Bio-Terror Propaganda (2012) 1/2

BIOTERRORBIBLE.COM: The following propaganda was published within the calendar year of 2012. While some of the following reports may have been legitimate news stories, most if not all of them appear to be blatant propaganda with the overall goal of convincing American and the World that it is on the precipice of a bio-terror induced pandemic. The fact that this propaganda exists in mass confirms that an upcoming bio-terror attack is in the cards and may be played in a last ditch effort to regain political, economic and militarial control of society.

Bio-Terror Propaganda (January, 2012 - June, 2012) 

Title: Pittsburgh Officials Dispute Report On Bio-Terrorist Attack Preparedness
January 1, 2012
Times Online

Abstract: A report in a national publication claimed Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas are unprepared to handle a bioterrorist attack, and state and local officials dispute that conclusion.

In December, a report ranked the Pittsburgh region as one of the country's worst prepared to handle a terrorist attack using biological weapons. The report was based on a rating system put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ratings go from 0 to 100 and assesses a region's plan for handling a biological attack and the ability to carry out that plan, including a region's ability to receive, distribute and dispense medication, according to the CDC.

Wes Hill couldn't disagree more with the report. Hill, the Beaver County Emergency Services director and the chairman of the Region 13 Counter-Terrorism Task Force, said the report is "very misleading to the public."

The Region 13 Task Force encompasses Pittsburgh and the 13 surrounding counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Hill said the report averaged scores for the region over the past several years, instead of looking at how the numbers have improved from year to year. Also, the report didn't include the most recent figures, for 2010-11.

The report was "not a good way of representing the data or the level of improvement," said Shannon Calluori, director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. "Major improvements have been made over the past several years."

For 2007-08, the first year scores were given by the CDC, Beaver County received a rating of 42. By 2009-10, the score was up to 66.

The most recent score for Beaver County -- for 2010-11, which was not included in the average -- was an 81, Calluori said. That number is above what the CDC says is an acceptable preparedness score of at least 79.

Allegheny County's rating also started off at 42 for the first year but was up to a 99 in the most current years, Calluori said.

The scores are partially determined by what has been written down for the CDC as far as details of emergency preparedness plans, and the written reports to the CDC have also improved in terms of detail, she said.

"We are better prepared than we ever were," Hill said. "We'll continue to enhance that capability."

Planning and Practice
Over the past five years, the Region 13 Task Force has put a lot of time and money into creating an operations plan for a biological attack and practicing enacting that plan.

The CDC gave Pennsylvania more than $19 million in 2010 for public health preparedness planning. Some of that money came from the CDC's Cities Readiness Initiative, which focuses on improving preparedness in the country's major metropolitan areas.

Classes approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were made available to all response organizations in the region to train and prepare first responders, Hill said.

In every county in the region, Beaver included, there have been drills to practice the mass distribution of pharmaceuticals, Hill said. He said the goal is to be able to distribute pills or give injections to the general public quickly and efficiently.

Practice exercises have been done with surrounding counties as well, Hill said. One drill was done in Butler with people from multiple counties coming into one distribution area with a drive-through dispensary.

One of the important components for Region 13 is that if one county needs help, it can pull resources from surrounding counties, Hill said. The counties work as a team.

Calluori said the region has proven its capability to dispense medication in a real situation as well. She cited the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic as an example of vaccines being successfully administered to thousands of people.

"We are prepared to deal with a major public health emergency," Calluori said (Times Online, 2012).

Researcher Lawrence Roberge Warns Invasive Species Could Be Used As Biological Weapons
Date: January 4, 2012
Source: Mass Live

Abstract: Bullets and bombs may not be the primary weapons of war in the 21st century. The United States could be just as harmed by invasive species introduced by its enemies, a researcher warns.

“This kind of threat is a lot easier to produce and has a greater impact and could last much longer. It could devastate ecosystems, agricultural productivity, economic productivity and commodity markets,” said Lawrence F. Roberge, a Ludlow resident who is an associate professor of anatomy and physiology at Laboure College in Boston.

An invasive species is not native to an ecosystem and likely to cause environmental, health or economic damage. Gypsy moths and zebra mussels are examples.

In his doctoral dissertation for Atlantic International University, Roberge wrote that such things as introduced feral pigs and ticks, deliberately infected with deadly pathogens, could spread widely before the threat could be identified and contained.

“Some of these could take decades to eradicate,” he said.

“We must prepare for the use of invasive species as biological weapons,” he said. “These types of weapons are inexpensive to produce and hard to detect immediately, so they can cause extensive damage before they can be controlled.”

The threat does not have to be deadly to cause damage, according to Roberge. Even the presence of threats like deer ticks infected with the organisms that cause Lyme disease “has changed people’s behavior,” he said.

He said an invasive species could have an effect similar to better known potential biological weapons, such as smallpox or anthrax.

Roberge said the United States is unprepared for invasive species used as biological weapons.

To deal with the threat of invasive species, the National Invasive Species Council was formed in 1999, chaired by the secretaries of the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Commerce. After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was added as a member.

Laurie C. Williams, the council’s executive director, said, “The council has been very active on the issue of invasive species - but more in terms of accidental release or introduction rather than as a potential terrorist threat.”

“However, a good system of prevention and early detection and rapid response would ideally address invasive species, regardless of the reason the species was being introduced,” she said (Mass Live, 2012)

Title: Newly Identified Compound Could Stop Smallpox
Date: January 5, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch 

Abstract: Scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine recently identified a compound that stops viruses from replicating.

The researchers, who collaborated with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, believe their findings could lead to the development of compounds that could potentially inhibit the spread of poxviruses, according to CIDRAP News.

The study, which has been published online in the Journal of Virology, involved experiments on the emerging infectious disease Monkeypox.

Poxviruses, including smallpox, the vaccinia virus and the Monkeypox virus, replicate inside host cells after invading them. Utilizing state of the art screening techniques, the scientists were able to identify several compounds that could stop the replication process of vaccinia virus once it was inside human cells.

After focusing their attention on one of these compounds, they were able to understand how it inactivated a critical piece of viral machinery.

USAMRIID researchers then tested the compound’s efficacy on the Monkeypox virus and demonstrated similar results.

"The compound we identified forces the catastrophic failure of the normal virus amplification cycle and illustrates a new drug-accessible restriction point for poxviruses in general," Dr. John Connor of BUSM said, CIDRAP News reports. "This can help us in developing new compounds that fight poxviruses infection" (Bio Prep Watch, 2012)

Title: Flu Season
Date: January 5, 2012
Source: Foreign Policy

Abstract: Making a superbug that can infect thousands of people is easier than ever. Is there anything governments can do to prevent terrorists from learning how to make a devastating bioweapon?

When flu scientist Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University in Rotterdam announced in September that he had made a highly contagious, supervirulent form of the bird-flu virus, a long chain of political events unfolded, mostly out of the public eye. Fouchier told European virologists at a meeting in Malta that he had created a form of the H5N1 avian flu -- which is naturally extremely dangerous to both birds and mammals, but only contagious via birds -- that was both 60 percent fatal to infected animals and readily transmitted through the air between ferrets, which are used as experimental stand-ins for human beings. The University of Wisconsin's Yoshihiro Kawaoka, one of the world's top influenza experts, then announced hours later that his lab had achieved a similar feat. Given that in some settings H5N1 has killed more than 80 percent of the people that it has infected, presumably as a result of their contact with an ailing bird, Fouchier's announcement set the scientific community and governments worldwide into conniption fits, with visions of pandemics dancing in their heads.

Clinton told the Palais des Nations audience that the threat of biological weapons could no longer be ignored because "there are warning signs," including "evidence in Afghanistan that … al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made a call to arms for -- and I quote -- 'brothers with degrees in microbiology or chemistry to develop a weapon of mass destruction.'" (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the terrorist group's Yemeni-based affiliate and perhaps its most aggressive arm today, with connections to a number of ambitious plots.)

Then, in what has widely been interpreted as an allusion to the superflu experiments, Clinton added, "The nature of the problem is evolving. The advances in science and technology make it possible to both prevent and cure more diseases, but also easier for states and nonstate actors to develop biological weapons. A crude, but effective, terrorist weapon can be made by using a small sample of any number of widely available pathogens, inexpensive equipment, and college-level chemistry and biology. Even as it becomes easier to develop these weapons, it remains extremely difficult … to detect them, because almost any biological research can serve dual purposes. The same equipment and technical knowledge used for legitimate research to save lives can also be used to manufacture deadly diseases."

By the end of 2011, few governments or scientific committees were satisfied with the actions that had been taken to date to limit publication of the methods Fouchier and Kawaoka deployed, and most were frankly frightened. The Fouchier episode laid bare the emptiness of biological-weapons prevention programs on the global, national, and local levels. Along with several older studies that are now garnering fresh attention, it has revealed that the political world is completely unprepared for the synthetic-biology revolution.

So far, the rules -- weak and inconsistent as they may be -- have never been broken. Neither the Dutch virologist who created the roughly 90 percent mammalian transmissible form of superkiller H5N1 bird flu, nor the researchers who published a botulism cookbook -- and not even the scientists who re-created the horrible 1918 flu virus or the fellows who constructed a polio virus from scratch -- broke any existing rules. In every case, the researchers consulted with approval committees, sent their papers off when asked for review to various government committees, and then published their work openly in major scientific journals.

The problem is that there are no consistent, internationally agreed-upon regulations governing synthetic biology, the extraordinarily popular and fruitful 21st-century field of genetic manipulation of microorganisms. The chief agreement governing bioweapons work is the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) which was created in the early 1970s as a bilateral accord between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev. Entered into force in 1975, the BWC now has 165 states that are party to it. Clinton's now-infamous Dec. 7 speech in Switzerland was to a BWC gathering. The institution's current president is Paul van den Ijssel of the Netherlands, Fouchier's home country. Van den Ijssel advocates "ambitious realism" in pursuit of policies that can make the BWC an effective instrument for control of dangerous science, terrorism, and biological weapons. His ambition is to modernize the BWC, giving it long-sought teeth for verifying weapons violations and monitoring compliance. Currently the BWC is toothless.

At the BWC's creation in 1975, biologists were just beginning to figure out so-called genetic engineering, moving genes from one bacterial species to another, typically using viruses as the vehicles on which the targeted gene hitchhiked from cell to cell. It was tedious work that was prone to contamination, and few political leaders had even a vague comprehension of what the scientists were up to. As a result, in its conception the BWC framed the bioweapons question in classic nation-state conflict terms. In many ways the original BWC bore more resemblance to nuclear weapons treaties than anything else, imagining stockpiles of vats full of dangerous microbes under the possession of national armies and "weaponized" to be hurled at enemy territories in some vague concept of biological warfare. The conceit was so crude and nightmarish that most political leaders and their intelligence advisors for decades dismissed the entire biowarfare notion as a ridiculous fantasy. The most common cry from skeptics was that no country would use biological weapons because they might kill more of their own people than the toll the microbes would take among the enemy. The microbes, it was thought, were uncontrollable and therefore unusable.

As I describe in detail in my new book, I Heard the Sirens Scream, the 9/11 attacks and 2001 anthrax mailings shook political establishments worldwide out of their complacencies. The United States, in particular, has spent trillions of dollars over the last decade in anticipation of bioterrorism, buying vaccines, treatments, alleged detection devices, and protective gear for civilian and military first-responders; staging drills and war-games scenarios; and practicing mass-casualty care in hospitals all over the country. On the civilian side alone, 2010 spending topped $5 billion, most directed to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for research on specific microbes.

At the behest of President George W. Bush's administration, the CDC created a list of organisms and biotoxins considered possible weapons and encouraged a vast research-and-development effort. The numbers of biodefense centers, featuring high-security laboratories and stockpiles of the world's deadliest microbes, mushroomed over the last decade from an easily named handful to hundreds around the world, far too many meeting Biosafety Level (BSL) 3 or 4 standards. (Most biology research is conducted in lower-security facilities, but many universities and governments now have BSL-3 setups.) The flu experiments at Erasmus and the University of Wisconsin were executed in such settings. Researchers wear basic protective gear, and the actual microbes are held behind a glass barrier in a specially vented negative pressure space that sucks up all errant germs into a filter system. As added protection, the researchers breathe air that is pumped into their masks from a separate, safe source.

BSL-4 facilities are far more difficult to work in, more costly, and theoretically more secure. The scientists wear spacesuits and toil inside a facility that is itself nested inside at least one other secure layer. All air, food, water, and products are hygienically processed going into the lab and cleaned or destroyed rather than exiting the facility. Only the humans may freely leave the laboratory's confines. Yet despite all the security and protections provided by BSL-3 and -4 facilities, leaks and accidents have happened.

Remarkably, influenza research of all kinds -- including creation of superbugs -- is classified as BSL-3, and the Erasmus and Wisconsin facilities did their work in basic vented labs located on campuses. Fouchier did not blithely wade into his flu experiments, as some news reports have claimed, but followed all rules governing biosecurity in the Netherlands. In 2008, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences released its Code of Conduct for Biosecurity, stipulating what types of science, under what conditions, can be executed and published by Dutch researchers. Fouchier very strictly adhered to the Dutch code.

Because Fouchier and Kawaoka are funded by the U.S. NIH, their research also had to meet American biosecurity guidelines. And it did -- at least, as those codes are currently conceived.

The rules governing such American research were largely created after the 2001 anthrax scare. Following the attacks, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson ordered creation of a cross-government committee to address the dual-use conundrum, finding a way to deter terrorist or other malicious use of scientific discoveries without impeding the pace of basic discovery and invention. The National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB) was the outcome, formally created in 2004. In its original charter, signed by Thompson, the NSABB was supposed to review all questionable research -- every so-called dual-use study -- before experiments were executed. The NSABB was supposed to recommend special precautions, including prohibiting some experiments, and referee decisions regarding ultimate publication of discoveries. In the post-anthrax political environment, Thompson wanted a very tough NSABB, even if it meant some scientists would believe their work was constricted or censored.

By the time, however, that the NSABB convened in late 2011 to review the Fouchier and Kawaoka cases, the board's mandate had been pared down considerably. In a new charter signed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in 2010, the board functioned in a strictly advisory role, offering no review of experiments themselves. Its primary clout was over publication of the results once the experiments were performed. The scientists who served on the NSABB were themselves opposed to any pre-experimental regulation and had only modest faith in the powers of publication restriction. In 2007, the NSABB advised weakening its own authority, arguing that "a code of conduct can make good people better, but probably has negligible impact on intentionally malicious behavior."

Britain's Research Councils advised a similar policy in 2007, admonishing the government of then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown that, "systems should be based on self governance within the academic community." Similar advisories flowed from scientific expert bodies to governments across Europe, Japan, India, China, South Korea, and several Latin American countries. It seemed scientists wanted no additional oversight over dual-use research and no limits on publication of their discoveries.

"The rules governing the publication of research results follow from the rules for the performance of research," states the Dutch code. "Here too, publication is the rule and non-publication the rare exception."

Following Fouchier's dramatic September speech in Malta, both he and Kawaoka submitted their studies for publication to the American journal Science and Britain's Nature. The NSABB intervened, asking the journals to refrain from publishing pending the board's review. Shortly before Christmas, the NSABB advised that publication of the papers was OK so long as the actual methods used to create the superbugs were excised or so obscured as to be useless guidance for would-be terrorists. That put the entire burden of ethics and global dual-use biosecurity on the shoulders of the editors of these journals. Government punted, instructing publishers to please use their heads.

Bruce Alberts, the current editor of Science, faced similar instruction from the U.S. government in 2005 when Stanford University's Lawrence Wein and Yifan Liu, then also of Stanford, submitted a paper titled, "Analyzing a bioterror attack on the food supply: The case of botulinum toxin in milk." The authors carefully analyzed the expected human kill rates produced by inserting botulinum toxin at various stages of milk production in the United States, from the actual milk farm all the way to supermarket shelves lined with cartons. "We have a reasonably accurate estimate of the number of people who could be poisoned," the authors wrote -- as many as 568,000 victims, with death rates unknown but undoubtedly frighteningly high.

Bush administration officials were appalled and pleaded with the editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- Alberts, at the time -- to decline the paper. As Bush security experts scrambled to find a legal way to force classification of the paper, Alberts noted that the then-new NSABB was not yet ready to offer advice. He was on his own. Alberts opted to publish, concluding, "If the types of calculations and analyses in the Wein and Liu article are carried out only by government contractors in secrecy, not only are the many actors in the U.S. system who need to be alerted unlikely to be well informed, but also the federal government itself may become misled."

The Fouchier and Kawaoka papers have yet to be published. While Alberts and his Nature counterpart mull their options, policymakers ought to consider what a bizarre predicament we are in. Why should such weighty decisions rest on the shoulders of editors? Every time serious dual-use conundrums have reached government, political leaders have demurred and ultimate decisions have similarly fallen to publishers. In every known case, publishers have, as can be expected, opted to publish. This happened in 2001 when Australian scientists accidentally made a 100 percent lethal form of mousepox, the rodent equivalent of smallpox. It also happened when an American team used that same method to make superdeadly cowpox and other pox viruses. Similarly, publication was the choice for a lab-modified version of the 1918 flu virus, ultralethal forms of SARS, a man-made polio (published with a detailed how-to section), and dozens more potentially dual-use discoveries.

In their defense, the relevant scientists and editors argued that there was no evidence that evildoers made use of any of this information. In response to this view, Stuart Nightingale, a biosecurity consultant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "this does not mean, however, that such articles have not been or will not be used to do so. Well-organized, valid information with the imprimatur of respected peer-reviewed journals could be especially valued by a malevolent actor over any information that might be available on the Internet."

Outside of police states, though, censorship is impossible to enforce and ultimately useless within scientific circles. No professional group is as cybersavvy as scientists, save the actual computer-industry coders. Indeed, the Internet was originally created decades ago to encourage the exchange of information among scientists. Most researchers have tight collegial relationships with their peers, among whom discoveries are shared almost instantly. Methods, samples, reagents, and the basic intellectual tools of science are freely exchanged, and scientists who opt out of this fluid process are shunned, even condemned, by their peers. This is true at all tiers of the scientific process, from the senior-investigator level all of the way down to undergraduates toiling inside campus laboratories for school credit. Electronic information leaks, gets hacked, or "disappears" all the time. It is profound folly to imagine that global biosecurity can be attained through censorship. Even the NSABB decision to allow publication with methods omitted misses the point: Most of us (I include myself) already know how, in broad terms, Fouchier made his supervirus, and dozens of leading scientists all over the world know the work in sufficient detail to replicate it.

Still, recognizing the limitations of current codes and the BWC, some members of the European Union now advocate policing of science. A movement is afoot to allow police authorities to examine lab notebooks and scour laboratories across the continent on a routine, proactive basis. In a controversial editorial in the December edition of the European Molecular Biology Organization's journal, editor Howy Jacobs argued, "Some might argue that the state has no place in an academic laboratory, but I believe the threat is real enough that this blanket appeal for trust and virtue is insufficient as a response.… No security system can be perfect. But democratic societies and responsible scientists need to be vigilant and proactive."

Jacobs's plea is not likely to find many adherents among biologists, who as a group strongly believe in sharing information. The social norm of sharing is at its most extreme among self-described "life hackers" and "DIY (do-it-yourself) synthetic biologists." By definition, these biologists think that science ought to, in the Internet era, be a vast collective enterprise for the good of humanity, wherein thousands of researchers toiling inside home pseudo-labs, colleges, or enormous professional facilities work together to solve pressing problems. They are trying to turn algae into genetically modified solar collectors, use viruses as switch signals in tiny biocomputers, make vital food crops drought- or pest-resistant, create living art from genetically modified assemblages of organisms, and cure diseases by growing genetically altered cell colonies that can be surgically implanted or injected into ailing people. Some adherents to the DIY biology movement insist that their collective amateur laboratories are akin to the garage days of the development of Apple and Microsoft hardware and software in Northern California. From a scientific viewpoint, it would be hard to name any time in the history of biology as exciting as this.

Even in traditional pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and academic environs, the synthetic-biology movement, coupled with extraordinary advances in genetic sequencing, have upped the ante on both what is possible and what constitutes "dual-use" potential. A decade ago, sequencing the human genetic blueprint was a monumental feat costing millions of dollars, executed in hundreds of labs around the world. Today an individual's genetic blueprint can be fully sequenced in a couple of days at a cost of about $1,000; biotech company Illumina advertises the service at $4,000. New technology coming out of the pipeline will bring that time and cost down more than 90 percent this year. Sequencing far smaller microbes is now so cheap and easy that deciphering the deadly details of plague or AIDS can be performed by, as Clinton phrased it, anybody with "college-level chemistry and biology." A perfectly functional DIY synthetic-biology lab, complete with gene sequencer, costs about $25,000 today; it will go for $5,000 soon.

Industry is moving full-bore on synthetic biology as well. Maverick biologist J. Craig Venter, famous for setting up a private company that raced the NIH to be the first to synthesize the human genome more than a decade ago, violated no rules in 2010 when his private research institute published detailed how-to steps for inserting the genome of one species of bacteria into a different species, creating the ultimate Trojan horse that could sneak by human immune system defenses to deliver a lethal cargo. The experiments were so bold and dramatic that in 2010 the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues was tasked with finding guidelines to control private and industrial synthetic-biology experiments. It opted instead for free, unfettered science, except for first out-of-laboratory uses of man-made organisms.

In October, Nature published the genetic blueprint of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that caused Europe's 14th-century Black Death. This followed a long list of microbial blueprint publications, complete with detailed analysis of what, genetically speaking, makes the bacteria or viruses tick: Here is the virulence sequence that kills human cells, scientists point out; these nucleotides control transmission from one human cell to another; thanks to these genes the microbe can evade the human immune system; and so on. The whole point of the work is to demonstrate how microbes infect and destroy cells, including those of human beings.

Political leaders can no longer relegate questions about bioterrorism, biological accidents, bioweapons, or bio-homicide to scientific review panels or, worse, journal editors. It is time to rethink both the BWC and the various biosecurity codes countries have created, without resorting to doomed calls for censorship.

In a 2007 speech to the NSABB, C. Kameswara Rao of India's Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education almost pleaded with his American and European counterparts. India's burgeoning pharmaceutical industry is now taking in $2 billion annually, and enterprises akin to DIY biology have sprouted up from Bangalore to Mumbai. What might have once been considered unthinkable to Indians became ugly reality with the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. More than 300 people were injured and 172 died in the worst mass-casualty event in modern Indian history. Developing countries like India, Rao argued, are in desperate need of international guidelines, global governance of dual-use research, and basic know-how. Wealthy countries must, he stated, "share and provide state-of-the-art technical know-how" on biosecurity and surveillance of violations. There is a desperate need to globally "coordinate and monitor diagnostic, preventive, and remedial action." And an international funding agency must be created to support such preventive action in developing countries in order, Rao concluded, "to prevent human tragedy for want of technical know-how and financial resources." Rao was calling for nothing less than a massive global effort to train government institutions in poor and middle-income countries in the legal, biological, and public health tools necessary to control and respond to release of dangerous man-made contagions, whether deliberate or accidental.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, finds a similar state incapacity to limit and surveil biothreats in China. In his estimation, Beijing has no capacity to prevent "biocrimes" or limit the synthetic-biology activities of its mushrooming biotech industry and academic science. Between them, India and China comprise much of the world's population and economic growth, have the lion's share of the new biotechnology and drug industry that could potentially execute dual-use research, and lack regulatory capacity to monitor such developments. That ought to worry all of us, whether we are in Beijing and Bangalore or Boston and Bangkok.

Developing countries' concerns put the World Health Organization (WHO) in a particularly difficult position on the H5N1 experiments and larger biosecurity issues. As H5N1 spread throughout Asia from 2003 to 2009, Indonesia experienced the majority of human cases and deaths, and virologists were eager to obtain samples of the flu viruses circulating around that vast island nation in order to comprehend why. The government declined to share viral samples, citing several concerns chiefly related to vaccine development, patents, and profits. After years of difficult negotiations, Indonesia and the World Health Assembly, the WHO's governing body, last year agreed to guidelines permitting sharing of both viruses and the profits derived from them. The resulting Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework is a fragile agreement governing the WHO's emerging-diseases and flu activities.

In an unusually harsh statement on Dec. 30, the WHO condemned the H5N1 experiments and demanded that the methods used to obtain superbugs remain secret, but also cited concern that any further restrictions on the flow of scientific information might undermine the fragile flu framework. Noting the extreme dangers posed by H5N1, which since 1997 has killed 60 percent of infected human beings, the WHO said, "Research which can improve the understanding of these viruses and can reduce the public health risk is a scientific and public health imperative" that requires open sharing of all viruses and information.

Meanwhile, bird flu is back, causing human and bird infections and deaths in Hong Kong, mainland China, India, Bangladesh, and Egypt. A Shenzhen bus driver died of H5N1 on Dec. 31; the source of his infection has not been determined. Nature carries out its own mutations. Indeed, all five of the mutations that were the key in Fouchier's experiments to transforming garden-variety bird flu into a supercontagious mammalian killer have already occurred separately in nature. Yes, the birds and viruses have already done it -- but not with all five mutations in a single viral strain. The biological clock is ticking. In late December, the U.S. CDC issued a warning, noting that yet another flu threat looms, combining the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" with a H3N2 influenza now circulating in American commercial pig farms. The naturally occurring recombinant flu had infected a dozen Americans by Christmas (Foreign Policy, 2012).

Title: An Engineered Doomsday
Date: January 7, 2012
Source: New York Times

Abstract: Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.

We nearly always champion unfettered scientific research and open publication of the results. In this case it looks like the research should never have been undertaken because the potential harm is so catastrophic and the potential benefits from studying the virus so speculative.

Unless the scientific community and health officials can provide more persuasive justifications than they have so far, the new virus, which is in the Netherlands, ought to be destroyed. Barring that, it should be put in a few government-controlled laboratories with the highest containment rating, known as biosafety level 4. That is how the United States and Russia contain samples of smallpox, which poses nowhere near the same danger of global devastation.

In the future, it is imperative that any such experiments be rigorously analyzed for potential dangers — preferably through an international review mechanism, but also by governmental funding agencies — before they are undertaken, not after the fact as is happening in this case.

The most frightening research was done by scientists at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, who sought to discover how likely it is that the “bird flu” virus, designated A(H5N1), might mutate from a form that seldom infects or spreads among humans into a form highly transmissible by coughing or sneezing. Thus far the virus has infected close to 600 humans and killed more than half of them, a fatality rate that far exceeds the 2 percent rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed as many as 100 million people.

Working with ferrets, the animal that is most like humans in responding to influenza, the researchers found that a mere five genetic mutations allowed the virus to spread through the air from one ferret to another while maintaining its lethality. A separate study at the University of Wisconsin, about which little is known publicly, produced a virus that is thought to be less virulent.

These findings led to an unprecedented request from an American federal advisory board that the researchers and the two scientific journals that plan to publish the studies omit any details that might help terrorists figure out how to unleash a devastating pandemic. That presumably includes details on how the engineered virus was made and details on the precise mutations that allowed it to go airborne.

We doubt that anything at all should be published, but it seems clear that something will be.

The two journals reviewing the papers seem inclined to follow the advisory board’s recommendations that the research be published in a redacted form, provided there is some way for researchers who need the information to gain access to the full details. The Erasmus team believes that more than 100 laboratories and perhaps 1,000 scientists around the world need to know the precise mutations to look for. That would spread the information far too widely. It should suffice to have a few of the most sophisticated laboratories do the analyses.

