus updates. World Health Organization

CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

Disinformation and Epidemics: Anticipating the Next Phase of Biowarfare

While biological warfare has classically been considered a threat requiring the presence of a distinct biological agent, we argue that in light of the rise of state-sponsored online disinformation campaigns we are approaching a fifth phase of biowarfare with a “cyber-bio” framing. Health Security

SURVEILLANCE + DETECTION

Why Reports of Legionnaires’ Disease Are on the Rise in the United States

Many hotels, offices, schools and other buildings have been left fully or partially vacant for long periods of time through the spring and summer have left warm water stagnant in pipes — a perfect environment for Legionella to multiply. Smithsonian

Nipah Virus Dynamics in Bats and Implications for Spillover to Humans

Human outbreaks occur almost annually in Bangladesh, and the seasonal timing (November to April) and spatial distribution of outbreaks coincide with patterns of raw date-palm-sap consumption in a region termed the “Nipah belt”. These data suggest that discrete multiannual local epizootics in bat populations contribute to the sporadic nature of NiV outbreaks in South Asia. PNAS

INDIVIDUAL PROTECTION

Reprocessing N95s With Hydrogen Peroxide Vaporization: A Robust System from Collection to Dispensing

This study is the first to use hydrogen peroxide vapor (HPV) technology on a large scale to reprocess N95s within a healthcare system. They were able to recapture and reprocess 29,706 n95 masks using HPV with approximately 25% loss due to damage. Science Direct

COMMENTARY

How America Helped Defeat the Coronavirus – Just Not in the United States

We’ve all heard how U.S. leadership failed its citizens with its pandemic response. We had the playbooks, we had the money, we had the experts. We just … didn’t use them. But it turns out, other countries did. New York Times

Trump Threatens to Fire Fauci in Rift with Disease Expert

In response to chants of “Fire Fauci” from his supporters at a political rally in Florida, Trump said “Don’t tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election,” adding he appreciated their “advice.” It’s the most direct Trump has been in suggesting he was serious about trying to remove Fauci from his position at NIAID. He has previously expressed that he was concerned about the political blowback of removing the popular and respected doctor before the election. Washington Post

SPECIAL INTEREST

Leading the Fight Against Covid-19: Singapore Biological Defence Programme

Among the winners of this year’s Defence Technology Prize is the Biological Defence Programme Team from DSO National Laboratories which developed a rapid COVID-19 testing kit early in the pandemic and has worked tirelessly since supporting the regional response. Read more about their history and accomplishments at the link. Pioneer

Academics Recognized for Service to the Ebola Crisis

Professor Calum Semple in 2014 led a consortium of investigators from University of Sierra Leone, the Connaught Hospital and Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Joint Medical Unit along with international partners. Together they ran the first clinical trial in Sierra Leone since the civil war ended in 2002. University of Liverpool

An ID Doctor’s Reflections on IDWeek: Physically Distanced, Socially Closer Than Ever

“Like many colleagues across the nation and around the world, I have shifted much of my effort to the coronavirus response, collaborating with a brilliant team to develop protocols, implement policies, and answering so very many questions from our health care workers… But nothing prepared me for the politicization of the pandemic.” OpMed

EVENT HORIZON

Scholarships Available: Earn Your Master’s in Biodefense at the Schar School

One Health Day 2020 – Disease Prevention, Public Health and Global Security in Action