Defenders of the research in Rotterdam claim it will provide two major benefits for protecting global health. First, they say the findings could prove helpful in monitoring virus samples from infected birds and animals. If genetic analysis found a virus somewhere that was only one or two mutations away from going airborne, public health officials would then know to bear down aggressively in that area to limit human contact with infected poultry and ramp up supplies of vaccines and medicines.

But it is highly uncertain, even improbable, that the virus would mutate in nature along the pathways prodded in a laboratory environment, so the benefit of looking for these five mutations seems marginal.

A second postulated benefit is that the engineered virus can be used to test whether existing antiviral drugs and vaccines would be effective against it and, if they come up short, design new drugs and vaccines that can neutralize it. But genetic changes that affect transmissibility do not necessarily change the properties that make a virus susceptible to drugs or to the antibodies produced by a vaccine, so that approach may not yield much useful new information.

We cannot say there would be no benefits at all from studying the virus. We respect the researchers’ desire to protect public health. But the consequences, should the virus escape, are too devastating to risk (New York Times, 2012).

Title: We Need To Fix The Holey Biosafety Net
January 13, 2012

Physics lost its innocence on 16 July 1945, when researchers involved in the Manhattan Project witnessed the first detonation of an atomic bomb. Years later, Robert Oppenheimer recalled that he was haunted by a verse from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Ron Fouchier and Yoshihiro Kawaoka haven't yet revealed their thoughts on learning that they had created flu viruses that could potentially kill tens of millions of people (see "One mistake away from a worldwide flu pandemic"). But with opinion divided on the wisdom of running the experiments, biology may have crossed a similar line.

The circumstances are very different, of course. Oppenheimer and his colleagues were trying to defeat tyranny. Fouchier and Kawaoka were motivated by a desire for knowledge that they argue will make the world safer.

The trouble is that in the wrong hands, or if handled carelessly, these viruses may be just as dangerous as a nuclear bomb. Fouchier and Kawaoka believe that understanding how the deadly H5N1 virus can become easily transmissible between people is crucial knowledge. Others argue that the experiments don't mimic what might happen in nature, and that the risks outweigh any benefits.

But what is done is done. The question now is, what can be learned from this episode?

First and foremost we must ask how it came to this. The research was first reported at a conference last September, yet the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) was not asked for its opinion until later, as two papers describing the work neared publication. The board has now recommended that key details should be withheld from these papers - though whether that will be enough to neutralise any danger is debatable.

While no one doubts the researchers' good intentions, one has to ask how the work progressed so far without a wider debate. In 2007, NSABB drew up a framework for proactively weighing up the risks and benefits of experiments that might provide a recipe for bioterror. It was supposed to serve as a springboard for action, but has simply gathered dust. Before the framework, New Scientist flagged up a grant to Kawaoka which eventually paid for his flu experiments in an article on the pros and cons of such research (14 October 2006, p 20).

The US National Institutes of Health, which funded Fouchier's and Kawaoka's work, says that the US government will now develop a policy to "augment existing approaches" to evaluating such research - though it has not said what this means in practice.

Better late than never. But it is important not to overreact. As we warned more than five years ago, some security specialists see bioterrorists under every bed. If their views were to dominate, important research would become tangled in red tape.

The reality is that a vanishingly small number of projects present such dilemmas. But those that do need to be flagged up earlier in the game and subjected to scrutiny. The scientists involved must also accept that others can legitimately question whether everything that can be done should be done, lest they follow in Oppenheimer's deadly footsteps (NewScientist, 2012).

Title: Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Available by 2013
Date: January 13, 2012
Source: U.S. News

Abstract: Annual flu shots might soon become a thing of the past, and threats such as avian and swine flu might disappear with them as a vaccine touted as the "holy grail" of flu treatment could be ready for human trials next year.

That's earlier than the National Institutes of Health estimated in 2010, when they said a universal vaccine could be five years off. By targeting the parts of the virus that rarely mutate, researchers believe they can develop a vaccine similar to the mumps or measles shot—people will be vaccinated as children and then receive boosters later.

That differs from the current '60s-era technology, according to Joseph Kim, head of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which is working on the universal vaccine. Each year, the seasonal flu vaccine targets three or four strains that researchers believe will be the most common that year. Previous seasons' vaccines have no effect on future strains of the virus, because it mutates quickly. The seasonal vaccine also offers no protection against outbreaks, such as 2009's H1N1 swine flu. A universal vaccine would offer protection against all forms of the virus.

"It's like putting up a tent over your immune system that protects against rapidly mutating viruses," Kim says. At least two other companies are working on a similar vaccine. In late 2010, Inovio earned a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to work on the vaccine.

"It's a completely different paradigm than how [the vaccines] are made seasonably every year," Kim says.

Kim says early research has been promising. Flu strains fall into different "buckets," he says. All H1N1 strains share similar characteristics, as do all H5N1 strains, including the the Asian bird flu strain that has killed more than 60 percent of the 500 or so people it has infected over the past decade.

Kim says Inovio has already made and completed successful human tests for vaccines that protect against all H1N1 and H5N1 flu strains.

In late 2011, two research groups created a strain of H5N1 bird flu that could be passed from human to human, leading the World Health Organization to issue a statement that said they were "deeply concerned about the potential negative consequences" that publishing their research could cause. Some news outlets have called the new strain "engineered doomsday" and wondered whether terrorist organizations could create and distribute a similar virus. Kim says not to worry.

"I am very certain our vaccine can already neutralize that newly made virus," he says. "We're trying to get our hands on it."

Inovio is working on vaccines that'll protect against other strains, such as H3N2, which is seen in a newly-emerged swine flu virus. Those vaccines will be combined with the already-developed H1N1 and H5N1 vaccines to be delivered in one shot by the 2013 flu season. Researchers are taking a similar approach to HIV vaccine development, but working on the flu might be easier.

"Unlike other diseases, we have 50 plus years of diagnostics on the flu," Kim says. "There are lots of toolkits that let us know if our approach will work or not. ... Our goal is to have a vaccine strategy that can protect us from all mutations" (U.S. News, 2012).

Title: Soligenix Unveils Positive Results From Anthrax Vaccine Studies
Date: January 18, 2012
Source: Proactive Investors

Abstract: Soligenix (OTCBB:SNGX) unveiled Wednesday results from long-term stability studies of its proprietary DNI, or dominant negative inhibitor, anthrax vaccine, known as SGX204.

SGX204 is a hyperimmunogenic derivative of protective antigen and is being developed as a vaccine to protect against anthrax disease either as a pre-exposure prevantitive vaccine, or post-exposure vaccine.

The company said "positive stability" was seen when the DNI rPA, or recombinant protective antigen, was subjected to temperatures as high as 70˚C for one month. 

DNI rPA retained native configuration, with no evidence of denaturation that typically occurs in water buffers under the same thermal conditions, the company said.

The DNI protein was formulated with common excipients that allow for the preservation of protein structure in the dried state.

Long-term stability of DNI rPA was also demonstrated after refrigerated storage for more than seven years, Soligenix said.

More importantly, when DNI rPA was combined with a potent adjuvant formulation, animals vaccinated with the combination developed high-titer neutralizing antibodies for protection against anthrax disease. 

"We are very excited about these extraordinary stability results," said chief scientific officer, Robert N. Brey, PhD.

"We believe that the combination of long-term stability over several years with stability at such elevated temperatures has the potential to confer a distinct advantage over other anthrax vaccine technologies currently in development.

"Further, SGX204 is highly immunogenic and thereby offers the potential for complete immunization with just one or two doses. As with any biodefense product, our goal is to have SGX204 stockpiled by the US government."

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease that is easily transmitted to humans by spores that are produced by Bacillus anthracis and is therefore considered a Category A bioterror threat. Infection can happen through the skin, inhalation or through gastrointestinal ways.

Inhaled spores are particularly threatening, as these spores are transported to lymph nodes near the lungs where they germinate, releasing vegatative bacteria into the bloodstream. This leads to shock and organ failure.

Treatment of anthrax involves long-term antibiotic therapy, since ungerminated spores can lie dormant in the lungs for up to 60 days.

Once the toxin has entered the bloodstream, however, antibiotics are ineffective, and only toxin-specific therapy is effective.
Soligenix has entered into an option agreement with Harvard University to negotiate a license under patent rights that cover prophylactic uses of a modified anthrax toxin protein.

Initial development work will be covered under a previously issued $9.4 million National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) grant.

The option consists of an issued U.S. patent that covers engineered variants of protective antigen developed in the Harvard Medical School laboratory of Dr. John Collier, the company said.

Soligenix is a development stage biopharmaceutical company developing products to treat life-threatening side effects of cancer treatments and serious gastrointestinal diseases, as well as vaccines for certain bioterrorism agents.

Through its biodefense division, Soligenix is developing its RiVax vaccine, which is designed to protect against the lethal effects of exposure to ricin toxin, in addition to SGX204 (Proactive Investors, 2012).

Title: US Army Burns Off Final Chemical Weapons In Utah
Date: January 19, 2012
Source: NPR

Abstract: Gary McCloskey may have destroyed more chemical weapons than any man alive, but he barely reacted when the final weapons from the world's largest stockpile of warfare agents came out of an incinerator.

McCloskey, a 63-year-old engineer and manager for URS Corp.'s Federal Services division, was on hand as a U.S. Army depot in Utah finished destroying the last of 1.3 million munitions filled with a witches' brew of toxins, blister and blood agents. He was on a Pacific atoll in 1986 when the Army destruction campaign started, living just 300 yards from an incinerator.

"These things really are detoxified and are safe," McCloskey said Wednesday at the Deseret Chemical Depot, watching a video feed of mustard agent projectiles leave an incinerator on a conveyer belt. "This is the last tray of the last weapons to go through this plant."

The last 23 projectiles were baked for two hours at 1,500 degrees, purging them of mustard agent, which can produce painful skin blisters. The Utah depot — which at its peak held 13,600 tons of chemical agents, making it the world's largest — expects to complete the job by the weekend when it incinerates bulk supplies of Lewisite, a powerful skin, eye and lung irritant.

By then, the U.S. Army will have destroyed about 90 percent of its aging chemical weapons that accumulated through the Cold War.

"We can honestly say that the destruction of chemical agents ... has made the world a safer place," said Col. Mark Pomeroy, commander of the Deseret Chemical Depot.

The U.S. is part of an international treaty to rid the world of chemical weapons, a campaign taking place with spotty success around the globe. The goal was supposed to be accomplished by April 29 but will take years longer.

"Clearly, it's still a tremendous example of what the world can do," said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group in Berea, Ky., an advocate for safe disposal. "You've got 188 of 194 countries on the planet signing the treaty. It's an impressive effort, a great step forward for the safety of the world."

The U.S. has acknowledged it will take as long as 2021 to finish destroying the final 10 percent of its chemical weapons at depots in Pueblo, Colo., and Richmond, Ky. Russia is farther behind in its effort, having destroyed only about 48 percent of a large cache of chemical weapons, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands.

An international tribunal voted last month to waive trade or other sanctions and instead subject the U.S. and Russia to increasing pressure and inspections. Each country must submit plans by April 29 detailing how they will finish the job "in the shortest time possible."

A third country, Libya, also is expected to miss the deadline. The recent uprising in Libya interrupted that country's work and exposed more chemical weapons depots than were thought to exist, Williams said.

In the U.S., the Army has finished destroying chemical weapons at depots in Anniston, Ala.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Newport, Ind.; Aberdeen. Md.; Umatilla, Ore.; and a Pacific atoll where the work started in 1986, according to the Army's Chemical Materials Agency.

That leaves a stockpile of mustard agent in Pueblo., Colo., and a mixed inventory of mustard and nerve agents at Kentucky's Blue Grass Army Depot.

The Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah once contained 44 percent of the nation's supply of chemical agents. The depot didn't just hold obsolete U.S. weapons. A supply of nerve agent seized from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II was destroyed only months ago.

McCloskey said about 1,100 URS contract workers are being let go with generous severance, sent into early retirement or transferred to other chemical weapons depots. Others took advantage of the company's college benefits to learn a new trade. A small number will remain for cleanup duty. The Deseret Chemical Depot will be turned into an Army storage site for conventional weapons.

The heavily guarded Utah incinerator sits in the middle of a desolate base of nearly 3 square miles, surrounded by barbed wire and chain-link fences in remote Rush Valley. Underground bunkers were used to store the explosive shells, mortars, land mines, projectiles, rockets, spray tanks for use by war planes and bulk storage containers.

The Deseret Chemical Depot logged 14 million man-hours destroying weapons since 1996 without a single serious accident, Pomeroy said.

Chemical weapons were introduced into warfare during World War I, killing 90,000 troops on battlefields, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

As far as is known, the U.S. has never fired a chemical weapon in anger, although some consider the use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War a chemical attack, Williams said (NPR, 2012).

Title: Bio-Terror Fear Halts Bird Flu Research
Date: January 21, 2012
Source: Fox News

Abstract: Scientists who created easier-to-spread versions of the deadly bird flu said Friday they're temporarily halting more research, as international specialists debate what should happen next.

Researchers from leading flu laboratories around the world signed onto the voluntary moratorium, published Friday in the journals Science and Nature.

What the scientists called a "pause" comes amid fierce controversy over how to handle research that's high-risk but potentially could bring a big payoff. Two labs — at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison — created the new viruses while studying how bird flu might mutate to become a bigger threat to people.

The U.S. government funded the work but last month urged the teams not to publicly reveal the exact formula so that would-be bioterrorists couldn't copy it. Critics also worried a lab accident might allow the strains to escape. The researchers reluctantly agreed not to publish all the details as long as the government set up a system to provide them to legitimate scientists who really need to know. The National Institutes of Health is creating such a system.

"We recognize that we and the rest of the scientific community need to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks," lead researchers Ron Fouchier of Erasmus and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of Wisconsin wrote Friday in the letter. They were joined by nearly three dozen other flu researchers.

They called for a public international meeting to debate how to learn from the work, safely. And they agreed to hold off on additional research with the existing lab-bred strains or that leads to any new ones for 60 days.

A U.S. official praised the development.

The moratorium "is a really good idea, because a lot of very important issues are at hand," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who expects most flu researchers doing such work to sign on. "There aren't a lot of people who are doing that, I can assure you."

The U.S. also wants international input; researchers are talking with the World Health Organization.

Today, the so-called H5N1 bird flu only occasionally infects people, mostly those who have close contact with sick poultry. But when it does, it's highly lethal. The lab-bred H5N1 strains were a surprise because they showed it was easier than previously thought for the virus to mutate in a way that lets it spread easily between at least some mammals — in this case, ferrets (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Bird Flu Mutation Study Stopped In Fear Of Deadly Global Outbreak
Date: January 21, 2012
Source: Russia Today

Abstract: Under pressure to put their research on hold due to fear of a biological disaster, an international team of scientists have voluntarily suspended their study on an advanced, incredibly deadly mutation of the H5N1 bird flu.

In an effort to better understand the deadly bird flu virus, Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands, Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison have been slaving over their study of the avian influenza. In conducting their own research, the team of scientists was able to mutate the original H5N1 virus into a much more lethal form to see how the outbreak could increase in intensity if not controlled outside of the lab. As word came around late last year that their research had returned a variation able to induce an international outbreak, however, the scientific community urged them to abandon their study in fear that the mutated strain would escape the lab and cause a deadly, worldwide outbreak.

With the fear failing to subside weeks later, the team of scientists has temporarily halted their research.

In its natural form, the bird flu virus has led to nearly 600 known cases and 340 deaths since it was discovered in 2003. That year there were only four outbreaks, all in East Asia, although in the years since an outbreak has claimed lives as far west as Egypt. The scientists were studying what damage a mutated strain of the virus could bring, but the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity cautioned them to refrain from publishing the results of their finding, fearful that it would influence budding bioterrorists to use the study to create their own strain and launch an epidemic.

Despite the Board’s urging, others in the science community were skeptical. "In the end, is the likelihood of misuse outweighed by the danger of beginning a Big Brother society?" Professor Wendy Barclay of Imperial College London asked the Daily Mail last month.

The researchers say in a letter published in the journals Nature and Science on Friday that they will take a two-month break from their efforts. Since news of their study caught wind, the US government, the World Health Organization and other international bodies have been evaluating a way to go about publishing the findings in periodicals eventually, taking into account their research but avoiding the publishing of a how-go guide for biological warfare.

“We realize that organizations and governments around the world need time to find the best solutions for opportunities and challenges that stem from the work,” the scientists write.

“We hope that by having a calm and reasoned discussion of the facts, scientists and biosecurity experts can reach a better understanding and find ways to enable the research to go forward while minimizing risks,” adds Kawaoka (Russia Today, 2012).

Title: CDC Researchers Say Mothers Should Stop Breastfeeding To Boost 'Efficacy' Of Vaccines
January 21, 2012
Natural News

Remember when it was considered crazy talk to suggest that mainstream medicine viewed humanity as being born lacking in pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, as if these synthetic inputs are necessary miracle nutrients for proper human development? Well, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently showed that they adhere to this lunatic philosophy, having released a study that recommends women withhold breastfeeding their children in order to boost the "effectiveness" of the rotavirus vaccine.

Ten researchers from the CDC's National Centers for Immunization and Respiratory Disease (NCIRD) released the ridiculous paper, entitled Inhibitory effect of breast milk on infectivity of live oral rotavirus vaccines, which claims the immune-boosting effects of breastmilk are a detriment to the efficacy of vaccines. The paper goes on to say that, rather than remove vaccines so that breastmilk can do its job, women should instead remove the breastmilk to allow vaccines to do their job.

The CDC researchers began their investigation by searching for answers as to why children from underdeveloped countries typically do not respond as well to the live oral rotavirus vaccine as children in developed countries typically do. They came to the conclusion that breastmilk, which is packed with immune-building immunoglobulin A (IgA), lactoferrin, lysozyme, and various other important immune factors, inhibits the vaccine from working.

Breastmilk, of course, is a young child's lifeline. It naturally builds immunity during childhood development, and provides perfect and balanced nutrition necessary for human growth. Withholding breastmilk in order to accommodate the rotavirus vaccine, as the
CDC researchers suggest, is an absolutely insane notion that will deprive children of vital nutrition and proper immune development.

But it is ludicrous notions like these that are birthed from philosophies that view drugs and
vaccines as being equal, or even superior, to natural food. Oral rotavirus vaccines contain live viruses, they have questionable efficacy to begin with, and they are even known to cause rotavirus. They are also linked to causing a variety of negative side effects, including diarrhea, which is a condition the vaccine is supposed to prevent!

This is how vaccine dogma works, though. The religion of vaccines does not have to offer any solid proof that a vaccine works, or that it is even safe. A vaccine can even cause the very thing it is touted as preventing, and vaccine apologists will say that it works and that it is necessary. And now in this case, these same psychopaths are suggesting that young babies be starved of real nutrition in order to improve the effectiveness of a vaccine
(Natural News, 2012).

Title: Has Bird Flu Biology Opened Bioterror Box?
Date: January 25, 2012
Source: USA Today

Abstract: It was a public health nightmare: A deadly flu bug spread like wildfire around the world, killing tens of millions of people.

That was nearly a century ago. Fears that the nightmare could return today — perhaps with even more terrifying consequences — have set off a heated debate among scientists and, for the first time, delayed the publication of scientific flu research in two professional journals.

The object of those fears: a threatening new version of the bird flu virus that didn't emerge from nature but was born out of experiments in a lab.

Researchers in the Netherlands and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who were trying to determine what genes might mutate and make bird flu attack humans, created a strain that can pass easily among ferrets.

Why should we care that ferrets get the bird flu?

Ferrets are the closest lab animal models to humans for flu vaccine studies. Until now, cases of bird flu passing from infected birds to humans were limited to people — farmworkers usually — who worked closely with the birds. And bird flu almost never passes from person to person.

So creation of a bird flu strain easily transmissible between mammals poses frightening scenarios: What if the strain escaped from the lab and spread among humans? David Nabarro, a World Health Organization expert, estimated that such a pandemic could kill 20 million to 150 million people worldwide.

What if terrorists intent on doing harm learned enough from the published scientific work to reproduce the strain on their own? They could release it to start a pandemic.

The federal National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) reviewed the work, and last month, it requested for the first time ever that two prominent scientific journals, Science and Nature, withhold from the public details of the two potentially dangerous bird flu studies.

Journal editors, sensitive to the security issues, have delayed publication of the studies.

"We have to protect the public by making sure the critical information doesn't get into the hands of those who might misuse it," says Science editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts.

On the other hand, he says, "this knowledge could be essential for speeding the development of new treatments to combat this lethal form of influenza."

Last week, leaders of the two labs involved announced a two-month halt to research on bird flu viruses engineered to pass among mammals, citing "perceived fears" that the microbes may escape from the lab. They called for the World Health Organization to discuss the risks and benefits of their research.

"I think it is a reasonable first step," says University of Michigan virologist Michael Imperiale, a member of the federal NSABB group.

The strains are securely locked down in labs in the Netherlands and Wisconsin, but the episode raises questions about whether such experiments should be done in the first place.

"I'm not convinced a 'doomsday' strain is what we have here," says NSABB chief Paul Keim, an anthrax researcher at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, "but now at this point, we can see the trajectory creating something of very grave concern."

A High Rate of Death
Why the concern? Bird flu, or H5N1 avian flu, has killed 342 people in the past decade out of 581 who were infected, a death rate of almost 60%, according to the World Health Organization. That percentage is much debated by researchers, who argue it's skewed because many milder cases aren't reported. That rate is about 120 times higher than for the 1918 flu, and roughly 600 times greater than for the 2010 seasonal flu.

The 1918 flu virus strain that killed perhaps 50 million people, including 675,000 Americans, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hangs heavy over the debate. That bug, emerging near the end of World War I, had new genetic features and wreaked havoc on the unprepared immune systems of people at the time.

The nightmare for scientists today is that the mutation-prone bird flu virus — which they say is similarly foreign to the human immune system — could evolve into a strain that could be transmitted from person to person and trigger a similar deadly outbreak. In the ferret flu studies, biologists may have completed that step in the laboratory. The researchers reinfected ferrets with bird flu until a strain evolved that seemed able to move from ferret to ferret by sneeze, raising fears it could travel the same way among people if it escaped.

Outside the lab, some question the wisdom of putting the world at this kind of risk. Bioterror expert Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota asks what good it is to identify threatening new flu genes in a lab when no way exists to monitor Asia's poultry cages for an outbreak.

"We have worried about this for a long time," says microbiologist Ronald Atlas of the University of Louisville. Atlas was a member of the 2004 National Academy of Science panel that described this very scenario — a lab creation aimed at combating a disease triggering pandemic fears — and called for the creation of the NSABB. "My sense is the scientific community is really divided on this," Atlas says.

'Tickling the Dragon's Tail'
At the dawn of the atomic era, weapons scientists tried "tickling the dragon's tail," in the words of Manhattan Project physicist Richard Feynman, handling radioactive blocks just close enough together to gauge where nuclear chain-reactions start, at considerable risk to themselves and everyone in the vicinity.

Today's biological equivalent comes from "dual-use" microbes, grown in labs to be strong enough to test vaccines but running the risk the microbes could accidentally escape or be hijacked for bioterrorism.

Case in point: the anthrax attacks in 2001, which killed five people. The strain of Ames anthrax bacteria used in the attacks was specifically grown for vaccine testing.

FBI investigators concluded the culprit was a lab insider, researcher Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008 while the investigation was underway.

Over the past decade, a litany of other microbe reports have drawn concern:

•In 2002, Stony Brook (N.Y.) University researchers reported the re-creation of polio virus from stitched-together DNA fragments. The study raised concerns that bioterrorists could patch together attack bugs from gene scraps alone, not even needing the bugs themselves in a Petri dish.

•In 2005, federally funded researchers published a reconstructed gene map of the 1918 flu virus after a review by Keim's panel. Then-CDC chief Julie Gerberding called the research "critically important in our efforts to prepare for pandemic influenza."

•Last year, the National Research Council reported that the FBI and the "U.S. intelligence community" had inspected a suspected al-Qaeda bioterror lab during the anthrax murder investigation. Critics of the FBI case, such as Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., worried that terrorists were growing microbes for bioterror purposes.

Much like the knowledge that atomic bombs were possible spurred nuclear proliferation during the Cold War, news that bird flu can be made transmissible to mammals could suggest ideas to a well-trained, would-be bioterrorist, Keim says. "The research is out there," he says.

Scientific Disagreement
The pages of one journal in the middle of the debate, Nature, reveal the wide disagreement among scientists about whether publishing the lab-made bird flu strain represents a step too far.

"I believe that the risk of future outbreaks in humans is low," wrote flu genetics expert Peter Palese of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York in a Jan. 12 opinion piece.

Bird flu has had millions of chances in tightly packed chicken coops of evolving the capability of transmitting among people, he argues, a natural experiment showing there is little chance of the bug triggering a pandemic.

"Slowing down the scientific enterprise will not 'protect' the public — it only makes us more vulnerable," Palese said.

Palese and some other researchers question the high mortality rate ascribed to bird flu, saying it more likely reflects deaths among the very sickest patients, ones who headed for the hospital.

Mild cases never showed up in records, they suggest. The death rate from the dreaded 1918 flu was about 0.5% (still very high for the flu — that's one in 200 patients), according to a U.S. Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center review.

On the other hand, smallpox researcher D. A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity in Baltimore wrote in Nature's Jan. 19 edition, "We should not publish a blueprint for constructing such an organism." The lab creation, in his estimation, produced "the ultimate biological threat."

Looking for Middle Ground
"The real question is, where do we find some middle ground, to make a system that preserves scientific openness but also safety?" Atlas says. "The irony is that we do have the bones of a biosafety system already in place. Everyone seems to forget that."

Under federal law, bird flu must be investigated within a "Biosafety Level 3" lab, requiring special training, equipment, ventilation and oversight. Related regulations require that labs register "select agents," including bird flu.

"Obviously, it went through that process," says spokesman Terry Devitt of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, who notes that the National Institutes of Health approved the research in the first place.

However, Atlas points out the 2004 National Academy of Sciences report that called for the creation of the NSABB also said extra "biosafety" reviews should be conducted at the university level. Devitt acknowledges this wasn't part of the school's review process.

Some researchers, such as chemical biologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, have called for assigning the ferret study virus strains to Biosafety Level 4, the highest level of security.

Worldwide, at least 42 labs investigate bird flu, or bugs just as deadly, according to Lynn Klotz of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, and Ed Sylvester of Arizona State University.

Looking at the history of lab infections, such as the SARS death in 2004 of a student in Beijing who caught the disease from two graduate students infected in a lab, they put the odds of a lab "escape" at 80% within four years. An escape doesn't mean a pandemic, but it does offer one an avenue.

Federal officials, according to Keim, have asked the NSABB to review the safety of communication of similar bird flu infection studies.

"We had a debate a decade ago and decided that this science was too important to restrict," Atlas says. "The real responsibility for control has to come from the scientific community" (USA Today, 2012).

Title: WHO Director-General Addresses Unprecedented Meeting On Neglected Tropical Diseases
Date: January 30, 2012
Source: WHO (World Health Organization)


Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s event sends a strong message of encouragement.

At a time of severe financial constraints, it is still possible to set ambitious targets for diseases, secure unprecedented commitments, and accelerate action to meet those targets.

This message is all the more heartening given the people who will benefit. The bottom billion. The poorest of the poor. People with little visibility and even less political voice.

For decades, WHO has been the champion of these people, steadily working to give them the vision of a better life. This leadership, supported by research, partners, and industry donations, has changed the face of NTDs.

Once considered inevitable companions of poverty, many NTDs are now being brought to their knees, with stunning speed.

Last week, WHO issued a roadmap for accelerating work to overcome these diseases. The targets for implementation are ambitious yet feasible, based on the best science available, but also on impressive results under some of the most challenging conditions in the world.

With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these ancient diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade.

The strategies set out in the WHO roadmap are tested and proven to be effective. Let me assure you: WHO knows how to deliver on these commitments in ways that bring results.

The roadmap follows two overarching approaches being covered today.

That is, using what exists while maximizing the impact through smart programme management. And innovation to improve or repurpose existing tools and develop better ones.

We know that programmes for disease elimination or eradication that stress innovation have the best chance of success. This is what we all want: success in relieving the misery of more than a billion people.

The payback will be enormous.

Thank you (WHO, 2012).

Title: Panel: Biologists Face Bioterror Risk "Crossroads"
Date: January 31, 2012
Source: USA Today

: A federal advisory panel Tuesday warned microbiologists that their research now raises bioterror dangers akin to the proliferation risks faced by the early atomic scientists.

"We are in the midst of a revolutionary period in the life sciences," says the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity in a statement released by the journals Science and Nature. "However, there is also a growing risk that the same science will be deliberately misused and that the consequences could be catastrophic."

The panel of 22 senior scientists made headlines last month by requesting that the journals Science and Nature withhold details of two bird flu transmission studies from publication. The studies dealt with strains of the deadly flu able to transmit among ferrets, the closest animal models to humans. In the statement, the NSABB explains their decision, made at the request of the federal government:

"Our concern is that publishing these experiments in detail would provide information to some person, organization, or government that would help them to develop similar mammal-adapted influenza A/H5N1 viruses for harmful purposes. We believe that as scientists and as members of the general public, we have a primary responsibility "to do no harm" as well as to act prudently and with some humility as we consider the immense power of the life sciences to create microbes with novel and unusually consequential properties," says the statement.

The heads of the two study teams recently announced a two-month halt to their research for a World Health Organization symposium on the risks and benefits of the research. The NSABB panel compares the current moment in biology to ones faced before by atomic scientists and recombinant DNA researchers in the 1970's.

"The life sciences have reached a crossroads. The direction we choose and the process by which we arrive at this decision must be undertaken as a community and not relegated to small segments of government, the scientific community, or society. Physicists faced a similar situation in the 1940s with nuclear weapons research, and it is inevitable that other scientific disciplines will also do so," said the statement.

In a separate commentary, NSABB chief Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, further explained the panel's reasoning, calling for the scientific community as an international endeavor to decide on steps for controlling "dual-use" microbiological research. "What is gratifying and essential is that the debate is occurring; it is occurring on an international stage, and it is occurring rapidly," Keim said, in the statement released by the mBio journal (USA Today, 2012)

Title: Scientists Created Bird Flu Superbug That Could Set Off Next Global Pandemic
Date: January 31, 2012
Source: Natural News

Abstract: During roughly the same time period that health experts worldwide have been warning that the infamous H5N1 avian flu virus could soon morph into a highly-transmissible, exceedingly-deadly "super strain" capable of killing millions, scientists from around the world have been exposed deliberately developing such a strain in laboratories.

Last month, we reported about research work conducted by Ron Fouchier from Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands that had successfully created a super-deadly strain of H5N1. Fouchier and his colleagues had originally planned to publish their controversial findings in medical journals until the scientific community and many members of the public decried the research, calling for an immediate end to it.

Not only is the publishing of critical data about a deadly new strain of H5N1 a massive public health risk, but the research itself is a huge risk as well, as the strain could end up escaping from labs and quickly spreading around the world. Bio-terrorists could also gain hold of the strain -- or produce a similar one themselves -- to be used for starting the next global pandemic.

Whatever the case may be, it is all too coincidental that such research has been taking place for the past several years at the same time that authorities from around the world have been fear-mongering about how H5N1 could eventually mutate. As it currently stands, H5N1 has not naturally become more virulent. The only seriously virulent strains in existence right now are those deliberately created by scientists using public funds.

Opposition to Fouchier's work has continued so fervently since day one that he and his team have decided to temporarily halt any further research on their H5N1 strain, according to Russia Today. The damage has technically already been done, though, as the strain has already been created. However, details of the methodology used to create it have not been published, at least not yet.

Arguments in favor of Fouchier and the others research on H5N1 simply do not hold water, as they appear to offer nothing more than a convenient excuse for the intentional creation of a deadly, bio-weaponized viral strain. If and when the next global pandemic finally does arrive, in other words, we will all know who to blame if it happens to be a mutated form of H5N1 (Natural News, 2012).

Title: No More Bullshit: James Cameron Runs From Threat Of Bio Attack, Economic Collapse
Date: February 1, 2012
Source: Infowars

Title: Flesh-Eating Bug That You Can Catch On The Bus Or Train Is Spreading In The UK
Date: February 2, 2012
Daily Mail

Abstract: A flesh-eating form of pneumonia that is easily passed between healthy people on public transport is spreading across the UK, experts have warned.

The deadly strain of MRSA called USA300 passes easily through skin-to-skin contact. It can also survive on surfaces and so has the potential to be picked up on crowded buses and tubes.

It was first seen in the U.S but cases are now being reported in the community and not just hospitals in Britain.

Dr Ruth Massey, from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, said extra vigilance was required around this and similar MRSA bugs known as PVL-positive community acquired strains.

USA300 is resistant to treatment by several front-line antibiotics and can cause large boils on the skin. In severe cases, USA300 can lead to fatal blood poisoning or a form of pneumonia that can eat away at lung tissue.

Dr Massey said there were 1,000 cases of PVL-positive community acquired MRSA in England in the last year, of which 200 were USA300 strains.

'These community-acquired strains seem to be good at affecting healthy people - they seem to be much better than the hospital ones at causing disease.

'They don't rely on healthcare workers moving them around, which the hospital ones seem to.'

Dr Massey said USA300 is 'a really big issue in the U.S. and it's starting to emerge here.

'But hopefully because we are aware of it and are working to understand it, it won't become as big of a problem (in the UK).'

In a new research paper published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Dr Massey and colleagues analyse the way community-acquired MRSAs are able to adapt and fine tune themselves to spread outside of hospitals.

MRSA bacteria in hospitals has not been able to migrate into the community in the same way.

Dr Massey said: 'Our research found that the composition of the cell wall of the bacteria is critical to the community-acquired bacteria being more toxic.

'The ability of the MRSA bacteria to secrete toxins is one of the main ways it causes disease.

'Using a sensing system, it carefully controls when it switches on its ability to do this, so as not to cause disease until it is firmly established within the human.

'Many antibiotics target the cell walls of harmful bacteria, and to resist this, the bacteria have to make changes to their cell wall.'

Community-acquired MRSA strains have cell walls that are different to those seen in hospitals, allowing them to sense their environment and switch toxin expression on at the right time.

Justine Rudkin, a PhD student working on the project, said: 'The community-acquired bacteria has evolved further, and is able to maintain a higher level of toxicity while also resisting treatment from antibiotics, making it a much larger problem.'

She added: 'While we are constantly learning more about MRSA, there is a serious threat posed by this newer strain of bacteria capable of causing disease and even death in perfectly healthy people.

'We need to respond seriously to this threat as it reaches Britain from the United States.'

Chris Thomas, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham, said: 'The key message is that strains of MRSA that are spreading in the community are better able to infect the young and healthy, precisely because they are not actually trying so hard to be resistant as the bugs that have been encountered in hospitals for many years.'

He said there was now a 'need to worry about community super bugs that are fine tuned to spreading outside of hospitals and we all need to be extra vigilant about hygiene and unnecessary use of antibiotics.'

A spokeswoman for the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said: 'The paper highlights some important observations which helps us understand at the molecular level why hospital strains of MRSA are less virulent than the so-called community MRSA strains.

'We have known about community MRSA for over a decade and, whilst they are responsible for a high burden of disease in North America, this is not the case in the rest of the world.

'In England we have seen sporadic cases of this type of MRSA most often causing boils and abscesses, but it has not emerged as a major public health issue in this country.

'The HPA are carrying out active surveillance of this type of bacteria and advise healthcare professionals on correct infection control procedures to reduce the likelihood of spread' (Daily Mail, 2012)

Title: Biodefense Panel Begins 2012 Work
Date: February 3, 2012
Source: NTI

Abstract: A senior U.S. Health and Human Services Department official on Thursday requested that the National Biodefense Science Board begin preparing an update to the U.S. program for developing the strongest possible stockpile of vaccines and other medical treatments for WMD materials, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported (see GSN, Oct. 26, 2011).

The 13-member panel of experts, which conducted its first meeting of 2012 on Thursday, was established through 2006 legislation "to provide expert advice and guidance to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on scientific, technical, and other matters of special interest to HHS regarding activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to adverse health effects of public health emergencies resulting from chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological events, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate."

It has been five years since the board last conducted a significant assessment of U.S. ambitions for its holdings of medical treatments against biological, chemical or other unconventional materials that could be used against the nation. Such examinations are usually conducted at intervals of five to seven years, according to Nicole Lurie, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

"We need a new strategy and implementation plan that takes advantage of what we have learned from experience," according to Lurie (NTI, 2012).

Title: Biological Attack Threat Cited As Pentagon Bolsters Defenses
Date: February 4, 2012
Source: Bloomberg

Source: The Pentagon is increasing spending to combat biological threats, such as highly toxic ricin, as U.S. spy agencies warn that a terrorist group might conduct a “limited” attack “in the next year.”

While a mass attack by foreign terrorist groups using a chemical, biological or radiological weapon in the U.S. is “unlikely” in the next 12 months, intelligence agencies “worry about a limited” attack domestically or abroad, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel yesterday. He cited interest expressed in such attacks by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

American intelligence agencies judge that lone actors abroad or in the U.S. “are capable of conducting at least limited attacks in the next year,” Clapper said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee before his hearing.

Culprits might include criminals or “homegrown violent extremists” who have been influenced by terror groups or literature advocating similar attacks, he said.

The threat assessment follows the Pentagon’s unveiling last week of revised budget priorities for the next five years that protect spending on programs to counter weapons of mass destruction and that increase funding in the field of biological weapons. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of the threat at a biological weapons meeting in Geneva in December.

Crude but Effective

“A crude, but effective, terrorist weapon can be made by using a small sample of any number of widely available pathogens, inexpensive equipment and college-level chemistry and biology,” Clinton said. “Even as it becomes easier to develop these weapons, it remains extremely difficult -- as you know -- to detect them.”

Clinton cited what she said was a “call to arms” by al- Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for supporters with degrees in microbiology or chemistry to develop a weapon of mass destruction.

“That’s probably one of the reasons they’re ramping up the threat assessment for biological weapons,” said Kelsey Gregg, project manager of the Virtual Biosecurity Center at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

In contrast, last year’s joint threat assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies devoted only three sentences to the terrorist threat involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. It said some terror groups remain interested in acquiring the weapons and threaten to use them, and that stockpiles that were poorly secured might provide material for attacks.

Increasing Capability Worldwide

The Pentagon said the increased focus on biological defense wasn’t spurred by any specific intelligence assessment. President Barack Obama’s 2009 National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats was the impetus, said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel April Cunningham, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

“A key part of the strategy is a broad effort to increase capability worldwide to conduct effective and timely disease surveillance” and counter disease outbreaks, Cunningham said.

The Obama administration is due to release its budget recommendations on Feb. 13 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“I would put ricin at the top of the list” of threats, Gregg said. “You can get a deadly amount of it pretty easily.”

The Defense Department first revised its chemical and biological weapons programs for the year that started Oct. 1 “to increase focus on biological capabilities such as bio surveillance and medical countermeasures,” Cunningham said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Downplaying Some Aspects

She said the department now is increasing funding for the next fiscal year to expand work under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which involves joint work with other nations.

This year’s assessment downplays concern that countries may have supplied help in developing or obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

“We assess that no nation-states have provided WMD assistance to terrorist groups and that no non-state actors are targeting WMD sites in countries with unrest,” Clapper said in the written statement (Bloomberg, 2012)

Title: Government 'May Sanction Nerve-Agent Use On Rioters', Scientists Fear
Date: February 7, 2012
Source: Independent

Abstract: Leading neuroscientists believe that the UK Government may be about to sanction the development of nerve agents for British police that would be banned in warfare under an international treaty on chemical weapons.

A high-level group of experts has asked the Government to clarify its position on whether it intends to develop "incapacitating chemical agents" for a range of domestic uses that go beyond the limited use of chemical irritants such as CS gas for riot control.

The experts were commissioned by the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of sciences, to investigate new developments in neuroscience that could be of use to the military. They concluded that the Government may be preparing to exploit a loophole in the Chemical Weapons Convention allowing the use of incapacitating chemical agents for domestic law enforcement.

The 1993 convention bans the development, stockpiling and use of nerve agents and other toxic chemicals by the military but there is an exemption for certain chemical agents that could be used for "peaceful" domestic purposes such as policing and riot control.

The British Government has traditionally taken the view that only a relatively mild class of irritant chemical agents that affect the eyes and respiratory tissues, such as CS gas, are exempt from the treaty, and then only strictly for use in riot control.

But the Royal Society working group says the Government shifted its position to allow the development of more severe chemical agents, such as the type of potentially dangerous nerve gases used by Russian security forces to end hostage sieges. "The development of incapacitating chemical agents, ostensibly for law-enforcement purposes, raises a number of concerns in the context of humanitarian and human-rights law, as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)," the report says.

"The UK Government should publish a statement on the reasons for its apparent recent shift in position on the interpretation of the CWC's law enforcement position." The Royal Society group points to a 1992 statement by Douglas Hogg, the then Foreign Office Minister, who indicated that riot-control agents were the only toxic chemicals that the UK considered to be permitted for law-enforcement purposes. But in 2009 ministers gave a less-restrictive definition suggesting the use of "incapacitating" chemical agents would be permitted for law-enforcement purposes as long as they were in the categories and quantities consistent with that permitted purpose.

Professor Rod Flower, a biochemical pharmacologist at Queen Mary University of London, said the latest scientific insights into human brain is leading to novel ways of degrading human performance using chemicals (Independent, 2012).

Title: Mugabe Calls Typhoid Outbreak “Biological Warfare”
Date: February 8, 2012
Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has blamed a typhoid fever outbreak that has impacted 1,500 people in the country’s capital Harare on biological warfare.

Claudious Mutero, a spokesperson for Zanu-PF, made the claim in Harare. Meanwhile, Henry Madzorera, the Health and Child Welfare minister, cautioned that the outbreak would spread to other areas due to collapsing sewer and water infrastructure, Africa Review reports.

“The sanctions induced typhoid does not discriminate whether one is MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) or Zanu-PF as it attacks all people irrespective of their sex, ethnic or religious background,” Mutero said, according to Africa Review. “We suspect biological warfare by imperialists who are using nationals worldwide as conduits. Councilors must unite and call for the removal of these sanctions.”

Mugabe blamed the sanctions imposed on his inner circle for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse and said that the West was interested in re-colonizing the continent. Critics of Mugabe said that these claims of renewed imperialism are attempts to mask a failed land grab that ravaged the country’s economy, which is based on agriculture.

“This is not the first time that Zanu-PF has made ridiculous claims against foreign countries,” Madzorera said, according to Africa Review. “A few years ago, the struggling party alleged that the foreign countries were responsible for the abnormal rainfall in the country.”

Madzorera said that the government must put more money into sanitation and water to prevent recurring outbreaks.

“As a country, we should not be suffering from medieval diseases,” Mazdorera said, Africa Review reports. “The problem is that we are receivers of a failed economy” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: U.S. To Examine How To Protect Children From Bioterror Attack
Date: February 8, 2012

Abstract: The U.S. administration recently announced its plans to examine how best to protect children from a bioterrorist attack, including the risks and benefits of current methods used to treat exposure to bioterror agents, such as anthrax.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is conducting the review in response to a request from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, according to

Sebelius’ request comes as a response to a recent debate over testing the safety and efficacy of the anthrax vaccine, which has remained controversial among adult service members, on children. Although the vaccine has been tested on adults and thousands of military personnel have been vaccinated, there is no guarantee that it will be safe in children.

Issues relating to the testing of vaccines in children can become very complex. Children cannot give informed consent, which complicates testing procedures. Furthermore, parents may be reluctant to allow their children to participate, because the chances of an anthrax attack appear small, according to the Washington Post.

A recent study by researchers at Stanford University found that depending on their genetic makeup, people react very differently to anthrax exposure. Some are not affected at all, while others are dramatically so, according to Scientific American.

Though instigated by the anthrax question, it is likely the commission meeting will look at the larger issue of how to gather information on protecting children from a bioterror attack (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: D.A. Henderson Warns U.S. Unprepared For Bioterror Attack
Date: February 8, 2012
Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: An epidemiologist who led the global effort to eradicate smallpox has spoken out against the government’s inability to coordinate response plans and preparations in the event of a biological attack or pandemic.

D.A. Henderson, who was named the chief of the Office of Public Health Preparedness shortly after the 2001 anthrax attacks, gave a preview of a speech he plans to make later in February at the Public Health Preparedness Summit. He said that despite a decade of work to improve biodefense at all levels of government, an overall strategy has yet to be developed, Huffington Post reports.

“I’ve kept quiet about this for a long time, but I’m deeply concerned,” Henderson said, according to Huffington Post.

Henderson followed the sentiment of other red flags that have been raised about the country’s bioterrorism preparedness. The Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center gave the country failing grades in its Bio-Response Report Card in October with respect to its readiness to counteract a large-scale pandemic.

“This has been discussed for years,” Henderson said, according to Huffington Post. “It’s still not decided – what do we recommend? Nobody is really in charge. Somebody has got to take the lead.”

While Henderson said that it is impossible to prevent a biological attack and that the only defense is quick action to reduce the damage, he worries that the nation will not be ready when the time comes.

“I’ve come to the point I really have to talk about it,” Henderson said, according to Huffington Post. “We’ve really got to crack this thing loose and get people on it. They will say they have the report, the plan is made, it’s ready to go. That’s what I was told a year and half ago” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Flu Outbreak Hits More Than 2.11 Million Nationwide
Date: February 12, 2012
Japan Today

Abstract: The flu epidemic sweeping across Japan has now affected people in all 47 prefectures, but the epidemic may not have peaked yet, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Saturday.

The institute said that as of Feb 5, the number of flu patients in Japan topped 2.11 million, an increase of 380,000 over the previous week.

The number of patients visiting hospitals and clinics for flu treatment has now exceeded that during the peak week of the swine flu outbreak in 2009, when 1.89 million patients sought medical help, NHK reported.

The institute says its figures are estimates based on data sent by 5,000 medical institutions across the country at regular intervals. The data show that most patients tested were found to have been infected by the A strain of the virus, known in Japan as the “Hong Kong” strain.

The institute’s estimates suggest that although patient numbers decreased in 11 prefectures, it increased in 36 others.

“In previous years, this time of year would have marked the peak of the virus, but this year we are preparing for the possibility that the infection rate will continue to climb,” NHK quoted an institute spokesperson as saying.

The institute added that it believes one of the causes of the large number of infections this year may have been the unusually high number of low-humidity days, which create conditions in which it is easier for the virus to attach itself to the mucous membrane in the throat (Japan Today, 2012)

Title: CDC Warns Untreatable Gonorrhea Is On The Way
Date: February 13, 2012
U.S. News

Abstract: Gonorrhea, one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, is increasingly showing resistance to one of the last known effective antibiotic treatments, leading researchers from the Centers for Disease Control to "sound the alarm" about potentially untreatable forms of the disease.

"During the past three years, the wily gonococcus has become less susceptible to our last line of antimicrobial defense, threatening our ability to cure gonorrhea," Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's sexually transmitted disease prevention program, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine last week.

According to the CDC, gonorrhea has a long history of developing immunity to antibiotics, but doctors have always had a stronger medicine up their sleeves to treat patients. Not anymore—about 1.7 percent of gonorrhea is now resistant to cephalosporins, the last line of defense against gonorrhea. That might not seem like much, but it's a 17-fold increase since 2006, when about one tenth of one percent of gonorrhea was believed to have resistance to cephalosporins.

According to Bolan, the strains are showing up most often in the western states, where 3.6 percent of gonorrhea has shown resistance to cephalosporins, and in men who have sex with men, with nearly 5 percent of gonorrhea showing resistance.

The disease has been estimated to affect 600,000 Americans annually, causing burning with urination, abdominal pain, itching, and genital discharge.

Nikki Mayes, a spokesperson for the CDC, wrote in an email that by using a combination of cephalosporins and other antibiotics, American doctors have been able to prevent anyone from getting a completely untreatable case of gonorrhea. But she says it's only a matter of time.

"The trends in decreased susceptibility that we're seeing, coupled with the history of emerging resistance and reported treatment failures in other countries point to the likelihood of treatment failures on the horizon," she writes.

Not much help is on the way, according to both Mayes and Nicole Mahoney, senior officer of the antibiotics and innovation project at PEW Charitable Trusts.

"As far as gonorrhea goes, I'm not aware of any new drugs in the pipeline," says Mahoney. "This is just one more example of a bigger problem—bacteria are developing resistance faster than we're inventing new medicines to fight them."

Mahoney says Congress and the Food and Drug Administration should encourage and reward pharmaceutical companies to devise new antibiotics. According to a PEW report, only two new classes of antibiotics have been introduced since 1968 because antibiotics are difficult to produce and are less profitable than other drugs.

Bolan writes in the medical journal that a vaccine to prevent gonorrhea "remains key to prevention and control," but that it is a "distant goal."

"The threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly," she adds (U.S. News, 2012).

Title: WHO Calls For Stepped-Up Fight Against Leprosy
Date: February 14, 2012

Abstract: The World Health Organization called Monday for greater efforts to fight leprosy, warning the disfiguring disease was defying efforts to wipe it out across many countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

"We opened the champagne too early," said Shin Young-soo, chairman of the WHO's Western-Pacific region that covers 37 countries at the start of a three-day conference looking at how to combat leprosy and treat its victims.

There are 5,000 new cases being reported each year in the Western Pacific, according to Shin.

He said the problem was most severe in Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, which had failed to meet the WHO's technical definition of "elimination" of fewer than one case per 10,000 people.

Even in the Philippines, where the disease was officially "eliminated" in 1998, 2,000 new cases are still recorded every year, according to Shin.

Outside of the Western Pacific, the problem is worse.

India leads the world with more than 130,000 new leprosy cases every year since 2006, while Brazil is second with about 40,000 new cases annually, according to WHO documents.

Shin called for a renewed commitment to fight leprosy, stressing that it had to be long-term because the disease could incubate for as long as 20 years.

"We have the drugs, we have the knowledge. It does not take a lot of money. We must make a final push," he said.

Leprosy is an infectious bacterial disease that has been recorded for thousands of years. If left untreated it can damage the nerves, leading to paralysis in the extremities of the body and horrible disfigurements.

However it is curable with early detection and modern drugs.

The WHO has been providing free drug therapy to patients anywhere in the world since 1995.

Shin said that, with the medical hurdles overcome, the major challenge in countries with enduring leprosy was to ensure long-term commitment from governments (AFP, 2012).

Title: 'Lay Down Your Arms!' Anonymous Attacks US Tear-Gas Maker
Date: February 14, 2012
Source: Russia Today

Abstract: Hackers have sent a sweet Valentine to an American weapons manufacturer, knocking out its website. The group says it was an act of retaliation for the company’s arming of security forces against pro-democracy protests in Egypt, Bahrain, and the US.

The one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in Bahrain seems to have ignited pro-protest feelings in the hackers’ hearts. The Anonymous-aligned activists have accused Combined Systems, a tear-gas maker located in the US, of selling "mad chemical weapons to military and cop shops around the world."

Putting out the company's website, the hackers slammed the producer over alleged war profiteering on demonstrations in Egypt and elsewhere. 

"You shot and gassed protesters, running them off public parks in the US. Several dozen died because of your tear gas used in Egypt. Did you think we forgot? Why did you not expect us?" read the statement.

It is unclear if the hackers accuse Combined Systems of selling tear gas to Mubarak’s government or the country’s current ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. However, they accuse the company of working for governments and armies, and as they see it, that is a good enough reason for an attack.

"Combined Systems, lay down your arms: you just lost the game. In the past we have marched on your offices in Jamestown, Pennsylvania: now it is time to march on your websites." 

The website for Combined Systems Inc. was down on Tuesday. Messages to the site's administrative staff were not immediately returned ahead of business hours. 

In addition to defacing the website, the hackers say they have stolen and published personal information belonging to clients and employees of the company.

The latest attack has been credited by the shady collective as part of both the HackVDay Valentine’s Day rampage and protests commemorating the Bahrain uprising's first anniversary.

Bahraini activists have called for demonstrations on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to commemorate the Shiite-dominated protest that erupted last year. At least 40 people have been killed during months of unprecedented political unrest in Bahrain, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings (Russia Today, 2012).

Title: How Secure Are Labs Handling World's Deadliest Pathogens?
Date: February 15, 2012
Source: Reuters

Abstract: To reach his office in Galveston National Laboratory, where scientists study deadly pathogens such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, director James Le Duc swipes his key card at the building's single entrance, which is guarded 24/7 by Texas state police.

As he walks the hallways, more than 100 closed-circuit cameras watch him. Seven more locked doors stand between him and his destination. Entering a research lab requires another card swipe and, for labs housing especially dangerous microbes, a fingerprint scan.

To keep deadly viruses from escaping, each lab uses negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems. Workers wear full-body air-supplied suits. To test its security, Galveston ran an exercise with the Federal Bureau of Investigation simulating a would-be intruder and another, with the University of Texas, war-gaming a campus shooter. The facility passed both tests.

Galveston's strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic - when as many as 40 million people died - seem like a summer cold. Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law.

"A lock on the door is the only specified requirement," said Rutgers University virologist Richard Ebright. "There is no explicit requirement for guards, bio-identity checks, or video monitoring like 7-Elevens have. The rules require very strict paperwork but no real physical security."

Labs whose experiments on dangerous pathogens are funded by the U.S. government must follow specific rules to keep the microbes from escaping, but those rules are not enforceable for researchers working with private funds. Outside the country, security and safety requirements vary widely, experts say.

"It's all subject to interpretation," said a scientist close to the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which monitors research that might pose a bioterrorism threat.

If a lab receiving U.S. government funding violates the guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can cut off the flow of money, "but it can't shut you down," the scientist said. "I don't have a lot of confidence in our biosafety right now."

Immediate Concern Over Bird Flu Research

Questions about biosafety - keeping dangerous microbes from escaping labs - and biosecurity - keeping out bad actors intent on releasing or stealing the pathogens - are front and center for global health officials due to a growing controversy over experiments with the bird flu virus.

Scientists and government officials will meet on Thursday and Friday at the World Health Organization in Geneva to hash out the safest way to deal with the studies and address fears that lab-engineered viruses could either escape or be used as a bioterror weapon.

Last year, labs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Erasmus MC in Rotterdam independently created mutant forms of avian influenza, known as H5N1, that can be transmitted directly among mammals. The natural strain can be caught only through close contact with infected birds.

One immediate question is what level of safety should be required for that research. So far, it has been conducted at biosafety-level 3 labs. Under U.S. guidelines, BSL-3 applies to agents that cause "serious or lethal disease" but do not ordinarily spread between people and for which treatments or preventives exist. BSL-4 applies to agents with no preventives or treatment.

The Wisconsin and Erasmus scientists received approval to conduct their experiments under BSL-3 conditions because, they argued, antiviral drugs can treat avian flu. Erasmus was subject to U.S. guidelines because its experiments were funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"The viruses generated here are sensitive to influenza antivirals" so they fit the BSL-3 criteria, said Rebecca Moritz of the University of Wisconsin's Office of Biological Safety. There are "multiple physical barriers and the facilities are monitored at all times."

All lab workers there wear disposable jumpsuits and powered respirators in addition to scrubs, shoes, shoe covers, and double gloves, she said. Each time scientists leave the lab, they must remove their protective equipment and shower before putting on their street clothes. Erasmus does the same.

The labs said they have emergency and security plans for a wide variety of threats. Neither would provide specifics on those security measures on the grounds the details could aid any would-be attackers.

Such precautions are not foolproof, however. According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, there were 400 accidents at BSL-3 labs in the United States in the previous decade.

Some scientists therefore argue that the experiments creating contagious H5N1 mutants should be done only at BSL-4 facilities.

"An escape would still produce the worst pandemic in history," said Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota and a member of the NSABB, at a symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences this month.

"The risk of this agent, if in fact it can be readily transmitted between humans, is catastrophic," he told Reuters. "Until we know how this virus actually acts in humans, I think you have no choice but to move this (research) to BSL-4."

Space Suits

BSL-4 labs, like the one in Galveston, have all the BSL-3 precautions and are also in isolated facilities with dedicated exhaust, vacuum, and other systems to prevent escape. In addition, workers must wear what are essentially space suits.

But the BSL guidelines relate to biosafety, not security.

The debate over H5N1 experiments has also raised the question of how secure BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are. It has assumed a greater urgency as the number of known U.S. BSL-3 labs has surged from 415 in 2004 to 1,495 in 2010.

Hundreds or thousands of BSL-3 laboratories may be unknown, however, because "no federal agency is required to track the number of biocontainment labs," found a 2011 report by the National Research Council, an arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Globally, BSL-3 labs have recently been built or are under construction in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, and Mexico, among others, the NRC found. Yet "many countries have few or no regulations," the NRC concluded.

BSL-4 labs are also proliferating. A 2011 workshop in Istanbul organized by the NRC was told that there are 24 BSL-4 facilities, including in Germany, Gabon, Sweden, Russia, South Africa and Canada. The United States has six, including Le Duc's, which is part of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

"We are now in a proliferation race for BSL-3 and 4 labs," said Laurie Garrett, the senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Having such a facility is a mark of national sophistication. But the spread of these labs allows the unfettered proliferation of the world's most dangerous microbes."

Indeed, deadly microbes have escaped high-security labs. Between 1978 and 1999, just over 1,200 people acquired infections from BSL-4 labs around the world; 22 were fatal. Since then, lab workers have been killed by Ebola and SARS, or severe acquired respiratory syndrome. Thieves tried to steal animal pathogens from an Indonesian lab in 2007, the NRC workshop was told.

Guidelines, Not Law

U.S. research on dangerous human pathogens must follow safety guidelines set by the CDC. They may or may not be followed at labs elsewhere in the world, concluded the NRC workshop.

In part, that is because BSL-3 and BSL-4 designations "have very wide interpretations," said Ren Salerno, senior manager for cooperative threat reduction programs at Sandia National Laboratories, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although U.S. government-funded research must adhere to biosafety guidelines, they "do not have the force of law," said Ebright. "If you're a private lab, privately funded, there is no requirement that you comply." The CDC declined to make a spokesperson available to discuss biosafety and biosecurity.

Many labs in developing countries say they adhere to guidelines as tough as those applied to U.S. facilities. If they receive U.S. funding, lab personnel must pass an FBI security risk assessment, for instance.

In Thailand, police check the background of all staff members and require fingerprints to access freezers containing microbes.

A BSL-4 lab in Australia employs a security staff of 10. It is housed in a fenced, isolated building and has infrared cameras to detect intruders. Gabon's BSL-4 lab is surrounded by electric fences and has a guard on duty at all times. Only three people know the code to the freezer holding Ebola.

U.S. biosecurity requirements are laid out in the 2001 Patriot Act, which says that facilities storing "select agents" - microbes and toxins that could be used as bioweapons - must develop and implement a plan to keep them secure. Such labs must also provide the government the names of everyone with access to the pathogens; none can be on a terrorism watch list.

Experts dismiss Hollywood's nightmare scenarios such as bombing a BSL-4 lab or crashing a 737 jumbo jet into one.

"The one nice thing about pathogens is that they'll self-destruct under intense heat," said Salerno.

What Salerno does give credence to is either an accidental escape or a plot to steal a pathogen by lab employees acting on their own or under duress.

"As more of this kind of research occurs, and it will, especially internationally, the risks of both accidental release or potential theft and misuse will increase as well," Salerno said. "The science is way ahead of governments' ability to regulate the science" (Reuters, 2012).

Title: Study Questions U.S.’s Ability To Detect Biothreats
Date: February 17, 2012
Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: A recently published workshop summary by the Institute of Medicine revealed that the goal of creating an integrated biosurveillance system in the United States to detect threats to human and animal health remains a long way off.

A biosurveillance system, called for in a 2004 presidential directive, still faces complex obstacles, including a lack of trust between relevant agencies, according to CIDRAP News.

The IOM workshop’s participants cited a range of problems that face the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Biosurveillance Information System. According to the report, there is still a lack of built-in authority to regulate the agencies that collect the relevant data.

Dr. William Raub, a former science advisor to the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, recently said that the obstacles represented a serious challenge to the formation of a robust and relevant system.

“The collaboration, the sharing, and the integration are difficult in the context of multiple agencies with multiple missions and a rich variety of data sets, including areas where the data sets are nonexistent,” Raub said, CIDRAP News reports. “If it were easy, it would be done.”

The workshop was held last September. Its account was recently published as “Information Sharing and Collaboration: Applications to Integrated Biosurveillance: Workshop Summary.” The IOM is part of the Academy of Sciences, but the report reflects only the views of the participants, not those of the IOM.

This entry was posted in U.S. Bioterror Policy and tagged U.S. bioterror policy. Bookmark the permalink (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Experts Fear Diseases 'Impossible To Treat'
Date: February 20, 2012
Source: Independent

Abstract: ritain is facing a "massive" rise in antibiotic-resistant blood poisoning caused by the bacterium E.coli – bringing closer the spectre of diseases that are impossible to treat.

Experts say the growth of antibiotic resistance now poses as great a threat to global health as the emergence of new diseases such as Aids and pandemic flu.

Professor Peter Hawkey, a clinical microbiologist and chair of the Government's antibiotic-resistance working group, said that antibiotic resistance had become medicine's equivalent of climate change.

The "slow but insidious growth" of resistant organisms was threatening to turn common infections into untreatable diseases, he said. Already, an estimated 25,000 people die each year in the European Union from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

"It is a worldwide issue – there are no boundaries," he said. "We have very good policies on the use of antibiotics in man and in animals in the UK. But we are not alone. We have to think globally." Between 2005 and 2009 the incidence of E.coli "bacteraemias" [the presence of bacteria in the blood] rose by 30 per cent, from 18,000 to over 25,000 cases. Those resistant to antibiotics have risen from 1 per cent at the beginning of the century to 10 per cent.

"Only one in 20 of infections with [resistant] E.coli is a bacteraemia, so the above data are only the tip of an iceberg of infected individuals," says a report produced by Professor Hawkey's group, commissioned by the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Dame Sally Davies, the Government's chief medical officer, has pledged £500,000 to fund research into the threat. Drug companies have lost interest in developing new antibiotics because it is increasingly difficult to find new agents and it is not commercially viable – antibiotics are taken for a few days, compared with, say, a heart drug which may be taken for life.

"There are only so many antibiotics available and as we lose them it becomes more and more difficult to replace them," Professor Hawkey said.

The rapid rise in E.coli blood poisoning is thought to be linked with the ageing of the population. E.coli is a common cause of urinary-tract infections but may also cause wound infections following surgery or injury. These are regarded as minor conditions, but if they became untreatable they would be life-threatening.

E.coli infections pose a much bigger problem than MRSA because the bacterium is more common. Only one in 10 people is a carrier of MRSA, but E.coli is present in everyone. "Those who get ill [with E.coli] are rare – but because it is so common it is a big problem," Professor Hawkey said.

Using standard antibiotic regimens, there is a one in 10 chance that treatment of an E.coli infection will fail because the bug is resistant. But, as numbers of resistant infections rise, there will be increasing pressure to use more powerful antibiotics, called carbapenems, which are the last line available. And resistance to those is already emerging. "In the last two or three years we have seen [organisms] develop which destroy carbapenems. That is a great worry," Professor Hawkey said. The warnings follow increasing reports from Europe of patients with infections that are almost impossible to treat. In November, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) said up to 50 per cent of cases of blood poisoning with the bacterium K.pneumoniae, a common cause of urinary and respiratory conditions, are resistant to carbapenems in some countries.

Across Europe, the percentage of carbapenem-resistant K.pneumoniae has doubled from 7 per cent to 15 per cent, the ECDC said. Marc Sprenger, the director, said: "The situation is critical. We need to declare a war against these bacteria."

Meanwhile, the UK Health Protection Agency warned doctors in October to abandon a drug usually used to treat a common sexually transmitted disease because it was no longer effective. The agency said that gonorrhoea – which caused 17,000 infections in 2009 – should be treated with two drugs instead of one.

Explained: how bugs adapt to beat antibiotics

Bugs are like all other life forms: they must adapt to survive. Unlike human beings, however, for whom evolution is measured in millennia, reproduction is so rapid among bacteria that they can change in months or years.

With the introduction of a new antibiotic, natural selection goes to work. Most bacteria are killed by the new drug but the natural variation that occurs in any species means a few examples may, by chance, have some quirk in their genetic structure that allows them to survive.

These bacteria are then selected out by the antibiotic, which kills the rest. The mutant bacteria grow in numbers until they become the dominant species (Independent, 2012).

Title: Lack Of Security At Labs Handling World's Deadliest Pathogens Could Lead To Epic Pandemic
Date: February 20, 2012
Source: Natural News

Abstract: The mainstream media appears to be priming the public consciousness once again for the inevitable release of a highly-deadly pathogen in the very near future. A recent Reuters report explains that many of the world's biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) and biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratories, which house some of the deadliest pathogens in existence, may not be as safe and secure as people think they are because federal regulations technically require nothing more than a single locked door at such facilities as a security measure.

According to the report, some labs voluntarily employ rigorous safety and security measures, including the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, which is a highly-protected complex with at least eight levels of secured entry, closed-circuit video monitoring, and negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems to prevent the accidental release of deadly pathogens. But many other such labs do not have this same tight level of a security, as federal law does not regulate the safety protocols used by private research labs.

"Galveston's strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flue epidemic -- when as many as 40 million people died -- seem like a summer cold," says the report. "Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law."

Will the militarized H5N1 avian flu strain be 'accidentally' released from an unsecured BSL facility?

The report conveniently comes just a few months after it was first announced that scientists in Europe had deliberately created a weaponized H5N1 avian bird flu strain capable of spreading between humans ( And since that announcement, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the results of this creation should be published in scientific journals, and what the likelihood is that this vicious strain will someday get released into the wild where it could kill off populations around the world at pandemic levels.

The stage is being set, in other words, for the "accidental" release of one of these pathogens at some point in the future, upon which there will be a host of scapegoats to blame. And since all this private research being conducted on deadly viral and bacterial strains at private BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs around the world is apparently not much of a security concern to the federal government, it appears that it is only a matter of time before something catastrophic occurs.

There are also few specifics on the types of research that must be conducted in BSL-4 labs versus BSL-3 labs, which means that the deadly new H5N1 mutant strain can technically be conducted at either, even though BSL-3 labs are intended for less-serious bacterial and viral strains. This is highly concerning because, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, there were 400 accidents at BSL-3 labs just in the U.S. alone that year (Natural News, 2012).

Title: Expert Warns Of Bioattack On U.S. Cattle Industry
Date: February 21, 2012
Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: According to a terrorism expert, a low-tech biological attack on the cattle industry of the United States using virulent foot and mouth disease may be a simple way for terrorists to damage the economy.

According to an article in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, Dean Olsen, a former commander of the Douglas County Sherriff’s Department in Omaha, Neb., said that agroterrorism has become more attractive to terrorists dealing with dwindling resources and leadership. Such an attack would lead to major economic stress, but would be relatively simple and cheap to implement, Government Security News reports.

“Every level of the food chain, including farms, feedlots, chemical storage facilities, meatpacking plants, and distribution operations, remains vulnerable to agroterrorism,” Olsen said, according to Government Security News.

Olsen, who participated in the regional Joint Terrorism Task Force before his retirement in 2008, recommended that law enforcement agencies put plans into place to prevent such attacks before they happen. He said that experts agree that foot and mouth disease, which can affect cloven hoofed animals like deer, pigs, sheep and cattle, is the most ominous threat to the food chain in the U.S.

Olsen said that an outbreak could be spread to 25 states in five days when animals are moved from one farm to another. He warned that law enforcement officers investigating livestock thefts should look at them from an agroterror perspective and that such incidents should be reported to their state intelligence fusion centers or threat-integration centers (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: CDC Warns That New Swine Flu Strain Has 'Pandemic Potential'
Date: February 22, 2012
Source: Chicago Tribune

Abstract: A paper published Tuesday by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control suggests a new swine flu virus has the potential to cause an outbreak.

The A(H3N2)v swine flu strain that has infected at least 18 Americans since Sept. 2010 has shown the potential for human-to-human transmission. According to the paper, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the H3N2 strains "resemble viruses with pandemic potential." Terrence Tumpey, one of the authors of the study, says the current seasonal flu vaccine won't protect against this swine flu strain, although he says the CDC is working on creating a vaccine for swine flu variants such as the one he studied.

In November, the CDC suggested that "limited human-to-human transmission" of H3N2 had occurred in Iowa, but the most recent findings show that the virus is more easily transmissible than originally thought, leading the authors to warn that "swine-origin H3N2 viruses have the potential to cause additional human disease." Since August, people in at least five states (Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) have caught the strain.

The paper warns that people born after the mid-1990s may be "particularly susceptible to infection" because of a virus that circulated in the early part of that decade that may have given some people a low level of protection.

The virus was shown to be highly transmissible from ferret to ferret, an animal which has long been used to explore the possibility of human-to-human transmission of viruses.

"The use of the ferret model has become indispensable for understanding the virulence and transmission of influenza viruses, partly because ferrets and humans share similar lung physiology," the paper says.

The CDC hasn't received any new reports of infection since December, which has scientists stumped.

"I wish we had a good answer for why it hasn't taken off in humans. We don't fully understand the factors involved," Tumpey says.

The resulting flu from H3N2 viruses have generally been more severe than seasonal flu viruses, according to Tumpey. "Overall, the cases have been fairly mild, but there have been a few cases of hospitalization," he says.

From mid-August to late December 2011, the CDC received 12 reports of human infections from H3N2. The CDC has not reported any additional cases in 2012, but last week the organization warned that the 2012 season is the "latest flu season in nearly three decades" and that America will likely see more infections in the coming weeks.

"We've been lucky nothing has occurred so far in 2012," he says. "This study underscores the need for continued public health surveillance" (Chicago Tribune, 2012).

Title: Vietnam’s HFMD Outbreak Could Be Worse Than Last Year
Date: February 22, 2012

Abstract: In a large scale outbreak in Vietnam in 2011, more than 100,000 people were sickened by hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) with nearly 200 children dying from the common childhood infection.

As bad as it was, 2012 is showing early signs that the epidemic could be worse this year. According to Tran Thanh Duong, deputy head of the health department Tuesday, believes that a more complex and serious epidemic situation may be developing in Vietnam.

Statistics reported on the website show, and I quote:

The number of cases of hand, foot and mouth disease in the first 6 weeks of the year has reached 6,328. The number is 7.3 times higher than in the same period of a year earlier, and 9 cases have been fatal, the Health Ministry’s Preventive Health Department reported.

The outbreak has been recorded in approximately 10 Central Vietnam provinces.

Alabama health officials report HFMD outbreak

One province hit hard was Can Tho where 600 kids have been admitted for the virus and three have died.

Although it has yet to be confirmed and reported, this outbreak, like last year is likely to be caused by the more virulent enterovirus-71 (EV-71).

EV-71 has been implicated in HFMD outbreaks in Southeast Asia over the several years. EV 71 is a non-polio enterovirus.

EV 71 is transmitted through direct contact with discharge from the nose and throat, saliva, fluid from blisters or the stools of an infected person. Cases are most infectious during the first week of acute illness but may continue to shed virus in stool for weeks.

HFMD is typically a benign and self-limiting disease. Most common in young children, it presents as fever, oral lesions and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. The oral lesions consist of rapidly-ulcerating vesicles on the buccal mucosa, tongue, palate and gums. The rash consists of papulovesicular lesions on the palms, fingers and soles which generally persist for seven to 10 days and maculopapular lesions on the buttocks.

However, complications associated with HFMD caused by EV-71 include encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, acute flaccid paralysis, pulmonary edema or hemorrhage and myocarditis. Most deaths in HFMD occur as a result of pulmonary edema or hemorrhage.

The Health Ministry in Vietnam will be sending teams to the towns and localities to assist in controlling and prevention of the outbreak.

According to the report, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said the ministry will report the epidemic situation to the Government and propose that it establish an interdisciplinary steering board to fight the epidemic nationwide (Examiner, 2012)

Title: Three Quarters Of US Soldiers Diagnosed With Malaria Got It In Afghanistan
Date: February 22, 2012

Abstract: The mosquito borne infection malaria has been a huge problem for US service people during war and deployments throughout the decades. Although the use of prophylactic antimalarials, bed nets and other preventive measures are well established in today’s modern military, the risk is still there and cases still occur.

In a recent report published in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report published by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center shows that in 2011, 124 US military members were diagnosed with the parasitic infection.

This represents the third highest total of malaria cases since 2003.

Of the 124 cases reported in 2011, 91 cases (73%) were acquired in Afghanistan, while nearly a fifth were picked up in Africa and just a handful in Korea.

Plasmodium falciparum, the most serious and deadly strain of the parasite was identified in 23% of the cases. The most common species of malaria, Plasmodium vivax was identified in 29% of the cases. Nearly half of the cases were classified as “unspecified”.

Other statistics presented in the report include: the vast majority of cases occurred in men (98%), active duty (87%), members of the Army (80%), white (72%) and in their 20s (63%) (Examine, 2012).

Title: Bird Flu Cases More Common Than Thought: Study
Date: February 23, 2012
Google News

Abstract: Bird flu is believed to be a rare disease that kills more than half of the people it infects, but a US study out Thursday suggests it may be more common and less lethal than previously thought.

The research could help soothe concerns about the potential for a deadly pandemic that may kill many millions of people, sparked by the recent lab creation of a mutant bird flu that can pass between mammals.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York analyzed 20 previous international studies that tested the blood of nearly 13,000 participants worldwide, according to the study in the journal Science.

They found that between one and two percent of those tested showed evidence of a prior H5N1 avian flu infection, meaning millions of people may have been infected around the globe.

The World Health Organization's figures currently show just 573 cases in 15 countries since 2003, with 58.6 percent of those resulting in death.

The researchers said the WHO may be overlooking cases by focusing only on hospitalizations and severe illnesses, and recommended a new approach to calculating the true number of bird flu cases.

The findings could also mean that the death rate from bird flu is underestimated, largely because many of the people who get sick from it live in rural farming areas where medical care may be difficult to come by.

"We suggest that further investigation, on a large scale and by a standardized approach, is warranted to better estimate the total number of H5N1 infections that have occurred in humans," the authors wrote.

Researchers in the Netherlands and the United States have sparked international alarm with lab research that was successful in creating a mutant form of bird flu that was found to be transmissible among ferrets.

US health authorities have urged major science journals to publish only heavily edited forms of the studies in order to prevent the data from falling into terrorists' hands.

However, an international group of experts meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva last week decided that the studies should eventually be published in full, but that a further risk assessment is needed before that can happen (Google News, 2012).

Title: Bird Flu Cases More Common Than Thought: Study
Date: February 23, 2012
Source: AFP

Abstract: Bird flu is believed to be a rare disease that kills more than half of the people it infects, but a US study out Thursday suggests it may be more common and less lethal than previously thought.

The research could help soothe concerns about the potential for a deadly pandemic that may kill many millions of people, sparked by the recent lab creation of a mutant bird flu that can pass between mammals.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York analyzed 20 previous international studies that tested the blood of nearly 13,000 participants worldwide, according to the study in the journal Science.

They found that between one and two percent of those tested showed evidence of a prior H5N1 avian flu infection, meaning millions of people may have been infected around the globe.

The World Health Organization's figures currently show just 573 cases in 15 countries since 2003, with 58.6 percent of those resulting in death.

The researchers said the WHO may be overlooking cases by focusing only on hospitalizations and severe illnesses, and recommended a new approach to calculating the true number of bird flu cases.

The findings could also mean that the death rate from bird flu is underestimated, largely because many of the people who get sick from it live in rural farming areas where medical care may be difficult to come by.

"We suggest that further investigation, on a large scale and by a standardized approach, is warranted to better estimate the total number of H5N1 infections that have occurred in humans," the authors wrote.

Researchers in the Netherlands and the United States have sparked international alarm with lab research that was successful in creating a mutant form of bird flu that was found to be transmissible among ferrets.

US health authorities have urged major science journals to publish only heavily edited forms of the studies in order to prevent the data from falling into terrorists' hands.

However, an international group of experts meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva last week decided that the studies should eventually be published in full, but that a further risk assessment is needed before that can happen (AFP, 2012).

Title: England’s Shadow Defense Secretary Warns Of Lack Of Biopreparedness
Date: February 23, 2012
Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: England’s shadow defense secretary has warned the United Kingdom that the country is unprepared for a bioterror attack.

Shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy predicted that fanatics armed with deadly biological agents such as anthrax or smallpox pose a greater threat to British security than those with conventional explosives, according to the Mirror.

Murphy presented his assessment at the launch of the Labor party’s new defense review. The former Europe minister sees the changes being brought about by the Arab Spring as potentially making the world a more dangerous place, with terrorists able to choose among numerous weak and failing states for safe havens.

Meanwhile, England’s response to a doomsday-type attack remains untested while scientific advances are poised to give terrorists new means of delivering existing biological agents.

“Bioterrorism both exposes significant weaknesses in our security architecture and is a threat which could cause mass suffering,” Mr. Murphy said during his speech, the Mirror reports. “It is unclear whether the UK and out allies are sufficiently prepared. Existing international organizations have not been tested to respond to an attack with the potential scope and complexity of a mass bioterrorist incident, which there are limited international stocks of vaccine” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Bird Flu Cases More Common Than Thought: Study
Date: February 24, 2012

Abstract: Bird flu is believed to be a rare disease that kills more than half of the people it infects, but a US study out Thursday suggests it may be more common and less lethal than previously thought.

The research could help soothe concerns about the potential for a deadly pandemic that may kill many millions of people, sparked by the recent lab creation of a mutant bird flu that can pass between mammals.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York analyzed 20 previous international studies that tested the blood of nearly 13,000 participants worldwide, according to the study in the journal Science.

They found that between one and two percent of those tested showed evidence of a prior H5N1 avian flu infection, meaning millions of people may have been infected around the globe.

The World Health Organization's figures currently show just 573 cases in 15 countries since 2003, with 58.6 percent of those resulting in death.

The researchers said the WHO may be overlooking cases by focusing only on hospitalizations and severe illnesses, and recommended a new approach to calculating the true number of bird flu cases.

The findings could also mean that the death rate from bird flu is underestimated, largely because many of the people who get sick from it live in rural farming areas where medical care may be difficult to come by.

"We suggest that further investigation, on a large scale and by a standardized approach, is warranted to better estimate the total number of H5N1 infections that have occurred in humans," the authors wrote.

Researchers in the Netherlands and the United States have sparked international alarm with lab research that was successful in creating a mutant form of bird flu that was found to be transmissible among ferrets.

US health authorities have urged major science journals to publish only heavily edited forms of the studies in order to prevent the data from falling into terrorists' hands.

However, an international group of experts meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva last week decided that the studies should eventually be published in full, but that a further risk assessment is needed before that can happen (AFP, 2012).

Title: Doctors Call For HPV Shots For Boys
February 27, 2010
Washington Times

Despite lackluster acceptance among girls for a vaccine to prevent cancer-causing sexually transmitted viruses, the American Academy of Pediatrics is fully recommending that boys get the shots as well.

Boys 11 and 12 should be immunized routinely, with three doses of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), the AAP said Monday in its online issue of Pediatrics. This formally updates the academy’s previous policy of “permissive recommendation” for vaccination of males.

The AAP has recommended since 2007 that girls ages 11 and 12 receive the HPV vaccine.

The new policy should end any resistance among health insurers to covering HPV vaccines for boys. Each HPV shot cost about $130 in July; three shots are needed for the vaccine to be fully effective.

Merck & Co.’s Gardasil is the only approved HPV vaccine for males; both Gardasil and Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, are approved for females.

The HPV vaccine exploded into a presidential political issue last year when Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race.

In 2007, when the first HPV vaccine was approved for girls ages 11 and 12, Mr. Perry issued an executive order mandating it for Texas girls. An outcry ensued over the usurping of parental rights and the idea that the vaccine gave tacit permission for children and teens to engage in premarital sex.

The Texas Legislature quickly overturned the order, and as a presidential candidate, Mr. Perry called it “a mistake” he regretted because he didn’t discuss it “with the people of the state of Texas.”

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota also hit a buzz saw of controversy when she said that the HPV vaccine “can have very serious side effects,” and that a mother had told her that her daughter had become mentally damaged after receiving the HPV vaccine.

The AAP quickly said there was “absolutely no scientific validity” to the claim that the vaccine “is dangerous and can cause mental retardation.”

As for safety, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program says that as of early February, a total of nine claims have been filed for HPV-vaccine-related deaths and 163 claims filed for injuries. So far, 25 claims have been compensated and 33 have been dismissed, the federal program said.

Some 40 million HPV vaccine doses have been administered to girls in the past five years, and “no discernible, vaccine-specific adverse effect, with the exception of rare anaphylaxis to vaccine components, has been detected,” the AAP said in its new policy. Anaphylaxis refers to an allergic reaction with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, nausea and rashes.

HPV is the nation’s most commonly transmitted sexual infection. While there are dozens of HPV strains that resolve themselves without ill effects, a handful of HPV strains cause cancer. HPV 16 and 18, for instance, cause 15,000 cancer cases in women and 7,000 cases of cancer in males every year, the AAP said.

HPV vaccines are given at a young age because they only work against HPV strains before they are acquired, and most sixth-graders have not yet engaged in any sexual activity.

Research finds the vaccines are highly effective in preventing HPV-related precancerous conditions in men and women. Studies are still needed to see how the vaccines work against the growing problem of HPV-caused head and neck cancers.

Dr. Michael Brady, chairman of the AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases for 2011-2012, said the AAP changed its HPV policy on boys because “it has become apparent that HPV causes infection and [the resulting conditions] in both females and males.”

It was initially hoped that providing HPV vaccine only to girls would interrupt sexual transmission and provide protection to boys as well, Dr. Brady said. But instead of seeing 80 percent vaccination coverage in girls, only 32 percent have gotten the three doses, which is inadequate to dent transmission, he said. “Also, providing girls only with HPV vaccines does not interrupt transmission in those males who have sex with males.”

So AAP decided to concur with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ decision in October that the HPV vaccination policy be “broadened to include both genders,” Dr. Brady said.

Older teens and young adults, including those who have engaged in sexual activity, also are advised to get vaccinated, as it can still protect them if they haven’t already acquired the dangerous HPV strains.

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) and American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS) both endorse HPV vaccinations as long as they are not mandated or required for school entry.

However, the CMDA opposes “safe-sex” marketing messages that might give the erroneous idea that the HPV vaccines provide “total protection” against disease and other negative consequences of a promiscuous lifestyle, said Dr. David Stevens, chief executive of CMDA.

Also, 30 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV strains that are not covered by vaccines, ACPEDS said in its newly revised HPV policy.

Currently, the District of Columbia requires all sixth-grade girls to receive the HPV vaccine unless their parents or guardians sign an “opt out” certificate.

Virginia also mandates HPV vaccinations for girls, with a parental opt-out. But its House of Delegates and a state Senate committee recently passed a bill repealing the mandate, and the issue is now before the Senate (Washington Times, 2012).

Title: Guidelines Written To Prepare The Americas For The Intro Of Chikungunya
Date: February 27, 2012

Abstract: Although Chikungunya virus has yet to spread locally in the Americas, because of international travel, the mosquito borne virus has been seen increasingly in returning travelers to the United States in recent years.

As a result, The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Monday, Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas. The guidelines are designed to help countries in the Western Hemisphere improve their ability to detect the virus and be prepared to monitor, prevent, and control the disease, should it appear.

To download the guide, Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas select this link.

To get an idea how much the presence of chikungunya has increased in the US alone, a PAHO news release Monday said, from 2006 to 2010, 106 laboratory-confirmed or probable cases of chikungunya were detected among travelers returning to the United States. This compares with only three cases reported from 1995 to 2005.

According to the authors of the guidelines, “The broad distribution of mosquitoes capable of spreading chikungunya virus, coupled with the fact that people in the Americas have not been exposed to chikungunya virus, places this region at risk for the introduction and spread of the virus.”

Roger S. Nasci, chief of the Arboviral Diseases Branch at CDC said the following about the guidelines: “These guidelines provide the information needed to develop a comprehensive regional plan for rapidly detecting and, hopefully, reducing the potential impact of chikungunya virus in the Western Hemisphere.”

Chikungunya fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes, particularly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (the “Asian Tiger Mosquito”). Chikungunya virus is a member of the genus Alphavirus, in the family Togaviridae. Chikungunya fever is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., joint swelling), laboratory testing, and the possibility of exposure to infected mosquitoes. There is no specific treatment or vaccine available for chikungunya fever; care is based on symptoms. Chikungunya infection is not usually fatal (Examiner, 2012).

Title: Bat Flu Virus Found 
Date: February 28, 2012

Abstract: A new strain of influenza A has been found in fruit bats, indicating for the first time that bats, like birds, can be carriers of the virus, though it is not believed risky to humans, according to US health authorities.

"This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue," said Suxiang Tong, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pathogen discovery program.

"The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses."

The influenza A virus was detected in a sample of three of 316 live little yellow-shouldered bats captured at two different sites in Guatemala.

That type of bat is not known to bite humans but feeds on fruit, and is native to Central and South America.

Previous flu pandemics, such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which came to the public's attention as "swine flu," have been known to originate in animals and eventually transform so that they gain the ability to infect people.

"Fortunately, initial laboratory testing suggests the new virus would need to undergo significant changes to become capable of infecting and spreading easily among humans," said Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in CDC's Influenza Division.

"A different animal -- such as a pig, horse or dog -- would need to be capable of being infected with both this new bat influenza virus and human influenza viruses for reassortment to occur."

More details about the findings are published in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Discovery, 2012)

Title: Bird Flu, Pig Flu, Now Bat Flu? Human Risk Unclear
Date: February 28, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: For the first time, scientists have found evidence of flu in bats, reporting a never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear.

The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven't been able to grow it, and it's not clear if - or how well - it spreads.

Flu bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

"Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible" animals, said Ruben Donis, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the bat population into this new variety. Scientists haven't even been able to grow the new virus in chicken eggs or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional flu strains.

But it still could pose a threat to humans. For example, if it mingled with more common forms of influenza, it could swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, a scenario at the heart of the global flu epidemic movie "Contagion."

The research was posted online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The CDC has an international outpost in Guatemala, and that's where researchers collected more than 300 bats in 2009 and 2010. The research was mainly focused on rabies, but the scientists also checked specimens for other germs and stumbled upon the new virus. It was in the intestines of little yellow-shouldered bats, said Donis, a veterinarian by training.

These bats eat fruit and insects but don't bite people. Yet it's possible they could leave the virus on produce and a human could get infected by taking a bite.

It's conceivable some people were infected with the virus in the past. Now that scientists know what it looks like, they are looking for it in other bats as well as humans and other animals, said Donis, who heads the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in the CDC's flu division.

At least one expert said CDC researchers need to do more to establish they've actually found a flu virus.

Technically, what the CDC officials found was genetic material of a flu virus. They used a lab technique to find genes for the virus and amplify it.

All they found was a segment of genetic material, said Richard "Mick" Fulton, a bird disease researcher at Michigan State University.

What they should do is draw blood from more bats, try to infect other bats and take other steps to establish that the virus is spreading among the animals, he continued. "In my mind, if you can't grow the virus, how do you know that the virus is there?"

Donis said work is going on to try to infect healthy bats, but noted there are other viruses that were discovered by genetic sequencing but are hard to grow in a lab, including hepatitis C (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Survey: Four In 10 Nigerian Children Have Malaria
Date: February 29, 2012

Abstract: Malaria is a well-known scourge on many areas of the planet 
with over 200 million cases annually resulting in 655,000 deaths, primarily in African children.

The problem of malaria in children in the African nation of Nigeria is very serious according to the recently released Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey 2010.

The 2010 Nigeria Malaria Indicator Survey (2010 NMIS) was implemented by the National Population Commission (NPC), National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), and other Roll Back Malaria partners from October 2010 through December 2010 on a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 households.

The primary objectives of the 2010 NMIS project are to provide information on malaria indicators and malaria prevalence, both at the national level and in each of the country's six geopolitical zones.

The data was the result of a combination of multiple questionnaires for the households and laboratory testing performed on children ages 6-59 months.

Malaria testing was performed by using the rapid, 15 minute test, Paracheck Pf rapid diagnostic test (RDT), which tests for P. falciparum.

In addition to the Paracheck Pf RDT, a thick blood smear and thin blood film were prepared for all children tested. These blood smears were dried, packed carefully in the field, and then transported to the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, University of Lagos, for microscopic reading and determination of malaria parasite presence and speciation. The purpose of the blood slides is to provide a 'gold standard' for the presence of parasites within the child's blood and to ascertain the type of parasite.

Any children testing positive for malaria were treated appropriately.

Some of the key numbers coming from the survey include:

· Using the RDT test, 52% of Nigerian children age 6-59 months tested positive for malaria. Blood smears revealed 42% of the children as positive for malaria.

· Malaria prevalence increased with age regardless of methodology

· Prevalence was higher in rural areas than urban areas

· Malaria was highest in the Southwest of the country

· 44 percent of households nationwide own at least one mosquito net of any type, and 27 percent own more than one.

· 31 percent of children under age 5 slept under a mosquito net the night before the survey (Examiner, 2012).

Title: FLUMIST Vaccine, First To Protect Against Four Flu Strains, Gets FDA Approval
Date: March 1, 2012

Abstract: To date, all currently available, licensed influenza vaccines on the market are trivalent, or contain three strains of the influenza virus.

That is until now. In a press release Wednesday, Maryland biological products manufacturer, MedImmune, announced the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the first quadrivalent vaccine to protect against seasonal influenza.

The vaccine, FLUMIST Quadrivalent, intranasal, offers broader coverage against the seasonal flu by incorporating a second influenza B strain.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in the past decade, two different strains of influenza B have circulated (B/Yamagata and B/Victoria) with half the years the flu vaccine did not contain the predominant strain.

This comes a day after the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products advisory committee voted on which strains to include in the trivalent flu vaccines for the 2012-2013 season.

They voted nearly unanimously to replace the current Brisbane/Victoria strain with the Wisconsin/Yamagata strain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended including the California and Victoria influenza A strains and the Wisconsin/Yamagata influenza B strain in vaccines for the Northern Hemisphere for the 2012-2013 season.

However, as MedImmune’s executive vice president of Research and Development, Bahija Jallal said, “This is the first quadrivalent influenza vaccine approved and MedImmune is pleased to be able to take the next steps in making this product available to the public. We believe that the inclusion of an additional B strain in an annual influenza vaccine could provide a direct health benefit to individual vaccine recipients in the event that the correct B lineage either is not selected for inclusion in a trivalent vaccine, or if both lineages co-circulate” (Examiner, 2012)

Title: C. Difficile: A Deadly, Growing Problem That Is Preventable
Date: March 6, 2012

Abstract: While most types of health care associated infections (HAI), for example, bloodstream infections, catheter-associated UTIs and surgical site infections, have decreased,
Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections have increased, in fact, they are at an all-time high.

The diarrheal disease once primarily thought to be an issue in hospitals, is actually a bigger problem in nursing home care and even outpatient medical care.

According to the March issue of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vital Signs released Tuesday, 25% of C. difficile infections first show symptoms in hospital patients; 75% first show in nursing home patients or in people recently cared for in doctors' offices and clinics.

C. diff infection has become ever more deadly over the past decade with the bacterial toxin implicated in 14,000 deaths in the US annually. Fatalities related to C. diff have increased 400% during the first seven years of the last decade.

Older people, those over 65-years-old, account for 90% of all C.diff related fatalities though nearly half of C. diff infections occurs in patients younger than 65.

The cost of C. diff on American health care system is astounding in terms of extended time in the hospital. Previously released estimates based on billing data show that the number of U.S. hospital stays related to C. difficile remains at historically high levels of about 337,000 annually, adding at least $1 billion in extra costs to the health care system.

With all this negative news related to C. diff, there is a bright side- it’s preventable.

The CDC reports that hospitals that followed strict infection control recommendations, C. difficile infections were reduced by 20 percent in less than two years.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, follows up on that statistic saying, “Illness and death linked to this deadly disease do not have to happen. Patient lives can be saved when health care providers follow the 6 Steps to Prevention, which include key infection control and smart antibiotic prescribing recommendations.”

The CDC’s 6 Steps to Prevention include:

1. Prescribe and use antibiotics carefully. About 50% of all antibiotics given are not needed, unnecessarily raising the risk of C. difficile infections.

2. Test for C. difficile when patients have diarrhea while on antibiotics or within several months of taking them.

3. Isolate patients with C. difficile immediately.

4. Wear gloves and gowns when treating patients with C. difficile, even during short visits. Hand sanitizer does not kill C. difficile, and hand washing may not be sufficient.

5. Clean room surfaces with bleach or another EPA-approved, spore-killing disinfectant after a patient with C. difficile has been treated there.

6. When a patient transfers, notify the new facility if the patient has a C. difficile infection.

Clostridium difficile is a bacterium found throughout nature; soil, water and the intestines of humans and various animals. It has been isolated in the feces of 3% of healthy adults according to one study. It is however more prevalent in hospitalized adults with colonization rates of up to 30 percent seen.

It is implicated as a causative bacterium of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and pseudomembranous colitis (PMC). The problem is when there is a decrease of normal intestinal flora typically due to the use of antibiotics (the list of antibiotics is quite long). This allows the C. difficile that is normally in check, to flourish and produce some potent toxins that results in diarrhea or the potentially life-threatening PMC (Examiner, 2012)

Title: Congress Should Take Agroterror Threat Seriously, Expert Says
Date: March 12, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract:  According to an editorial by Tom Quaife of the Dairy Herd Network, the threat of agroterrorism should be taken much more seriously by members of Congress and the Obama administration.

Quaife has attended four agroterrorism conferences sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2005. Upon seeing the seriousness of the issue and simulations of how quickly infectious animal diseases could spread within the United States, he said that it has been difficult watching the uncertainty behind the proposed animal disease testing facility in Manhattan, Kan., Dairy Herd Network reports.

“It’s been hard to watch the political haggling that is taking place over the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan.,” Quaife said, according to Dairy Herd Network. “The Obama administration wants to reassess the cost and scope of the project and Congress has been slow to approve funding.”

According to Quaife, if an international attack were to occur on the world’s food supply, it could cost billions of dollars and undermine the public’s confidence. While Quaife was comforted that the proposed state-of-the-art facility would be built to address agroterrorism threats, he is concerned that the facility wouldn’t be operational until 2018.

“The need is there and a plan is in place to address it,” Quaife said, according to Dairy Herd Network. “It is time that the Obama administration and Congress start paying attention to the threat and back it up with a solid commitment to the NBAF” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: U.S. Travelers To Olympics May Bring Home Measles, CDC Warns
Date: March 19, 2012
USA Today

Abstract: Health officials are bracing for the possibility of a measles outbreak in the USA, fueled by unvaccinated American tourists returning home from this summer's Olympic Games.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the Olympics in London, as well as the Euro 2012 soccer cup in Poland and Ukraine, will be huge draws for American travelers and will increase the risk for measles infection. The virus is much more prevalent in Europe, leading to eight deaths and 26,000 illnesses last year.

"Disease knows no borders," said Rebecca Martin, director of the CDC's Global Immunization Division. "We are concerned about Americans coming back from the Olympics this summer and unknowingly infecting others."

The Olympics in London starts July 27 and the Euro 2012 soccer cup on June 8 in Poland and Ukraine.

Martin urges Americans who plan to travel this summer to be up-to-date on measles vaccinations. Measles infections have been on the rise in the U.S. even though vaccinations eliminated the routine spread of the disease here in 2000.

Most U.S. cases of the measles are imported by U.S. travelers who have not been vaccinated. Before routine vaccinations, the virus killed between 3,000 and 5,000 Americans each year.

"We usually have about 50 cases a year, but last year we had a record number of importations" — at least 214 cases — says Greg Wallace, a measles specialist with the CDC's division of viral diseases. About 30% of those cases required hospitalization.

Vaccine Breakdown

Who should get the measles vaccine?
-Children should get two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The first at 12-15 months, the second at 4-6 years.
-Any adult who hasn't been vaccinated for measles.
-People who have been exposed to measles but weren't vaccinated may benefit from getting the MMR vaccine prophylactically. Consult your health care professional.

Who shouldn't get the measles vaccine?
-People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or a previous dose of MMR vaccine.
-Women should avoid getting pregnant for four weeks after getting the MMR vaccine.
-Pregnant women should wait until after they have given birth before getting the MMR vaccine.

Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get the MMR vaccine, including:
-Those with HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system.
-People being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for two weeks or longer.
-People with cancer.
-People who have had a low platelet count (a blood disorder).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Last year, England and Wales had 1,086 cases of measles, according to the U.K. Health Protection Agency. "Ukraine is experiencing a large measles outbreak right now," Martin says.

Measles strikes worldwide but is of special concern in Western Europe, Wallace says. The disease had been under control there until a 1998 paper in the British medical journal The Lancet purported a link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. It also said the vaccine caused gastrointestinal disorders in children.

Vaccination rates fell after the paper gained widespread publicity. It was later revealed that Andrew Wakefield, the main author, had faked his research. The paper was retracted in 2010, and Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine. Vaccination rates are again rising in Europe, but in England and France they remain too low to fully control the disease.

The CDC, which is part of a global effort called the Measles Initiative to fight the disease, maintains a Web page for Americans going overseas at

Many U.S. parents who chose not to vaccinate rely on "herd immunity," the protection against infection offered by vaccination rates of 95% of higher. But with so many Americans traveling overseas, you can be exposed anywhere.

In California, three children under a year old, too young to be vaccinated, were infected in a doctor's waiting room when a 7-year-old who had caught measles in Switzerland came in to be seen, says Kathleen Harriman, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health.

In 2011, 214 people in the United States got the measles and 68 were hospitalized.

All travelers' packing lists should include "passports and immunization records," says Erika Jenssen, the director of communicable disease outbreaks in Contra Costa County, a suburban county east of San Francisco. You can be vaccinated at any age. "It's the most serious and critical thing you can do, both to make sure you're protected while you're there and so that you don't bring it back home" (USA Today, 2012).

Title: Drug-Resistant "White Plague" Lurks Among Rich And Poor
Date: March 19, 2012

Abstract: On New Year's Eve 2004, after months of losing weight and suffering fevers, night sweats and shortness of breath, student Anna Watterson was taken into hospital coughing up blood.

It was strange to be diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB)- an ancient disease associated with poverty - especially since Watterson was a well-off trainee lawyer living in the affluent British capital of London. Yet it was also a relief, she says, finally to know what had been making her ill for so long.

But when Watterson's infection refused to yield to the three-pronged antibiotic attack doctors prescribed to fight it, her relief turned to dread.

After six weeks of taking pills that had no effect, Watterson was told she had multi-drug resistant TB, or MDR-TB, and faced months in an isolation ward on a regimen of injected drugs that left her nauseous, bruised and unable to go out in the sun.

"My friends were really shocked," Watterson said. "Most of them had only heard of TB from reading Victorian novels."

Tuberculosis is often seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras - evoking impoverished 18th or 19th century women and children dying slowly of a disease then commonly known as "consumption" or the "white plague".

But rapidly rising rates of drug-resistant TB in some of the wealthiest cities in the world, as well as across Africa and Asia, are again making history.

London has been dubbed the "tuberculosis capital of Europe", and a startling recent study documenting new cases of so-called "totally drug resistant" TB in India suggests the modern-day tale of this disease could get a lot worse.

"We can't afford this genie to get out of the bag. Because once it has, I don't know how we'll control TB," said Ruth McNerney, an expert on tuberculosis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

International Alarm 
TB is a bacterial infection that destroys patients' lung tissue, making them cough and sneeze, and spread germs through the air. Anyone with active TB can easily infect another 10 to 15 people a year.

In 2010, 8.8 million people had TB, and the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that more than 2 million people will contract multi-drug resistant TB by 2015. The worldwide TB death rate currently runs at between two and three people a minute.

Little surprise, then, that the apparently totally untreatable cases in India have raised international alarm.

The WHO has convened a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss whether the emergence of TB strains that seem to be resistant to all known medicines merits a new class definition of "totally drug-resistant TB", or TDR-TB.

If so, it would add a new level to an evolution over the years from normal TB, which is curable with six months of antibiotic treatment, to the emergence of MDR-TB, then extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).

What's so frustrating about that progression, says Lucica Ditiu of the WHO's Stop TB Partnership, is that all drug-resistant TB "is a totally man-made disease".

Like other bacteria, the TB bug Mycobacterium tuberculosis can evolve to fight its way past antibiotic medicines. The more treatment courses patients are given and fail to complete, the stronger and more widespread the resistance becomes.

"The doctors, the healthcare workers, the nurses, entire healthcare systems have produced MDR-TB. It's not a bug that has come from nature. It's not a spontaneous mutation. It came about because patients were treated badly -- either with poor quality drugs, or not enough drugs, or with insufficient observation so the patient didn't finish the treatment course," said Ditiu.

Ditiu is somewhat reassured that the WHO is meeting to look at recent extreme cases of drug-resistance, which will at least throw a spotlight on this often-forgotten disease. But she says while definitions are central to international guidelines and treatment protocols, they make little difference to sick people.

"What is much more important is the drama and tragedy of the human beings. Whether it's MDR, XDR or TDR TB, it doesn't make much difference to the patients. A lot of them will face a very, very unfortunate fate."

When the Drugs Don't Work
The situation in India is a case in point.

Dr Zarir Udwadia, a tuberculosis specialist at the Hinduja National Hospital in Mumbai, published a paper in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal late last year documenting four cases of TDR-TB. He told Reuters he has now identified 12 cases for which he has all but run out of treatment options. Three are already dead.

He has tested one powerful anti-TB drug after another on samples cultured from these patients - including first-line treatments like isoniazid, rifampicin and streptomycin, and a range of second line drugs like moxifloxacin, kanamycin and ethionamide. Each medicine failed.

"If you add it all up, they were resistant to 12 drugs in total," he said.

Like others, Udwadia blames poor medical practice.

Non-prescription and over-the-counter antibiotic use is rife in India and it may be no coincidence that the country now has one of the highest burdens on MDR-TB in the world, with more than 100,000 cases.

Udwadia's team conducted a recent study in Mumbai, home to more than 12 million people often living in harsh and overcrowded conditions, and found in one district only five out of 106 doctors in the unregulated private sector could give a correct prescription for a hypothetical patient with MDR-TB.

Most of the prescriptions were "inappropriate" and would only have made the patient worse - driving the conversion of MDR tuberculosis to XDR and then to TDR tuberculosis.

The Mumbai findings show that totally drug-resistant TB "was an accident waiting to happen," Udwadia said.

"To get to this stage, you have to have amplified resistance over years, with loads of misuse of (antibiotic) drugs. And no other country throws around second-line drugs as freely as India has been doing."

That might suggest countries that use antibiotics more prudently should be less vulnerable. Experts are not convinced, and history suggests otherwise.

One of the biggest difficulties in tackling TB is the ease and speed with which it spreads. When patients cough, sneeze or spit, they propel thousands of germ-carrying droplets into the air around them. With people travelling the world in confined spaces, a disease like TB can easily hitch a ride.

A good example is extensively drug resistant TB, which first hit world headlines during an outbreak in South Africa in 2006. Barely four years later in 2010, the WHO said drug-resistant tuberculosis was at "record levels" worldwide and a total of 58 countries had reported at least one case of XDR-TB.

Ditiu fears a similar pattern could emerge with TDR-TB.

"It is spreading, it's spreading as we speak right now," she said. "The situation is extremely worrying."

Anna Watterson, who took 19 months "out of normal life" for her MDR-TB to be successfully treated but still qualified as a barrister and now works in London's law courts, can't be sure where she picked up her infection.

At the time she was living in the northwest borough of Brent, an area of London with a large immigrant community and pockets of poverty. Like millions of others in the British capital, she commuted on the Tube underground train system most days.

Watterson had also travelled to India a couple of years earlier, and since TB can lie dormant for long periods, it's also possible she may have contracted it there.

"You can't be isolated from the rest of the world," she said. "We've become too complacent about TB, thinking that it's gone away. But the reality is that until it goes away in the developing world, it's not going away anywhere" (Reuters, 2012)

Title: "Super-Soldiers" Fight Disease With Bionic Implants
Date: March 21, 2012

Abstract: The U.S. military plans to implant soldiers with medical devices, making them harder to kill with diseases.

The military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, announced plans to create nanosensors that monitor soldiers' health on the battlefield and keep doctors constantly abreast about potential health problems.

DARPA's plan for nanosensors reflects a larger trend, as scientists are trying to harness technology to improve health care across the globe. Doctors are already quickly adopting mobile technology to improve patient care, carrying around iPads to better explain procedures and inventing smartphone apps to oversee drug users' progress and watch for signs of stress in at-risk patients.

DARPA called the implants "a truly disruptive innovation," highlighting how healthier soldiers would change the state of modern warfare because most medical evacuations occur due to ordinary illnesses and disease, not injuries. If the U.S. can lead the way in this kind of high-tech monitoring, it could give the military another leg up on adversaries still beset by everyday illness.

Nanotechnology continues to find a place in the medical field as well. Stanford University researchers are developing tiny robotic monitors that can diagnose illnesses, monitor vital stats and even deliver medicine into the bloodstream, similar to the devices that the military plans to create. The two projects have yet to link up, but their similar goals suggest the military could benefit from coordinating efforts with leading university scientists.

The U.S. military regularly invests in the latest mobile technology, not only in healthcare but in its ground operations as well, as the military encourages app developers to develop apps for warfare. The Army is actively incorporating smartphones into battlefield equipment, recognizing the devices' ability to revolutionize combat.

Still, the U.S. is not the only country in on the action, as China developed an iPhone app to give the People's Liberation Army information.

The military runs on the strength of its soldiers, and this latest innovation holds promise to bolster the U.S. armed forces by decreasing preventable illnesses and keeping its men and women at the peak of their health (Mobiledia, 2012)

Title: Big Pharma Creates Resistant “White Plague” Through Mass Drugging
Date: March 21, 2012
Natural Society

Abstract: Thanks to widespread and unnecessary usage of antibiotics throughout the modern world, a heavily drug-resistant form of tuberculosis is now striking fear into the hearts of scientists and doctors alike. Affecting both poor and rich, those affected with the disease are put into quarantine and injected with a large number of super drugs. If the disease were to spread and develop, tuberculosis experts are worried that medical professionals would be helpless to stop it — at least when it comes to more of big pharma’s drugs. Natural solutions do exist, and they don’t involve the very drugs that spawned the ‘white plague’ in the first place.

India is receiving the bulk of the blame for spurring on the drug-resistant killer, as the country is known for its massive overuse of antibiotics. In fact, India has the most cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the world, with more than 100,000 cases of the disease. While multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is still quite deadly, it is the ‘extensively drug-resistant’ and ’totally drug-resistant’ tuberculosis that worries many health organizations and officials.

‘Totally a Man Made Disease’
Make no mistake that this is not a ‘natural’ evolution of disease, but a result of excessive drug use made possible by big pharma and mainstream health officials. Even members of the World Health Organization’s ‘Stop TB Partnership’ are outraged over the man-made disease progression, with member Lucica Ditiu stating that the drug-resistant TB “is a totally man-made disease”. Dr. Zarir Udwadia, also a TB specialist from India, had similar statements, explaining that that resistant strains were ”an accident waiting to happen.”

Dr. Udwadia published a report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases last year documenting four cases of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis. Currently, he has about twelve cases of the resistant disease with no treatment options left, and three have already died. Each medicine the doctor used to combat the mutated bacteria failed, with the bacteria immune to 12 drugs total. Dr. Udwadia explains that to even get to the point of developing such a drug resistant strain, it requires severe misuse of antibiotic drugs:

“To get to this stage, you have to have amplified resistance over years, with loads of misuse of (antibiotic) drugs. And no other country throws around second-line drugs as freely as India has been doing.”

Real Solutions
It is clear that the resistant strain is a real threat to public health, with many experts concerned about a potential pandemic. Unfortunately these very same individuals who blow the whistle over the new resistant ‘white plague’ being a man-made disease are turning to even more pharmaceuticals to ‘treat’ the condition. This is a serious web of drug use, with drugs creating problems that require even more drug usage. There’s simply no room for a cure within this drug paradigm, because even if they make a drug powerful enough to wipe out the resistant tuberculosis bacteria, it comes with an onslaught of symptoms that ‘require’ more drugs.

In one case of treatment, for example, Anna Watterson was given so many drug injections in an attempt to treat the resistant disease that she was heavily bruised, constantly nauseous, and unable to go out into the sun.

Instead of subjecting yourself to this ‘drug web’, you can utilize natural solutions that will also serve to enhance other biological aspects of your life as well. Vitamin D3, for example, can not only boost your overall immunity and resistance to tuberculosis, but it can also help fight the disease once you’ve been infected. Scientists have even found that vitamin D intake can significantly reduce tuberculosis associated mortality on a global scale. But what if you’re infected with the totally resistant mega bacteria?

Garlic has been found to outpace drugs in the treatment of resistant tuberculosis, putting pharmaceuticals to shame and of course boosting your overall health in the process. This has been proven by more than one piece of peer-viewed research, with scientists finding garlic to be one of many natural solutions that should be considered by all medical professionals. Amazingly, there are 43 other natural substances documented as powerful solutions to tuberculosis, virtually all of which most doctors ignore. In the abstract of the study from the University of Health Sciences in Pakistan, scientists state:

“Alternate medicine practices with plant extracts including garlic should be considered to decrease the burden of drug resistance and cost in the management of diseases. “

Big pharma’s drugs spawned this new plague, so why take them to fight it? Empower your health naturally through nutrient-dense foods, supplements, and pure water. In particular, stock up on vitamin D and turmeric — they will be highly beneficial in the event of a pandemic or disease outbreak (Natural Society, 2012)

Title: Putin Argues That Russia Must Be Prepared For Bioattack
Date: March 28, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract:  Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin recently argued that Russia must be prepared for the use of future weapons systems, including those based on genetics, which will alter how states achieve their aims and protect themselves.

Putin, writing as prime minister shortly before being re-elected as president, said that Russia must mobilize its military and scientific resources in order maintain an effective deterrent strategy, according to

Putin’s essay appeared in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the Russian government’s daily newspaper, as part of a series about the country’s problems running up to his bid to return to the presidency, according to Foreign Policy.

“Such hi-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but will be more ‘acceptable’ in terms of political and military ideology,” Putin wrote, reports. “In this sense, the strategic balance of nuclear forces will play a gradually diminishing role in deterring aggression and chaos.

“[Russia’s] armed forces, special services and other security-related agencies should be prepared for quick and effective responses to new challenges. This is an indispensable condition for Russia to feel secure and for our partners to heed our country’s arguments in various international formats.”

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov recently returned to the subject of “genetic” weapons, as well as those of a “beam, geophysical, wave and psychophysical” nature, during a meeting with Putin and several cabinet ministers to discuss implementing the ideas put forth in the essays.

David E. Hoffman, a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, acknowledged that Putin appeared to be making the point that weapons based on genetically engineered pathogens are a potential threat, but argued that the president-elect should be more circumspect.

“Putin did not react, but he should have stopped this loose talk,” Hoffman wrote, Foreign Policy reports. “’Genetic’ weapons – and more broadly, all biological weapons – are banned by the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Russia has insisted that it is in compliance and is not working on biological weapons of any kind.”

Hoffman said that the Soviet Union built a massive biological weapons program despite singing the BTWC.

“Perhaps someone needs to remind the defense minister and the re-elected president,” Hoffman said, according to Foreign Policy (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: London Warns Of Hand Cream Olympics Terror Plot
Date: March 29, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: Islamic extremists recently posted a series of detailed instructions online for how to launch a terrorist attack during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

One member of the group, called Abu Hija Ansari, called for cyanide to be mixed into hand cream so victims can absorb it through their skin. Ansari warned those attempting the recipe to wear gloves for their own protection, according to the Telegraph.

“Through skin: 1 – cyanide, 2 – skin cream,” Ansari wrote in Arabic, the Telegraph reports. “Mix the ingredients. The skin cream will open the pores in the skin and speed up the absorption and effectiveness of the poison.”

A British newspaper, the Sun, said the website, which it reportedly accessed using a false identity, has approximately 17,000 members and known links to several terrorists working with the group Al-Qaeda.

A second terrorist wrote her missive under the logo of the 2012 games.

“It’s time to prepare for the event, as once again they are interfering with innocent Muslims,” she said, the Telegraph reports.

U.K. security services remain on high alert, looking for any potential threat to the games, which begin on July 27 in east London. Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, recently briefed the British Cabinet on terrorist threats the U.K. might face in the run-up to the opening ceremony (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Government To Reconsider Nerve Agent Pesticides
Date: March 31, 2012
Source: Independent

Abstract:  The Government is to reconsider its refusal to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, the nerve-agent chemicals blamed for the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, the chief scientist at the Department of the Environment, Sir Robert Watson, told The Independent.

Sir Robert, a former head of the UN climate panel, moved quickly to begin a comprehensive re-evaluation of the Government's stance after two new scientific studies, from Britain and France, strongly linked neonicotinoid use to bee declines.

He said the new studies, and others, would be closely analysed.

The Government has refused previous requests to consider a precautionary suspension of the chemicals, which have been banned in France and Italy, despite mounting evidence that they are harmful to bees and other pollinating insects, even in minute doses.

Bees' role in pollinating crops is worth billions of pounds annually to global agriculture.

Even on Thursday, after the new studies were published, a spokesman for Defra said the new research did not change the Government's position, and that "the evidence shows that neonicotinoids do not pose an unacceptable risk to honey bees".

But yesterday Sir Robert said: "The real Defra position is the following: we will absolutely look at the University of Stirling work, the French work, and the American work that came out a couple of months ago [a study by the US government's leading bee researcher, Dr Jeffrey Pettis, which showed that exposure to microscopic doses of neonicotinoids weakened bees' resistance to disease]. We must look at this in real detail to see whether or not the current British position is correct or is incorrect.

He added: "I want to get a really careful analysis of all three papers, and I've asked for a briefing on some ongoing work that we've been doing ourselves. I want this all reassessed, very, very carefully" (Independent, 2012).

Title: Real Or Fake? Pentagon Proposal To Lobotomize ‘Terrorists’ Using Virus
Date: April 2, 2012
Source: Prison Planet

Abstract: A video on You Tube appears to show a Pentagon briefing in which the idea of lobotomizing terrorists to remove their religious fanaticism using a manufactured virus containing a vaccine is seriously proposed, although debate has raged about whether the clip is authentic or not.

YouTube Video

The footage shows a speaker giving a lecture to a handful of attendees and is accompanied by authentic-looking Department of Defense project ID numbers. According to the text on the clip, the lecture took place inside a Pentagon briefing room.

The speaker discusses how certain people are predisposed to be religious fundamentalists because they have an aggressive VMAT 2 (God) gene which causes them to act on their beliefs in fanatical ways.

After a member of the audience asks the speaker if the idea is to “by spreading this virus….eliminate individuals who are going on to a bomb fest, who are going into a market and blowing it apart,” the speaker confirms, “by vaccinating them against this, we’ll eliminate this behavior.”

The question of how to implement the vaccine is answered by the speaker when he responds to the man in the audience, who raises doubts over the feasibility of performing CT scans on suspected terrorists rather than just “putting a bullet in their head”.

“The virus would immunize against this VMAT 2 gene and that would….essentially turn a fanatic into a normal person, and we think that would have major effects in the Middle East,” states the speaker.

The audience member then asks, “How do you suggest this can be dispersed, via an aerosol?” – to which the speaker responds, “The present plan and the tests we’ve done so far have used respiratory viruses such as flu and we believe that’s a satisfactory way to get the exposure of the largest part of the population.”

The speaker confirms that the name of the proposal is “Funvax – the vaccine for religious fundamentalism.”

Debate over the video’s authenticity has raged over the course of the past year since the video was uploaded to You Tube.

Skeptics argue that the image of the brain scan used in the lecture, which according to the time stamp on the video took place in June 2005, is actually taken from a 2010 article on a completely different subject. The two images are also clearly the same brain, whereas the speaker in the clip claims they are from two different people.

The other point made by skeptics to illustrate that the clip is a hoax is the claim that the audio is not in time with the speakers on the video. This is a weaker argument – the audio would not be in perfect sync on a You Tube clip anyway, plus the back and forth exchanges between the two speakers allied with their hand gestures do appear to be authentic, in that the audience member is expressing genuine shock at the scope of the idea.

The only information about ‘Funvax’ comes from a single source, a website run by “supporters” of an individual named Joey Lambardi. There is no other confirmation or discussion of ‘Funvax’ from any official source or mainstream website.

Whatever the true providence of the video clip, the fact that brain eating vaccines which alter brain chemistry to perform a de facto lobotomy on the subject have been developed are now being promoted to the general public is a fact.

Back in 2010, Dr Robert Sapolsky, professor of neuroscience at Stanford University in California, announced that he had created a vaccine to impose a state of “focused calm” by altering brain chemistry.

The proposals ominously hark back to George Lucas’ 1971 dystopian chiller THX 1138, in which the population is controlled and subjugated through the use of special drugs to suppress emotion.

Feeling stress, getting angry, expressing emotion and displaying passion are all innate, natural and vital aspects of human behavior. Reacting with stress to dangerous or uncomfortable situations is an essential and healthy response, and is one shared by just about every living thing on the planet.

However, scientists are now telling us that getting angry, upset and passionate is abnormal and needs to be “treated” through a fresh dose of pharmaceutical drugs and injections that will virtually lobotomize us into submissive compliance.

Likewise, the notion that populations should be unwillingly vaccinated to lobotomize them of their religious beliefs is also clearly an abomination against free will and represents the ultimate tool of a scientific dictatorship (Prison Planet, 2012).

Title: Expert: U.S. Unprepared For Bioterrorism Attack
Date: April 5, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: A recent essay published in Forbes magazine supports the contention that the United States remains woefully unprepared, if not uninterested, in the chances that it will face an attack using biological weapons.

James Glassman, a former undersecretary of state for public affairs and public diplomacy and the founder of the George W. Bush Institute, said that the United States remains vulnerable to an attack that could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people because it lacks a means of producing needed medical countermeasures, according to Forbes.

Three years ago, a Congressional commission concluded that there is 50 percent chance that there will be an attack using a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by 2013. The Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism declared that the weapon used would more likely be biological than nuclear.

Regardless, Glassman said that the public has heard little about bioterrorism since the anthrax attacks in 2001, despite the considerable risk.

“Terrorists could spray Bacillus anthracis from crop-dusters over football stadiums,” Glassman wrote, Forbes reports. “Or they could send intentionally infected fanatics out to spread the smallpox virus through a crowded city, doing far more damage than a brigade of suicide bombers.”

Glassman pointed to last October’s Bio-Response Report Card study, issued last year by the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center, as proof that the country needs to do more to confront the threat of bioterrorism. The report card gave the United States a “D” grade for its detection and diagnosis capability and for the availability of medical countermeasures.

Glassman said that larger biopharmaceutical firms have done little to develop countermeasures, but small firms have filled the gap with mixed success.

“Today, largely because of these small firms, we currently have enough drugs to limit the impact of a small-to-medium attack using anthrax or similar pathogens, but we would probably be helpless against an attack using mutant strains,” Glassman said, according toForbes. “Here is the challenge: Unless the U.S. government makes a clear, long-term commitment to the development and purchase of medical countermeasures to bioterrorism, the companies that produce and develop these medicines will not be able to continue to make them. The market is limited, the liability risk is high, and the firms have to make long-term investments that now seem highly dubious without more certainty from the federal government” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Handshakes
Date: April 5, 2012
Source: ESPN

Title: No Consensus Reached On Keeping Potentially Dangerous Studies From The Public
Date: April 6, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: Scientists at a two day meeting recently held in London achieved little consensus concerning whether some potentially dangerous studies should be kept from the public for security reasons.

Bruce Alberts, the editor of the journal Science, told an audience at the Royal Society that it could take years before an international understanding could be reached on whether or not it is appropriate to publish censored versions of scientific papers, according to the Washington Post.

“My fear is that now this crisis is over, nobody will work on this,” Alberts said, the Washington Post reports.

The London meeting was called after the journals Science and Nature agreed to redact portions of two independent studies on H5N1 avian influenza in response to a request by the U.S. government. Both journals recently received a go-ahead to print revised versions of the studies.

The issue touches on the very nature of modern scientific research, its openness, funding, cybersecurity and the regulation of human behavior.

The papers in question described the successful efforts to create a strain of H5N1 that is transmissible in human being through the air.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a committee that advises the U.S. government on issues relating to federally funded research, made the request. Both studies received money from the U.S. government, according to the Washington Post.

The NSABB recently altered its decision after learning more specific information about why the studies were conducted and what their potential impact could be on further H5N1 research (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Riots May Be Controlled With Chemicals
Date: April 9, 2012
Source: Guardian

Abstract: Future riots could be quelled by projectiles containing chemical irritants fired by police using new weapons that are now in the final stages of development.

The Discriminating Irritant Projectile (Dip) has been under development by the Home Office's centre for applied science and technology (Cast) as a potential replacement for plastic bullets.

Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that last summer's riots in England provided a major impetus to Home Office research into new-generation riot control technology, ranging from the Dip to even more curious weaponry described by Cast technicians as "skunk oil".

The briefing by Cast for the Police Service of Northern Ireland says that last year's disorder sparked a surge of ideas to the Home Office from the public as well as companies manufacturing police technology. To capitalise on the interest, Cast convened a "brainstorming" event in October. Participants included police from London and Northern Ireland, the Police Federation, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Ministry of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

"No ideas too stupid or 'off the wall' to consider," the briefing notes record.

The November briefing, The Development of New Less Lethal Technologies, suggests that the Dips would be loaded into guns used to fire the existing generation of plastic bullets. They would be intended to be accurate at a range of up to 65 metres.

It is understood that the Dip, which was originally supposed to have been introduced in 2010, would be loaded with CS gas, pepper spray or another irritant.

Other parts of the briefing, released under the Freedom of Information Act, refer to a need in the short term by police to develop "counter laser dazzle" technology to protect officers from being dazzled by people using lasers like those used in recent Greek riots.

Large sections of the briefing were redacted by the Home Office, which designated them as "commercially sensitive". However, the Guardian understands that the "less lethal" technology discussed included heat rays and sound weapons. One weapon that particularly interested police officers was something Cast technicians referred to as "skunk oil".

The system would involve pellets containing foul-smelling liquids being fired from weapons similar to paintball guns. Such would be the smell that individuals hit by the pellets would want to go home to change their clothes, while associates would be reluctant to stay close to them.

The Guardian has also obtained figures illustrating the extent of recent spending by police forces around the country on the existing generation of plastic bullets, now referred to as attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs).

Some forces appear to have decided to considerably boost their stocks. Leicestershire constabulary spent £19,630 buying AEPs in 2010-11, doubling its spending on the previous year. So far in 2011-12 it has spent more than £10,000. Even a relatively small force, Avon and Somerset, which faced serious disorder in Bristol last year during the English riots and on a previous occasion amid anger over a controversial Tesco store, has spent more than £70,000 in the last three years. It also currently possesses 28 AEP launchers. That is 16 more than the larger West Midlands police, which still nevertheless spend more than £53,000 stocking up on AEPs in the last three years.

Gloucestershire police, whose territory was the scene of one of the more surprising outbreaks of rioting last summer, decided to considerably boost its AEP stocks last year. It spent £32,060 doing so, more than double its combined spending in 2009 and 2010. Elsewhere, Greater Manchester said it had sufficient supplies last year after spending more than £76,000 in the previous two years, while Nottinghamshire has spent £74,000 in the past three years.

A number of forces, including Merseyside and West Yorkshire, declined to provide information. Merseyside used the Home Office's claim that terrorism remains a "substantial" threat as a reason for not providing the information.

A final response has not been provided by the Metropolitan police. The Met commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, told a meeting of the Metropolitan police authority last November that the force authorised the deployment of plastic bullets on at least 22 different dates last year.

Another freedom of information request from the Guardian found that the Home Office supplied £4.4m worth of AEPs between 2007 and March last year to police forces across England and Wales. The projectiles are supplied to the Home Office by the Ministry of Defence for police use.

While the Home Office invoiced forces for £700,000 worth in 2007-08, this rose to £1.2m in each of the following years and to £1.3m in 2010-11 (Guardian, 2012).

Title: Deadly, Bat-Killing Epidemic Came From Europe
Date: April 9, 2012

Abstract: New clues are helping explain the mysteries surrounding white-nose syndrome, a devastating epidemic that has killed more than five and a half million bats in the eastern United States and Canada in just a few years.

In the latest advance, the strongest evidence yet suggests that infection with a suspected fungus causes the deadly disease. What's more, the fungus appears to have traveled to North America from Europe, possibly on a human shoe or on animal stowaways.

Once the fungus arrived here in 2006, North American bats were defenseless against the infectious killer, leading to the worst epidemic of wild mammals ever observed on this continent. Last week, the disease turned up for the first time in bats west of the Mississippi.

While many questions remain unanswered, each new detail brings scientists closer to figuring out how to stop a devastating and bewildering wildlife disease.

“Before we can even know whether a solution is possible, we have to know what the disease is doing and where it came from,” said Craig Willis, a wildlife biologist at the University of Winnipeg in Canada. “That may still be a long time away, but getting at these fundamental questions is really important.”

“This is probably our fault,” he added, referring to the likely role that tourists played in carrying the fungus from a cave in Europe to a popular cave in upstate New York, where the North American white-nose epidemic began. “For that reason, we have an obligation to figure out what is going on, to invest in understanding it, and to do our best to try and fix it or at least make it not as bad as possible.”

Ever since March 2006, when an annual survey of hibernating bats turned up thousands of dead animals in the New York cave, scientists have been racing to decode the secrets of a rapidly spreading killer.

Studies have narrowed in on a fungus called Geomyces destructans (Gd), which thrives in cold temperatures, causes lesions on bats’ wings and can be spread through direct contact from bat to bat. But proof that the fungus kills bats has remained elusive.

To investigate, Willis and colleagues collected 54 hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from a cave in Manitoba and transported them to a carefully protected facility at the University of Saskatchewan. All of the bats were healthy and free of disease.

Using a pipette, the researchers put Gd fungi that had been isolated from North America on the wings of one group of bats. They put European Gd on another third. And they put fungus-free liquid on a third group. Then, they placed the bats in specially designed incubators that were kept cold with high levels of humidity, which are the conditions that little brown bats prefer for hibernating.

All of the bats quickly returned to a state of torpor. The scientists waited and watched.

Pretty soon, both groups of infected bats developed lesions on their wings. By day 70, some of the bats infected with the European fungus began to die, the researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By day 90, some of those with the North American version followed -- showing for the first time that infection with the fungus alone was enough to kill the animals.

Even while still alive, infected bats displayed some unusual behaviors. Normally during hibernation, healthy bats periodically warm their bodies up for about an hour before dropping back into a chilly torpor again -- probably as a way to get rid of wastes.

All of the bats in the study experienced occasional temperature spikes, but infected bats warmed up significantly more often. Each warming event takes energy, and extra warnings caused infected bats to deplete their fat stores before hibernation was over.

Besides helping to explain how white-nose syndrome develops, the study was also able to show where the disease came from. Because both geographic strains of fungus caused similar symptoms, the study ruled out the possibility that white-nose syndrome arose from a random mutation in fungus that already existed in North America. Instead, the fungus appears to have traveled here from Europe.

European bats aren’t dying en masse from the disease, though, which might mean that overseas, flying mammals have developed immune defenses against the infectious fungus. That would explain why the European strain hit North American bats harder in the new study. Once on this side of the Atlantic, the fungus may have mutated to become less virulent because bats here were already so vulnerable.

“As much as it breaks my heart, this tells us that people inadvertently brought it from one place to another by not cleaning their boots or pants,” said Brock Fenton, a bat biologist at Western University in London, Ontario. “Before, you could at least say here’s a calamity but it was not caused by humans. Now, I don’t think you can believe that anymore.”

Theoretically, understanding how the disease works and spreads could lead to interventions that would slow or stop it. But there are still many unanswered questions, and a cure remains elusive.

“I don’t think this paper gives us any better handle on solving the problem than we had before, which was no handle at all,” Fenton said. “Right now, the outlook is really bleak” (Discovery, 2012)

Title: Censoring Data On Influenza Could Increase Bioterror Threat
Date: April 9, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: The attempt to censor science by redacting scientific research may cause the very bioterrorism problems it is trying to prevent, a a leading cyber-security specialist has revealed.

Bruce Schneier, the chief security technology officer for the London-based telecommunications firm BT, spoke before a meeting of flu and security experts last week at the Royal Society in London. He warned the assembled experts that the redaction could lead to additional bioterrorism problems, New Scientist reports.

The meeting came in the wake of a decision by the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to publish two scientific papers reporting on an H5N1 flu strain that spreads among mammals. The board previously called to have details omitted from the papers so that bioterrorists would not be able to construct the viruses themselves. The board changed its mind, but the U.S. government published a policy regulating such research in March.

Schneier said that computer hackers are not likely to search the internet looking for random files related to science to hack into.

“If no one knows about it, it’s safe,” Schneier said, according to New Scientist. “If you announce that you have sensitive information by putting out a redacted paper, then if someone wants to know, they will. Any computer can be hacked.”

Schneier emphasized that he was talking about both scientific papers being hacked along with experimental notes and data kept electronically in laboratories (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Group Releases Recommendations For Response To Botulinum Attack
Date: April 13, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: A working group from the United States recently made a series of recommendations for how medical and public health professionals should respond to a bioterror attack using botulinum toxin.

Dr. Stephen S. Arnon and his colleagues from organizations such as the California Department of Health Services, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Science Applications International Corporation and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health analyzed studies from 1960 to 1999 as the basis for the guidance, according to UPI.

After examining the literature, the group sought further opinions from experts on the treatment and management of botulinum infection.

Exposure to botulinum as an aerosolized or food-borne weapon would generally cause the onset of symptoms within 12 to 72 hours of exposure. Responding effectively to a release would require timely clinical diagnosis, case reporting and epidemiological investigation.

“Persons potentially exposed to botulinum toxin should be closely observed, and those with signs of botulism require prompt treatment with antitoxin and supportive care that may include assisted ventilation for weeks or months,” the researchers said, UPI reports. “Treatment with anti-toxin should not be delayed for microbiological testing.”

The results of the working group’s work were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Research Shows Psychological Impact Of Anthrax Attack On Seattle
Date: April 17, 2012

Abstract: A new study recently assessed the potential consequences of a major anthrax attack directed at Seattle, Washington, in order to gain a better insight into how residents would react in such a situation.

Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events examined the potential psychological and economic impact an attack would have by interviewing hundreds of Seattle residents, according to

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded study focused on perceptions of risk, health awareness and the possible changes that would occur after an anthrax attack claimed 50,000 victims. The study examined how government actions could make a difference in whether or not people returned to the city or chose to live somewhere else.

“The way we did this is by using the Department of Homeland Security’s national planning scenarios of an anthrax attack,” Heather Rosoff, a post-doctoral research associate at CREATE, said, reports. “What we did is we took the language of the scenario and developed it further into short videos segments starting with the initial attack and extending out over a two year period.”

The video segments were designed to emulate real news coverage of the event. Participants in the study watched the videos and then responded to a survey.

The study showed that an attack would have long-term consequences for the economic health far beyond Seattle’s city limits.

“An anthrax attack like this could have a devastating impact on the real estate market,” researcher Adam Rose said, reports. “It would really cause a major decline in property values.”

The decline could extend far into suburban areas and the surrounding region. A significant number of residents would leave and business would most likely follow. If Seattle were the target, underwater mortgage levels in the city could increase by up to $15 million and foreclosures could reach 70,000.

In addition, the stigma of living in a city that was attacked by a bioterror agent would cause more residents to eventually leave. The study determined that up to 20 percent of the population would seek to live elsewhere. In Seattle, this would mean 300,000 people. More than 200,000, however, would be affected by foreclosures.

Government intervention would have to be gauged appropriately. Too much intervention, according to researcher Richard John, could stigmatize the population.

“We found the more it was suggested the government would implement certain policies, the more afraid residents were,” John said, according to (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: CFIA Warns Of Possible Botulism Contaminated Fish At North York Grocery
Date: April 17, 2012

Abstract: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume certain vacuum packaged fish products sold only at a specific North York grocery due to the potential of Clostidium botulinum contamination.

According to a CFIA health hazard alert Monday, the products in question are North 44 brand Smoked Salmon McEwan’s Own and Kristapson's smoked salmon sold in various weights.

These products were sold only at McEwan Gourmet Grocery Store located at 38 Karl Fraser Road, North York, Ontario.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Food borne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food.

Food borne botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the toxin. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known.

Growth of this anaerobic bacteria and the formation of the toxin tend to happen in products with low acidity and oxygen content and low salt and sugar content. Inadequately processed, home-canned foods like asparagus, green beans, beets, and corn have commonly been implicated. However, there have been outbreaks of botulism from more unusual sources such as chopped garlic in oil, chili peppers, improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and home-canned or fermented fish. Garden foods like tomatoes, which used to be considered too acidic for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, is now considered a potentially hazardous food in home canning. Though more common in home-canned foods, it happens only occasionally in commercially prepared foods.

Typically in a few hours to several days after you eat the contaminated food you will start to show the classic symptoms: blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. Gastrointestinal symptoms may or may not occur. If untreated, the paralysis always descends through the body starting at the shoulders and working its way down. The most serious complication of botulism is respiratory failure where it is fatal in up to 10% of people. It may take months before recovery is complete.

If the disease is caught early enough it can be treated with antitoxin. If paralysis and respiratory failure happen, the person may be on a ventilator for several weeks (Examiner, 2012)

Title: DHS: Anthrax Attack Remains A “Serious Threat”
Date: April 18, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, James Polk, the principal deputy assistant secretary and deputy chief medical officer of the Office of Health Affairs  at the Department of Homeland Security, stressed the ongoing threat of an anthrax attack in the U.S.

“The threat of an attack using a biological agent is real and requires that we remain vigilant,” Polk said. “A wide-area attack using aerosolized Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most serious mass-casualty biological threats facing the US.”

Polk went on to note that anthrax is nearly 100 percent fatal without treatment, and pointed out that “a successful anthrax attack could potentially encompass hundreds of square miles, expose hundreds of thousands of people, and cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption and significant economic damage.“

Anthrax is considered a major threat because it can be easily produced in vitro and aerosolized. In 2001, letters containing anthrax were mailed to two Democratic senators and several news offices, infecting 22 and killing five (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Discovery: Parasite Named After President Obama, Reproduces Without A Male
Date: April 20, 2012

Abstract: Sexual reproduction can be a difficult task for some species of parasites particularly when the life cycle requires multiple hosts or when the parasite is in the environment with no suitable mate to be found.

In an interesting study published in PLoS ONE on April 18, researchers from the US and Germany discovered the first hairworm which able to reproduce without a mate.

The new organism, Paragordius obamai, named after the 44th President of the US, whose father was raised in Kenya where the parasite is found, is a new species from the phylum Nematomorpha (a sister phylum to Nematoda, where we find organisms like Ascaris and hookworms).

Researchers discovered that P. obamai, thanks to parthenogenesis (developing an egg without fertilization), was able to reproduce asexually. This is the first species in the phylum to reproduce in such a fashion.

Many parasites are able to reproduce without a mate, either by parthenogenesis or as in the case tapeworms, hermaphroditism.

According to the study, parasites in the Nematomorpa phylum are parasites to arthropods where they exist in the larval form in their hosts. There they make their insect hosts jump in water, where the free living adults seek out mates for reproduction.

However, with P. obamai, is found in large, fast-moving waters which can make finding a mate more of a challenge.

In the lab researchers revealed found that the adults only released females lacking in male sex organs. In addition, there was a lack of sperm in the females.

This is the first case of parthenogenesis in the phylum Nematomorpha (Examiner, 2012)

Title: Navy Launches Fleetwide Effort Against Biological Weapons
Date: April 20, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: The U.S. Navy has taken major steps against biological weapons by launching an effort to equip sailors more effectively for biological and chemical warfare.

A decade ago, a Navy crew would only know if it had been infected with a biological agent after people started getting sick. Even just a few months ago, many ships might not have known for at least a few hours, the Virginian-Pilot reports.

“By then, everything could be contaminated,” Jeff Smith, a civilian engineer with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., said, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “It had to get faster.”

The Navy anticipates that by 2016, almost half its fleet will be outfitted with new technology that can identify biological agents in a matter of minutes. By 2018, all surface ships are expected to have equipment to detect most chemical threats immediately.

“We know there are many countries that have the capability to launch these kinds of attacks,” Smith said, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “No question, it’s a threat that our sailors have to be able to counter quickly.”

While Navy ships have had the capacity for detecting chemical and biological warfare agents for years, the new systems are faster, more accurate and easier to use. The biological attack system has now been installed on more than 50 ships. Sailors just need to flip a switch to turn on the automated system mounted permanently within the ship.

“You know almost immediately if there’s a problem,” Lt. Junior Grade Arthur Bond, the damage control assistant aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based Mahan, said, according to theVirginian-Pilot. “So you can start dealing with it immediately” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: The NBC Triad- Realistic Threat Assessment And Destroying Prepper Dogma
Date: April 24, 2012
Source: APN

Abstract:   On the Friday the 13th show, Karen and I tackled the NBC boogeymen and the dogma, myths, and misconceptions often bandied about in the Prepper community.  NBC, originally a military acronym, denotes nuclear, biological, and chemical threats.  The new acronym is CBRN for 
chemical, biological, radiological, and Nuclear threats.  The show drew a large audience, and we did a full 90 minutes and only scratched the surface of the layman’s version of understand the NBC threat.  You can download this show on the player below.  We also announced our upcoming 5-week long preparedness trivia promotional giveaway of fire starters that will begin on April 27, 2012.

I opened with an excerpt from a blog that I did on the subject published on January 30, 2012.  The full blog can be found at and the excerpt is as follows:

Over a decade ago, (after getting out of active duty,), I was in the private security world, (where) I consulted and trained corporate security clients, as well as law enforcement agencies.  After 9/11, I had clients, and even police departments, approach me concerning the NBC threat.  I admit that I have never been impressed with the response plans that we trained on (in the military).  They were too (optimistic, in my opinion.)..

Let us look at a typical multi-story business or apartment (building.)  What are the three biggest infiltration points on these buildings?  The answer is the doors, windows, and HVAC systems.  Even IF the residents were able to secure the doors and windows, what about the HVAC systems? It takes time to isolate buildings from outside air intake, especially in larger buildings.

But before we even got to that point, what WARNING would civilians get?  In the Gulf War, aircraft were flying through airborne agents released by the bombing…and ground crews were later scrambling…over the (aircraft) fuselages to service (them). The detectors did not pick up these trace agents and as such many crewmen were contaminated in repetitive low doses.  If NATO detectors were not able to accurately detect trace agents, then what would tell Joe Six-Pack that something was (wrong)?

What would (building) maintenance (crews) wear if they…went… into a contaminated environment?  What would…warn (them) to initiate such precautions?  Seriously, do you think the government is able to get the warning out in time, PRIOR to such an attack?

When…the military are operating in an increased NBC threat environment, (they usually operate in reduced MOPP levels, (Mission Oriented Personal Protection).  (These) levels dictate how much gear is worn versus carried.  In MOPP 2, the over boots and garment (are worn) but the outer gloves, glove liners, and mask (are carried).  From MOPP 2, a full minute can be used by TRAINED troops to don, tighten, clear, fit check, and buddy check…the mask and gloves.  How well and how fast is Joe Six-Pack going to don his gear, assuming he even dons it all correctly?

I told (my clients) to isolate (themselves and the) building as much as they could.  The good news is that most agents are non-persistent and that dispersal is the bane of any agent delivery system.  Let the emergency responders decon evacuation routes before releasing their people.  I advised against trying to use off the shelf chemical protection devices…because without the training,…(they) may lead to more deaths if used.

Now, I realize that there is a certain…(bulletproof) attitude in (the prepper) community and that a significant number of (Preppers) have military surplus NBC (gear).  But the simple (truth is that) the VAST majority of Americans have never had any military or first responder training. (Additionally, this surplus military gear is) of dubious quality and origin to begin with, and…are not inspected by trained technicians on a regular basis.

(Most) people have NO IDEA HOW DEBILITATING everyday operations in these suits are.  I was once in an exercise where the unit was transported, within 24 hours, from a winter environment to a humid southern environment and forced to operate for HOURS under the sun in MOPP 4 condition.  Fully 20% of the unit was sent to the hospital for dehydration and heat (related injuries).

How will (the average prepper) hold up?  Have you ever run in a mask?  Without excellent fitness and psychological preparation, many will end up hyperventilating because of the amount of air you can intake through a mask valve.  What about water?  (Do you have the proper equipment to drink water while in protective gear?)  How many cartridges do you have? What are their lifespans?  Do you even know what your mask and suit protect against?  What is your decon plan?  How bad would it be to make a successful foray outside only to die because you deconned improperly (and) introduced agent into your shelter?

The answers to these questions will probably reveal a vast ignorance of counter NBC operations.  So what then is the answer?  How do you counter this potential threat or do you go meekly into the void and surrender yourself to a fatalistic attitude?  (That is what we shall look at tonight…)

The show proceeded with a thumbnail summarization of the various nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical threats, with an emphasis on militarized threats; however, industrial threats were discussed, as well.  We defined the threats as the military and emergency management personnel community does, to give the audience a chance to experience the commonality of language that the professionals use.  In the process, we cleared up some misnomers and myths about size, complexity, lethality, and employment of various NBC threats, such as what a “suitcase” nuke really is.

We talked about the history of employment of such weapons and industry accidents by governments and terrorists.  We talked about the prevalence or, in some cases, the extreme rarity of the threats being employed.  We even informed of cases of NBC terrorism on US soil throughout our history.

We took time to talk about the non-engineered biological threats that can and regularly do appear after major disasters due the breakdown of sanitation systems.  I talked about Haiti and my experiences during the Katrina response.

We briefly touched upon the nature of the chemical threats and how blood, blister, and nerve agents, as well as, certain hazardous industrial chemicals behaved and attacked the human body.  From there we moved on to realistic threat assessment.

Here was where we really began to depart from the popular dogma of the Prepper community that seems to be equal parts bravado, cavalier disregard of reality, and eternal optimism.  We burst the bubbles of the glow worm doom and gloom Preppers by relegating the nuclear  and chemical weapon threats to the bottom of the threat ladder.  We explained how bio-weapons are the easiest threat to employ because they are so easy to conceal in a population, due to incubation periods and the variety of transmission methods.  We emphasized how easy disease epidemics take hold post-disasters.

We then talked about industrial accidents briefly and moved into the radiological or “dirty bomb” threats.  We followed it all up with our reasons why militarized chemical and nuclear threats were almost non-issues.  I explained the difficulty of employing nuclear weapons and the engineering challenges of chemical dispersal, by highlighting the Tokyo Subway attacks by Aum Shrynko using homemade sarin gas.

We touched upon some threat mitigation and response information as we discussed the various threats.  Keep in mind that future shows will discuss this more thoroughly.

As usual, we had some very interesting callers offer their viewpoints and questions.  One caller in particular stands out because of her concern that her proximity to an old uranium breeder reactor increased her chances of having her community attacked by rogue states with intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.  We set her mind at ease as we discussed the SALT treaties and gave some SIOP (system integrated operational planning) insights to Cold War era targeting protocols of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

We ended the show by briefly talking about the detection of these threats.  We emphasized the likelihood of high civilian casualties should these threats materialize.  We talked about the logistics of emergency management to respond to such threats on the local level.  It was a very frank admission of government’s limitations.

So, in closing, on behalf of my co-host Karen and I, we want to thank you for supporting our show as we grow weekly.  Without you, our audience, we would not have a purpose to share our experiences.  Thank you and you can join us every Friday evening at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central at (APN, 2012)

Title: Research Shows Psychological Impact Of Anthrax Attack On Seattle
Date: April 27, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: A new study recently assessed the potential consequences of a major anthrax attack directed at Seattle, Washington, in order to gain a better insight into how residents would react in such a situation.

Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events examined the potential psychological and economic impact an attack would have by interviewing hundreds of Seattle residents, according to

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded study focused on perceptions of risk, health awareness and the possible changes that would occur after an anthrax attack claimed 50,000 victims. The study examined how government actions could make a difference in whether or not people returned to the city or chose to live somewhere else.

“The way we did this is by using the Department of Homeland Security’s national planning scenarios of an anthrax attack,” Heather Rosoff, a post-doctoral research associate at CREATE, said, reports. “What we did is we took the language of the scenario and developed it further into short videos segments starting with the initial attack and extending out over a two year period.”

The video segments were designed to emulate real news coverage of the event. Participants in the study watched the videos and then responded to a survey.

The study showed that an attack would have long-term consequences for the economic health far beyond Seattle’s city limits.

“An anthrax attack like this could have a devastating impact on the real estate market,” researcher Adam Rose said, reports. “It would really cause a major decline in property values.”

The decline could extend far into suburban areas and the surrounding region. A significant number of residents would leave and business would most likely follow. If Seattle were the target, underwater mortgage levels in the city could increase by up to $15 million and foreclosures could reach 70,000.

In addition, the stigma of living in a city that was attacked by a bioterror agent would cause more residents to eventually leave. The study determined that up to 20 percent of the population would seek to live elsewhere. In Seattle, this would mean 300,000 people. More than 200,000, however, would be affected by foreclosures.

Government intervention would have to be gauged appropriately. Too much intervention, according to researcher Richard John, could stigmatize the population.

“We found the more it was suggested the government would implement certain policies, the more afraid residents were,” John said, according to (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).

Title: Sweden’s Armed Forces Ill-Prepared For CBRN Attack
Date: May 2, 2012

Abstract: Swedish defense experts fear the Nordic nation’s military remains unprepared for an attack using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons.

Defense analyst Johan Tunberger, formerly of Sweden’s Defense Research Agency, pointed to the military’s lack of protection against CBRN weapons, as well as a need for field hospitals and helicopter training, according to

“The Swedish armed forces could not be deployed if the situation would require it,” Tunberger said, reports.

Tunberger said that current government plans to prioritize a “balanced economy” will leave the military without much needed funding for reforms and reorganization.

Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt recently said that one of the nation’s fundamental tasks would be to keep the armed forces’ financing in order. Some planned investments in material, however, have already had to be postponed.

The 2012 military budget totals approximately $1.3 billion, but military spending on what are considered items required for basic functioning is expected surpass that amount.

In addition, some systems, according to Tunberger, will still be able to operate as intended, but never have a chance to work in conjunction with one another.

”The armed forces can’t perform large scale operations and the overall result is that the Swedish defense won’t be able to be deployed if necessary,” Tunberger said, according to (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Baby Boomers Should Get Tested For Hepatitis C, Federal Officials Say
Date: May 2, 2012
LA Times

Abstract: Federal health officials plan to issue new recommendations that all baby boomers get tested for
hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and death. 

Many boomers unknowingly contracted the virus in younger years from using drugs or having blood transfusions before screening was improved during the AIDS crisis. Unaware of the risk and without symptoms, most have never been tested for hepatitis C and don't know they have it. The disease — primarily contracted through blood — often remains hidden for decades while it slowly destroys liver cells. There is no vaccine. 

"Hepatitis C is really a stealth virus," said Elizabeth Bancroft, medical epidemiologist with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "It can live in you for many, many, many years."

There are at least 530,000 people living with hepatitis C in California, including an estimated 134,000 in Los Angeles County, according to health officials. 

Harold Owens, who lives in Los Angeles and works at the Recording Academy, is among those paying the consequences for decisions made in his youth. He developed a heroin habit as a young man but says he hasn't touched drugs in nearly a quarter-century. He was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2001. Now 59, he suspects he may have contracted the disease from sharing infected needles.

Owens underwent treatment that slowed the disease's progression but didn't expel it from his body. He still worries about what it could do to his liver. "It hangs over your head," he said.

"I understand the risks now," said Owens, who directs MusiCares, a foundation for musicians dealing with addiction. "I didn't then. Nobody did."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to issue a recommendation this year that all baby boomers get tested. Those at risk include anyone who has used injection drugs, received a blood transfusion before 1992, are HIV positive or received a tattoo with non-sterile instruments.

More information about hepatitis C and where to find testing can be found on the California Department of Public Health website (LA Times, 2012)

Title: 'Washing Hands Has Saved  More Lives Than Any Medical Breakthrough In A Generation': MRSA Cases Plummet As Campaign Helps Hospitals Clean Up Their Act
Date: May 4, 2012
Source: Daily Mail

Abstract: Thousands of deaths have been prevented in hospitals because medical staff are being more diligent about washing their hands, a study has claimed.

The high-profile Clean Your Hands campaign to encourage doctors and nurses to use soap and water or alcohol gel between patients has saved more lives than any medical development for a generation, according to the report published in the British Medical Journal today.

Following the launch of the drive in 2004, the amount of soap and alcoholic hand rub bought by NHS trusts almost tripled.

Over the same period of time MRSA rates in hospitals fell by more than half, while there was a significant drop in the number of Clostridium difficile infections.

Sheldon Paul Stone who led the study, estimated that around 10,000 lives were saved because of the campaign which encouraged medical staff to take the simple step of washing their hands.

He added: ‘If hand hygiene were a new drug, pharmaceutical companies would be out selling it for all they were worth.’

There were around 1,000 deaths from MRSA and 4,000 deaths from C.diff each year in the mid-2000s, with the National Audit Office estimating that it cost over £1billion a year to treat people who developed the infection.

Rates for the superbugs MRSA rose significantly in the 1990s from just 100 a year to a peak of 7,700 in 2003 to 2004. Following the launch of the hand-washing campaign rates fell steadily each year to 1,481 cases in 2010 to 2011.

The Clean Your Hands campaign reminded visitors and staff to go back to basics by scrubbing their hands before touching patients, eating food and after going to the toilet.

Thousands of posters were put up by bedsides to drive the message home and regular checks were made to ensure hands were kept clean.

The BMJ study found that the number of patients infected with MRSA fell from 1.88 cases per 10,000 bed days to 0.91 over the four-year period.

Over the same time rates of C.diff infection dropped from 16.75 to 9.49 cases, while the cases of MSSA - a bacteria found on the skin - did not fall.

The study also found that hospital trust procurement of soap and alcohol hand rub rose from a combined 21.8ml to 59.8ml per patient bed day over the period.

The increased levels of soap in hospitals was linked to reduced rates C.diff infection, while rising levels of alcohol hand rub were associated with a reduction in MRSA cases.

The number of MRSA infections fell to 1,114 for the period 2011-12.

Studies in 2004 showed one in four doctors and nurses in Britain still did not wash their hands reliably between every patient.

The campaign which ended in 2010 cost £500,000 over four years.

Researchers from University College London Medical School and the Health Protection Agency say 'strong and independent associations' between the rise in soap orders and the fall in infection rates ‘remained after taking account of all other interventions’ (Daily Mail, 2012)

Title: Poison Drones Carrying Biological Weapon Are New Olympic Threat, Warns Colonel In Charge Of Keeping London Calm
Date: May 5, 2012
Daily Mail

Abstract: A senior Army officer has warned that unmanned drones carrying deadly poison could be used in a devastating terrorist attack during the Olympic Games.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Fahy delivered the grim warning at a meeting intended to allay the fears of residents worried about the Army’s plans to place missiles on the rooftops of flats.

He said it was ‘feasible’ that remote-controlled aircraft filled with poison and small enough to fit into a backpack could be used as a biological weapon in the capital.

He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can be put in a backpack. They come in all sorts of sizes and it’s feasible they could be filled with something noxious and flown by remote-control.’

Lieut Col Fahy – the officer responsible for community relations during the Games – made his remarks  on Friday in Leytonstone, East  London, near one of six sites which could see the deployment of surface-toair missile batteries in order to shoot down aircraft attempting to infiltrate an Olympic ‘no fly’ zone.
During the meeting at Buxton School, his team showed locals  a ‘dummy’ missile battery and allowed children to play on the unarmed weapon.

Lieut Col Fahy declined to elaborate on what type of poison might be used during an aerial attack.

He said: ‘For the duration of the Olympics anyone flying into controlled airspace is to file their flight plan with the Civil Aviation Authority.

‘The range of threats varies in  size and capability. It could be a commercial airliner hijacked by somebody with malicious intentions or a protest group using a microlight to get their name in the papers.’

His poison warning came as it was revealed that SAS troops have had anthrax emergency training at the Government’s top-secret military research establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

Sources say the elite soldiers wore biochemical protection suits, gloves and masks during exercises over the past few months to prepare for any attack using the deadly bacteria.

Such an incident could threaten the lives of thousands of people attending the Games this summer.

Lieut Col Fahy told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We have worked up a comprehensive plan to protect against the potential hijacking of a commercial airliner down to slow-moving microlights or radio-controlled planes.’

Asked if they would fire a missile at a protester flying a microlight near the Olympic site, Lieut Col Fahy said: ‘We would not take it out. For something like that we would scramble helicopters to go and look at it.

‘There will be an RAF sniper on board if there was serious evidence to suggest something like that  represented a threat. That information gets passed on and it’s a political decision to engage.

‘It’s the same politicians who will decide whether we fire surface-to-air missiles at a potential threat. It’s a decision that I’m quite happy not to make. It will weigh very heavily.’

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has made it clear he is ready to give the order to shoot down any aircraft threatening the Olympics with a 9/11-style attack.

Lieut Col Fahy also revealed that armed police would guard any  missile sites being used in case any attempts were made to steal them or protest against their deployment.

He added: ‘What we are doing is unusual. Londoners are not used to seeing a lot of soldiers around. Some people feel uncomfortable about the missiles but the vast majority, I think, appreciate we are doing this.’

HMS Ocean, one of the UK’s biggest warships, is based in the Thames, with the capability to fire a hail of missiles at a terrorist aircraft.

The awesome array of military hardware ready to thwart an attack includes four RAF Typhoon jets, three Royal Navy Sea King and two RAF Puma helicopters.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night: ‘We are prepared for any eventuality’ (Daily Mail, 2012)

Title: U.K. Army Official Warns Of Poison-Carrying Terrorist Drones
Date: May 7, 2012

Abstract: A senior Army officer attempted to justify a plan to place missiles on London apartment rooftops during the Olympics on Friday by warning of possible terrorist plans to use unmanned drones carrying deadly poison.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Fahy made the announcement during a Leytonstone meeting meant to allay the fears of residents expressing concern about the missile plan. Fahy is the officer responsible for community relations during the upcoming Olympic Games, Gulf News reports.

“An unmanned aerial vehicle can be put in a backpack,” Fahy said, according to The Mail. “They come in all sorts of sizes and it’s feasible they could be filled with something noxious and flown by remote-control.”

Fahy said that such a device could be used as a biological weapon. He declined to go into more detail about what type of poison might be used as an aerial attack, but troops have recently had anthrax emergency training at the government’s top-secret Wiltshire-based military research facility.

“For the duration of the Olympics anyone flying into controlled airspace is to file their flight plan with the Civil Aviation Authority,” Fahy said, according to The Mail. “The range of threats varies in size and capability. It could be a commercial airliner hijacked by somebody with malicious intentions or a protest group using a microlight to get their name in the papers” (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Drug-Defying Germs From India Speed Post-Antibiotic Era
Date: May 7, 2012
Source: Bloomberg

Abstract: Lill-Karin Skaret, a 67-year-old grandmother from Namsos, 
Norway, was traveling to a lakeside vacation villa near India’s port city of Kochi in March 2010 when her car collided with a truck. She was rushed to the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, her right leg broken and her artificial hip so damaged that replacing it required 12 hours of surgery.

Three weeks later and walking with the aid of crutches, Skaret was relieved to be home. Then her doctor gave her upsetting news. Mutant germs that most antibiotics can’t kill had entered her bladder, probably from a contaminated hospital catheter in India. She risked a life-threatening infection if the bacteria invaded her bloodstream -- a waiting game over which she had limited control, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its June issue.

“I got a call from my doctor who told me they found this bug in me and I had to take precautions,” Skaret remembers. “I was very afraid.”

Skaret was lucky. Eventually, her body rid itself of the bacteria, and she escaped harm from a new type of superbug that scientists warn is spreading faster, further and in more alarming ways than any they’ve encountered. Researchers say the epicenter is India, where drugs created to fight disease have taken a perverse turn by making many ailments harder to treat.

India’s $12.4 billion pharmaceutical industry manufactures almost a third of the world’s antibiotics, and people use them so liberally that relatively benign and beneficial bacteria are becoming drug immune in a pool of resistance that thwarts even high-powered antibiotics, the so-called remedies of last resort.

Medical Tourism
Poor hygiene has spread resistant germs into India’s drains, sewers and drinking water, putting millions at risk of drug-defying infections. Antibiotic residues from drug manufacturing, livestock treatment and medical waste have entered water and sanitation systems, exacerbating the problem.

As the superbacteria take up residence in hospitals, they’re compromising patient care and tarnishing India’s image as a medical tourism destination.

“There isn’t anything you could take with you traveling that would be useful against these superbugs,” says Robert Moellering Jr., a professor of medical research at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The germs -- and the gene that confers their heightened powers -- are jumping beyond India. More than 40 countries have discovered the genetically altered superbugs in blood, urine and other patient specimens. CanadaFranceItalyKosovo and South Africa have found them in people with no travel links, suggesting the bugs have taken hold there.

Post-Antibiotic Era
Drug resistance of all sorts is bringing the planet closer to what the World Health Organizationcalls a post-antibiotic era.

“Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said at a March medical meeting in Copenhagen. “Hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm infants would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake.”

Already, current varieties of resistant bacteria kill more than 25,000 people in Europe annually, the WHO said in March. The toll means at least 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) in extra medical costs and productivity losses each year.

“If this latest bug becomes entrenched in our hospitals, there is really nothing we can turn to,” says Donald E. Low, head of Ontario’s public health lab in Toronto. “Its potential is to be probably greater than any other organism.”

Promiscuous Plasmids
The new superbugs are multiplying so successfully because of a gene dubbed NDM-1. That’s short for New Delhi metallo-beta- lactamase-1, a reference to the city where a Swedish man was hospitalized in 2007 with an infection that resisted standard antibiotic treatments.

The superbugs are proving to be not only wily but also highly sexed. The NDM-1 gene is carried on mobile loops of DNA called plasmids that transfer easily among and across many types of bacteria through a form of microbial mating. This means that unlike previous germ-altering genes, NDM-1 can infiltrate dozens of bacterial species. Intestine-dwelling E. coli, the most common bacterium that people encounter, soil-inhabiting microbes and water-loving cholera bugs can all be fortified by the gene.

What’s worse, germs empowered by NDM-1 can muster as many as nine other ways to destroy the world’s most potent antibiotics.

Untreatable Killers
NDM-1 is changing common bugs that drugs once easily defeated into untreatable killers, saysTimothy Walsh, a professor of medical microbiology at Cardiff University in Wales. Or as in Skaret’s case, the gene is creating silent stowaways poised to attack if they find a weakness -- or that can pass harmlessly when the body’s conventional microbes win out.

Cancer patients whose chemotherapy inadvertently ulcerates their gastrointestinal tract are especially vulnerable, says Lindsay Grayson, director of infectious diseases and microbiology at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital.

“These bugs go straight into their bloodstream,” Grayson says. Newborns, transplant recipients and people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk, he says.

Six infants died in a small hospital in Bijnor in northern India from April 2009 to August 2010 after NDM-1-containing bacteria resisted all commonly used antibiotics.

India Vulnerable
India is susceptible because it has many sick people to begin with. The country accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s pneumonia cases. It has the most tuberculosis patients globally and Asia’s highest incidence of cholera.

Most of India’s 5,000-plus drugmakers produce low-cost generic antibiotics, letting users and doctors switch around to find ones that work. While that’s happening, the germs the antibiotics are targeting accumulate genes for evading each drug. That enables the bugs to survive and proliferate whenever they encounter an antibiotic they’ve already adapted to.

India’s inadequate sanitation increases the scope of antibacterial resistance. More than half of the nation’s 1.2 billion residents defecate in the open, and 23 percent of city dwellers have no toilets, according to a 2012 report by the WHO and Unicef.

Uncovered sewers and overflowing drains in even such modern cities as New Delhi spread resistant germs through feces, tainting food and water and covering surfaces in what Dartmouth Medical School researcher Elmer Pfefferkorn describes as a fecal veneer.

Tap Water
Germs with the NDM-1 gene existed in 51 of 171 open drains along the capital’s streets and in two of 50 samples of public tap water, Walsh found in 2010.

Abdul Ghafur, an infectious diseases doctor in Chennai, southern India’s largest city, sees patients every week who suffer from multidrug-resistant infections. He and others who used to successfully combat infections with such common antibiotics as amoxicillin now must use more-expensive ones that target a broader range of germs but typically cause greater side effects. Some infections don’t respond to any treatment, evading all antibiotics, he says.

That’s bad news because the more frequently the NDM-1 gene is inserted into different bacteria, the more likely it will enter virulent forms of E. coli, sparking outbreaks that may be impossible to subdue, says David Livermore, who heads antibiotic resistance monitoring at the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency in London.

Black Death

The gene may even spread to the microbial cause of bubonic plague, the medieval scourge known as Black Death that still persists in pockets of the globe.

“It’s a matter of time and chance,” says Mark Toleman, a molecular geneticist at Cardiff University. Plasmids carrying the NDM-1 gene can easily be inserted into the genetic material ofYersinia pestis, the cause of plague, making the infection harder to treat, Toleman says.

“There is a tsunami that’s going to happen in the next year or two when antibiotic resistance explodes,” says Ghafur, 40, seated at a polished wooden table in a consulting room in Chennai as patients fill 20 metal chairs in the waiting area, forcing others into the corridor. “We need wartime measures to deal with this now.”

R.K. Srivastava, India’s former director general of health services, says the government is giving top priority to antimicrobial resistance, including increasing surveillance of hospitals’ antibiotics use.

Name Shame
At the same time, it’s trying to preserve the country’s health-tourism industry. Bristling that foreigners coined a name that singles out their capital to describe an emerging health nightmare, officials say the world is picking on India for troubles that impede all developing nations.

When Indian researchers joined international teams studying the NDM-1 gene, the government questioned the data and methods of the scientists, among them Chennai microbiologist Karthikeyan K. Kumarasamy.

“These bacteria were present globally,” says Nirmal K. Ganguly, a former director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research and one of 13 members of a government task force created in September 2010 to respond to the NDM-1 threat.

“When you are blamed, the only reaction is that you put your back to the wall and fight.”

Ulterior Motive?
S.S. Ahluwalia, a former deputy opposition leader in the upper house of India’s parliament and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, says Western rivals want to muscle in on the medical tourism industry. Josef Woodman, founder of the guidebook “Patients Beyond Borders,” values the industry globally at $54 billion a year.

“These reports are meant to destabilize India’s emergence as a health destination,” says Ahluwalia, whose term ended in April.

About 850,000 medical tourists traveled to India in 2010 for treatments from lifesaving cancer operations to cosmetic surgeries, generating $872 million in revenue, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, or Assocham. The number of foreign patients is predicted to almost quadruple by 2015, the trade body says.

Manish Kakkar, a doctor researching infectious diseases at the New Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India and a task force member, says the government has its priorities wrong.

“We have been in a phase of denial,” he says. “Rather than responding to the situation scientifically, we’ve completely diverted attention, saying that it’s attacking our medical tourism.”

‘That’s What’s Scary’
Kakkar and others worry about NDM-1 because unlike germs such as VRE, short for the vancomycin-resistant enterococci bug that can cause infection around a patient’s surgical incision, NDM-1 is spreading beyond hospitals.

Two travelers from the Netherlands picked up an NDM-1 bug in their bowels after visiting India in 2009 although they hadn’t received medical care there, says Maurine Leverstein-van Hall, a clinical microbiologist at the University Medical Center in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

“That’s what’s scary,” she says. “It’s not just surgery or being near a hospital. In some way, you get it through the food chain or through the water.”

For now, it’s impossible to tell how common NDM-1 infections are or how often the mutant germs kill because testing and surveillance are inadequate in developing countries, says Keith Klugman, the William H. Foege chair of global health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

‘Perfect Breeding Ground’
Cardiff’s Walsh estimates 100 million Indians carry germs that harbor the NDM-1 gene, based on an extrapolation of studies in New Delhi and from neighboring Pakistan.

“It’s not measured, and that’s the problem,” says Klugman, who pinpoints India as the epicenter.

India’s jammed cities, poor sanitation and abundant antibiotics produce an ideal incubator, Harvard’s Moellering says.

“You have almost no control over the prescription of antibiotics,” says Moellering, who has studied drug resistance for four decades. “You have horrible sanitation problems in many parts of the country. You have incredible poverty, and you have crowding. When you put those four things together, it’s the perfect breeding ground for multidrug-resistant bacteria.”

Antibiotics even pollute India’s rivers, streams and soil. The bacteria that thrive in these places do so because they’ve developed resistance to the drugs they encounter. People or animals who ingest the water or soil may become colonized by the resistant germs.

Mining Cipro
Until the government built a pipeline to a modern sewage plant in 2010, the Patancheru Enviro Tech Ltd. treatment facility on some days released the equivalent of 45,000 daily doses of ciprofloxacin into the Isakavagu stream outside Hyderabad in southern India, Swedish researchers reported in 2007. The plant treated wastewater from drug-making factories.

Residue from ciprofloxacin, a mainstay treatment for E. coli infections, was so prevalent in river sediment downstream that lead researcher Joakim Larsson of the University of Gothenburg jokes, “Had ciprofloxacin been a little bit more expensive, we could probably mine it from the ground.”

India’s antibiotics overload is forcing doctors to rely on ever-more-powerful drugs. Many now turn to a class called penicillin-based carbapenems to treat ailments as routine as urinary tract infections, says Grayson, who was editor-in-chief of medical text “Kucer’s The Use of Antibiotics” (Hodder Arnold/ASM Press, 2010).

‘Antibiotic Stewardship’
NDM-1 has rendered even carbapenems useless, sometimes leaving no way to fight infections. Two drugs potentially capable of treating NDM-1 bacteria have toxic side effects in some patients that include an increased risk of death.

“It’s an example of why we need to have good surveillance and why we need to have good antibiotic stewardship,” says Thomas R. Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “We are looking at the specter of untreatable illness.”

Drugmakers have been slow to respond with new medicines. Most abandoned antibiotic discovery during the past decade, says Karen Bush, a microbiologist at Indiana University in Bloomington. She led teams that developed five bacteria-fighting drugs beginning in the 1970s in laboratories that are now part of AstraZeneca Plc (AZN)Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY), Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc. (PFE)

Companies instead pursued hypertension and high-cholesterol drugs that patients take for a lifetime rather than a few weeks, she says.

International Uproar
Kumarasamy, the Chennai microbiologist, says he thought he was doing his country a favor when he helped track down the cause of unexplained deaths inside India. Instead, he sparked an international uproar over NDM-1.

Beginning in June 2000, Kumarasamy, now 36, studied bacteria and went from hospital to hospital in Chennai to collect specimens. He says he witnessed a steady increase in difficult-to-treat infections. Patients were dying, and doctors couldn’t identify what type of resistant germs killed them, he says.

“No matter how skilled or intelligent the doctor is, they are helpless when it comes to these infections,” he says over lunch of rice and curry in a noisy Chennai food court. He didn’t keep a tally of the deaths.

Kumarasamy, who received a Bachelor of Science degree from Navarasam Arts & Science College in Tamil Nadu state in 1997, says he began isolating bacteria from the blood, sputum, pus and urine of patients and freezing the samples. He quit his lab job in 2007 to study resistant germs for a doctorate in microbiology at the University of Madras. He’s winding up his thesis on carbapenem-resistant bacteria.

Festering Bedsores
Kumarasamy’s curiosity spiked in 2008 when he realized he was dealing with something totally new. He reached out to Walsh, whose Cardiff lab was at the forefront of international antibiotic resistance research.

Around that time, Walsh was studying the case of a diabetic stroke patient of Indian origin. The man had festering bedsores and had been transferred from New Delhi to his home in Swedenfor treatment. When bacteria cultured from his urine and feces evaded more than a dozen drugs, including last-resort carbapenems, Christian G. Giske, a clinical microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, sent the samples to Walsh’s lab.

Stockholm Hotel
In a hotel room in the Swedish capital, Walsh and Giske named the gene that made the bacteria immune to virtually all these antibiotics New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1.

Beta-lactams are a class of antibiotics that includes penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems. Beta-lactamase is an enzyme that destroys those drugs. Metallo-beta-lactamases are so named because they contain zinc and destroy carbapenems, the most powerful beta-lactams.

Kumarasamy, suspecting something similar in his own specimens, asked Walsh to share the DNA sequence of this new bacterial gene. Walsh did -- and Kumarasamy got a match.

Kumarasamy began visiting Chennai hospitals anew to look for drug-resistant specimens. He also got samples from researchers in India’s northern Haryana state.

When his collection was added to those Walsh and his colleagues were studying, the researchers discovered the same NDM-1 gene from four countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the U.K. For most of the British patients, the link was recent travel to India or neighboring Pakistan.

In Kumarasamy’s samples from inside India, many cases emerged in people who hadn’t recently been hospitalized. That suggested the bacteria were spreading in the community.

‘Unsung Hero’
“He is India’s unsung hero,” Walsh says.

The University of Madras initially thought so, too. It feted Kumarasamy after he became the youngest scholar from the 155-year-old institution to have research appear in any publication of the British medical journal “The Lancet.” His August 2010 paper, in “The Lancet Infectious Diseases,” became that publication’s most-read article that year.

The mood soured a few days later. Officials at India’s Ministry of Health & Family Welfare balked at the gene’s name, which threatened medical tourism’s public image.

“There was a lot of stress and tension, and I could not sleep properly for two months,” says Kumarasamy, who says he developed gastric reflux and heartburn.

The next month, authorities at the ministry grilled the eight Indian contributors to the “Lancet” report, including lead author Kumarasamy, according to two co-authors who declined to be identified because their employers don’t permit them to speak to the media.

‘Batten Down the Hatches’
Officials questioned their data and chastised them for sending specimens overseas without approval, saying the researchers had violated a 13-year-old regulation, according to two in the group.

The Indian Council of Medical Research says it requires researchers to submit detailed proposals to send any bacterial collections abroad. The process may take at least four months.

“The regulations were already in place,” says Sandhya Visweswariah, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

The researchers countered that the rules were nebulous and were rarely enforced.

“It is suppression of scientific freedom,” Walsh says of the government behavior. “They just try to batten down the hatches and make everything very, very difficult and pretend nothing has happened.”

Front-Page News
After front-page stories on the superbug appeared in Indian newspapers, the government formed an antibiotic resistance task force. It recommended in April 2011 that antibiotic use be tracked in the country’s 100,000 hospitals to find excessive prescribing. The group advised making it harder to get antibiotics without a prescription by requiring pharmacists to keep records for two years to aid audits and inspections.

Current rules make a prescription mandatory, but regulations are rarely enforced and it’s easy to get potent antibiotics, even intravenous ones, without a doctor’s assent. The group advised enacting rules allowing drug inspectors to immediately cancel the license of pharmacists dispensing unprescribed antibiotics.

Task force member Ganguly says tracking antibiotic use will be difficult.

“How do you regulate 1.2 billion people with so much diversity?” he asks.

Dying Babies
While Kumarasamy was documenting NDM-1 in Chennai hospitals, pediatrician Vipin Vashishtha was discovering how deadly the gene can be.

In June 2010, new father Sanjeev Thakran, 28, rushed his half-hour-old son in a car through monsoon-soaked streets to Vashishtha’s Mangla Children’s Hospital in Bijnor. His wife, Lalita, had delivered baby Tapas in a maternity hospital across town three weeks early, and the infant was laboring for air.

Nurses in green scrubs warmed the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) newborn in a dome-covered crib and fed him milk and medicines through a nasal tube. About 2 feet away, a frail-looking baby was connected to a ventilator, Sanjeev Thakran says.

Vashishtha, seated on a leather swivel chair in his consulting room, recalls thinking that Tapas might need only a few days of intensive care. Instead, the baby spent weeks in and out of the unit. Blood sometimes trickled from his nose and shriveling umbilicus, according to medical records.

Even though he was being treated with a carbapenem, the most powerful class of antibiotic, bacteria raged inside his tiny lungs and bloodstream, eventually attacking membranes covering his brain and spinal cord.

Incurable Scourge
Other infants in the eight-crib neonatal intensive care unit were suffering, too. Vashishtha, 48, had tried several antibiotics without success. When carbapenems didn’t work, he says, he felt helpless because he knew he was dealing with a potentially incurable scourge.

Tapas died 11 weeks after he was admitted. Lab results identified the culprit a month later: NDM-1. The gene was in bacteria known as Klebsiella pneumoniae. The germ exists in people’s gastrointestinal tract and can cause pneumonia and urinary-tract infections in hospital patients.

The lab also found two soil-borne species that normally cause trivial infections but that were suddenly becoming killers.

Tapas was one of 14 infants at the hospital who were infected with NDM-1-containing bacteria over the course of 17 months. Six of the babies died. Among the eight survivors, half developed meningitis, arthritis or water on the brain, Vashishtha wrote to an Indian medical journal in February 2011.

‘Horrific Period’
“It was the most horrific period,” Vashishtha says as he fixes his eyes on the playpen where he amuses children in his office. “I was losing neonates at regular intervals. I suspected we were dealing with something quite different, something quite new.”

Vashishtha says he has improved infection control, walling off part of the ICU for contagious, complicated cases.

He can’t, however, control what happens outside his hospital. Sewage from nearby homes flows in an open drain along one wall of the two-story building.

Bijnor, like other small cities in Uttar Pradesh, lacks a modern underground drainage system. During the rainy season, it’s impossible not to wade through sewage water, the doctor says.

‘Wash Hands Properly’
So far, Vashishtha has prevented more NDM-1 deaths. He fumigates his wards every four weeks and applies fresh paint every three months. He keeps hand-sanitizing liquid in his office, along the corridors and next to every bed in intensive care. Nurses must wash their hands with running water and soap and scrub with an antimicrobial sanitizer before handling patients.

“The first and foremost step to avoiding hospital-acquired infection is to wash hands properly,” he says.

India’s major hospitals are marshaling tactics from common cleanliness to computerized databases to outsmart resistant bacteria and prevent more tragedies.

Artemis Health Institute, a private, 300-bed specialty hospital in Gurgaon, southwest of New Delhi, employs an infection-control officer who collects data every month on the hospital’s four most troublesome bacteria to review patterns of drug resistance. The officer, Namita Jaggi, also serves as national secretary of a Buenos Aires-based group that collates infection information worldwide.

‘Infection Surveillance 24/7’
About 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away, cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan’s medical complex,Medanta-The Medicity, requires patients transferring from other hospitals to be screened for resistant bacteria. This procedure, routine in some Nordic countries, isn’t standard in India.

Medanta has a strict hand-washing policy and a 40-member team to monitor infections, says Trehan, 65, who trained in cardiac surgery at New York University and worked at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan before returning to India in 1988.

“We have a very senior person whose sole responsibility is to keep the whole hospital under infection surveillance 24/7,” he says.

Livermore at the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency says these efforts may not be enough in a country where 626 million people defecate in the open and that treats only 30 percent of the 10.1 billion gallons of sewage generated each day. Even the most modern hospitals can’t exist as islands of cleanliness, he says.

“How does the hospital -- however good its surgeons and physicians -- isolate itself when its patients, staff and food all come from outside, where they are exposed to this soup of resistance?” he asks.

‘Hope for the Future’
Bush, the antibiotics researcher, has been investigating novel ways to fight bacteria since 1977. She says combinations of existing drugs, including an experimental compound from AstraZeneca in late-stage patient studies, may neutralize some carbapenem-destroying enzymes.

Should these mixtures pan out, they may help the superdrugs regain at least some of their potency, potentially extending their usefulness for a decade or more, she says.

A drug candidate from Basel, Switzerland-based Basilea Pharmaceutica AG (BSLN) in early-stage trials shows some promise against NDM-1, she says.

“What’s frustrating is to see that companies refused to address the issue until the last few years,” Bush says. “There are still some that are trying, and that’s the hope for the future.”

‘Very Cautious’
Drugs that could once again tackle the world’s most resistant germs would be a relief for people worldwide, Norway’s Skaret among them. She spent more than six months fearing a microbial time bomb until she learned that the NDM-1 supergerms had passed from her system.

Even though she escaped physical harm, Skaret says, NDM-1 made her feel isolated. She says therapists, concerned about their own exposure, refused to help her with rehabilitation to recover from the car accident. Neighbors who delivered food were careful not to get too close.

“When they heard about it, they were very cautious,” she says.

If Walsh’s projection is accurate, 100 million Indians may be carrying the NDM-1 gene unwittingly and doing little to contain its spread. The number of countries reporting NDM-1 will continue to grow as more bacteria pick up the gene and people transport it around the globe.

To prevent a worldwide catastrophe, microbiologists Kumarasamy and Walsh -- along with scores of scientists and doctors inside and outside India -- are sounding an alarm.

“Combine sophisticated medicine, poor sanitation and heavy antibiotic usage, and you have a rocket fuel to drive the accumulation of resistance,” Livermore says. “That surely is what India has created” (Bloomber, 2012).

Title: Antibiotics Abuse Has Turned Ordinary Throat Infections Into Deadly Killers
Date: May 8, 2012

Abstract: It is no longer a secret that drug-resistant bacteria are rapidly emerging and spreading all around the world as a result of the continued overuse and abuse of antibiotic drugs in both conventional medicine and industrial agriculture. But now it appears that the genes responsible for spawning these so-called "superbugs" are also spreading, and turning otherwise mild conditions such as throat infections into deadly killers.

Known as NDM-1, or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1, these genes basically hitch a ride on mobile DNA loops known as plasmids, and latch themselves onto various bacteria whenever and wherever they find an opportunity. The end result of this parasite-like invasion into bacteria is that even largely innocuous microbes can become extremely virulent and fully able to outsmart even the strongest antibiotic drugs available.

"Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill," said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) at a recent meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, about the phenomenon. "Hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm infants would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake."

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, the spread of NDM-1 and antibiotic-resistant superbugs has become so extreme that even beneficial bacterial, also commonly referred to as "probiotics" or "gut microflora," are being affected as well. And as long as 
antibiotics continue to be abused in the careless way that they now are globally, the situation will only worsen over time until eventually even the most minor infections and injuries become fatal.

"If this latest bug becomes entrenched in our hospitals, there is really nothing we can turn to," said Donald E. Low, head of the public health lab in Toronto, Ontario. "Its potential is to be probably greater than any other organism."

How You can Help Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
Besides raising awareness about the issue and pushing for a complete moratorium on antibiotic drug use, there is little that can be done on a large scale to effectively stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant 
superbugs. But there are some simple steps you can personally take to help you and your family avoid superbug infection.

1. If you eat meat, purchase only pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free varieties. Conventional meat from animals raised in confined feedlots is often loaded with antibiotics, chemicals and other toxins that can exacerbate the 
superbug problems. By consuming only grass-fed, organic meats, you and your family will avoid repeated exposure to meat-based antibiotics and any superbugs that might be living in it.

2. Avoid taking 
antibiotic drugs, and instead try colloidal silver, garlic, coconut oil and other natural antibiotics. Instead of taking prescribed antibiotics for every minor ailment, which is contributing greatly to the spread of superbugs in society today, try boosting you and your family's immune systems with bacteria-resistant superfoods. You can also promote healthy bacterial growth that naturally fights off the deadly kind by drinking kombucha tea and eating kefir, yogurt, and other probiotic foods.

3. Educate your friends and neighbors about drug-resistant superbugs, and the dangers of antibiotic overuse. Many people are simply unaware of how antibiotic drug abuse is contributing to the rise of deadly superbugs. By sharing this information with your friends and neighbors, and teaching them about how to boost their immune systems naturally with herbs, superfoods, clean water, organic produce, and probiotics, you can help to bring about real change on a societal scale
(NaturalNews, 2012).

Title: Government Panel Debates Protecting Children From Bioterrorism
Date: May 18, 2012

Abstract: A presidential panel for the Obama Administration will help to decide if the anthrax vaccine and other stockpiled treatments for bioterrorism should be tested on children.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, said that officials cannot simply assume that treatments for adults will work in children. Sebelius recommended that the nation develop protection for children in a way that makes childhood safety the top priority, Associated Press reports.

Debate over whether or not to open anthrax vaccine pediatric studies prompted Sebelius to request the Presidential Commission that the Study of Bioethical Issues to take on the controversy. According to Sebelius, the issue involves more than just anthrax.

If studies to test the vaccine were to be offered, there is no way to know how many parents would consent to enrolling their children. While treatments for cancer and other childhood disease are tested in a fairly straightforward manner, if a child won’t receive a direct medical benefit from a study, the risks to participating children must be made as minimal as possible. The National Biodefense Safety Board recommended child testing of the anthrax vaccine this past fall, but only if outside ethical experts agreed that the studies could be done in an appropriate way.

The commission will start its deliberations on Thursday and its recommendations are anticipated by the end of the year, according to Associated Press (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: RAF Base May Be Contaminated By Mustard Agent
Date: May 22, 2012

Abstract: A Royal Air Force airbase located in northern Scotland may be contaminated with mustard agent.

RAF Kinloss, located in Moray, Scotland, is currently being investigated for radioactive contamination, but a land quality assessment obtained by BBC Scotland suggests that it could also be tainted by mustard agent, which can cause severe burns and lead to cancer if released into the atmosphere, according to UKPA.

The report identified the potential mustard agent contamination in 2004, when construction work began on a new pipeline for a water treatment project.

The base is currently scheduled to be the home for an additional 930 personnel from the 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) in the coming months.

“Our investigations to date suggest there is no indication of significant risk to public health or the environment associated with the past storage or disposal of chemical weapon agents in the UK,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman said, UKPA reports. “Work undertaken indicates the sites are suitable for their current use, provided that any management systems, restrictions or procedures remain in place.”

Thomas Docherty MP, a member of the Commons Defense Select Committee, has demanded that the U.K. government issue a statement.

“The MoD has had a culture over seven decades of not sharing information,” Docherty said, UKPA reports. “There’s an arrogance about the MoD that is not new, but it has to be tackled once and for all” (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Inspection Raises Biosafety Concerns In Asia-Pacific Containment Labs
Date: May 24, 2012

Abstract: A recent anonymous inspection of biocontainment laboratories in developing counties in the Asia-Pacific region has raised concerns among experts because of the significant number of deficiencies it found in biosafety protocols and equipment.

An examination of dozens of labs revealed that nearly one-third of the hoods used to protect researchers from deadly pathogens did not function as intended. In one instance, only a shower curtain enclosed a table used routinely to dissect the brains of rabid animals, according to Nature.

A group of bio-risk experts recently met in London’s Chatham House to discuss the growing concern. They said that if such deficiencies were found in Western labs, those labs would not be allowed to operate, but in parts of the developing world, the results of the inspection are a symptom of a potential biosafety crisis.

“The strength of a chain is based on its weakest link, and developing countries are the weakest link,” Teck-Mean Chua, the former president of the Asia-Pacific Biosafety Association based in Singapore, said, Nature reports.

As Western scientists begin to place an increasing emphasis on bioafety concerns, the complaints about inadequate laboratory protocol in the developing world are beginning to attract attention.

Nigel Lightfoot, an associate fellow at the Center on Global Health Security at Chatham House, said that stringent biosafety procedures and expensive equipment are often unworkable in developing countries, where scientists need to work with deadly pathogens in order to protect public health but lack critical infrastructure needs.

“When you don’t have any electricity, the answer is not to build a very high-security laboratory,” Lightfoot said, Nature reports. “You’ve got to move away from the costly bells-and-whistles solutions to what is practical.”

Lightfoot said that it may be necessary to create dual standards, an idea that some believe will not sit well with Western scientists who feel over-burdened with regulations, as well as with scientists in the developing world who feel they could be left with unsafe labs (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: African Monkey Meat That Could Be Behind The Next HIV
Date: May 25, 2012

Abstract: Deep in the rainforest of south-east Cameroon, the voices of the men rang through the trees. "Where are the white people?" they shouted. The men, who begin to surround us, are poachers, who make their money from the illegal slaughter of gorillas and chimpanzees. They disperse but make it known that they are not keen for their activities to be reported; the trade they ply could not only wipe out critically endangered species but, scientists are now warning, could also create the next pandemic of a deadly virus in humans.

Eighty per cent of the meat eaten in Cameroon is killed in the wild and is known as "bushmeat". The nation's favoured dishes are gorilla, chimpanzee or monkey because of their succulent and tender flesh. According to one estimate, up to 3,000 gorillas are slaughtered in southern Cameroon every year to supply an illicit but pervasive commercial demand for ape meat .

"Everyone is eating it," said one game warden. "If they have money they will buy gorilla or chimp to eat."

Frankie, a poacher in the southern Dja Wildlife reserve who gave a fake name, said he is involved in the trade because he can earn good money from it, charging around £60 per adult gorilla killed. "I have to make a living," he said. "Women come from the market and order a gorilla or a chimp and I go and kill them."

Cameroon's south-eastern rainforests are also home to the Baka – traditional forest hunters who have the legal right to hunt wild animals, with the exception of great apes.

Felix Biango, a Baka elder, said the group used to hunt gorilla every few weeks to feed his village, Ayene, but has stopped since Cameroon outlawed the practice 10 years ago. However, he says that every week, three or four people come from the cities to ask the group to help them to hunt wild animals, such as gorillas and chimpanzees.

While the Baka no longer hunt primates for themselves, Mr Biango says that they still kill gorillas for the commercial trade and will eat the meat if they find the animals already dead.

Though Cameroonians have eaten primate meat for years, recent health scares have begun to raise fears about the safety of the meat. "In the village of Bakaklion our brothers found a dead gorilla in the forest," Mr Biango said. "They took it back to the village and ate the meat. Almost immediately, everyone died – 25 men, women and children – the only person who didn't was a woman who didn't eat the meat."

Three-quarters of all new human viruses are known to come from animals, and some scientists believe humans are particularly susceptible to those carried by apes. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now widely believed to have originated in chimps. Apes are known to host other potentially deadly viruses, such as ebola, anthrax, yellow fever and other potential viruses yet to be discovered.

Babila Tafon, head vet at the primate sanctuary Ape Action Africa (AAA), in Mefou, just outside the capital Yaounde, believes the incident that Biango describes could have been caused by an outbreak of ebola, but cannot be sure because no tests were carried out.

AAA now cares for 22 gorillas and more than one hundred chimps – all orphans of the bushmeat trade.

Mr Tafon tests the blood of all apes arriving at the sanctuary. He says he has recently detected a new virus in the apes – simian foamy virus, which is closely related to HIV. "A recent survey confirmed this is now in humans, especially in some of those who are hunters and cutting up the apes in the south-east of the country," he said.

Viruses are often transferred from ape to human through a bite, scratch or the blood of a dead ape getting into an open wound. There is a lower risk from eating cooked or smoked primates, but it is not completely safe.

Bushmeat is not only a concern for Cameroonians. Each year, an estimated 11,000 tons of bushmeat is illegally smuggled in to the UK, mainly from West Africa, and is known to include some ape meat.

The transfer of viruses from ape to man is a primary concern for the international virology research and referral base run by the Pasteur Centre in Yaounde. Each week, it screens more than 500 blood samples for all manner of viruses, and alerts major international medical research centres if it finds an unfamiliar strain.

Professor Dominique Baudon, the director of the Cameroon centre, says he is concerned that the bushmeat trade is a major gateway for animal viruses to enter humans worldwide, due to the export trade.

He says that the deeper poachers go in to the forest, and the more that primates are consumed, the more exposed people become to new unknown viruses and the more potential there is for the viruses to mutate into potentially aggressive forms. At the Ape Action Africa sanctuary, Rachel Hogan, who came to Cameroon from Birmingham 11 years ago, and her team focus on the last of Cameroon's great apes.

It is not known exactly how many gorillas remain in the wild in Cameroon. Conservationists estimates there may be only a few thousand Western Lowland Gorillas left, which are being gradually forced in to smaller groups by hunting and the destruction of their habitat by logging. In the west of the country, there are only 250 Cross River Gorillas left.

Hunting does not just affect adult apes. One hunter said a baby gorilla had screamed so much for its dead mother, killed for her meat, that he eventually killed it to stop the noise.

Most of the gorillas and chimps Ms Hogan and her team look after are babies who have witnessed the murder of their parents. She says they are often suffering from terrible wounds and even trauma when they arrive at the sanctuary. "They grieve just like humans," she says. "We have had them where they will just sit rocking, grinding their teeth and they don't respond to anything. You have to be able to win back their trust."

Ms Hogan says the apes can even die after the trauma. "They'll stop eating, they won't respond to anything... [They] decide whether they live or die. It's like watching a clock wind down."

The increasing number of rescued apes is putting pressure on the sanctuary. A group of eight gorillas in the wild, protected by one dominant male, needs 16 square kilometres to roam in to live comfortably.

The sanctuary says there is nowhere in the vast tropical rainforest of Cameroon that the apes can safely be returned to the wild. "If this continues there might not be any wild populations of gorillas left," says Ms Hogan.

'Unreported World: The Monkey Business', Channel 4, 7.30pm tonight

Out of Africa: How HIV was Born
Aids, the worst pandemic of modern times which has claimed over 30 million lives, is thought to have begun in the rainforest of west central Africa as a result of the bush meat trade.

For decades, perhaps centuries, wild chimpanzees carrying the Simian Deficiency Virus (SIV) have come into contact with humans who have caught and eaten them. SIV is genetically similar to HIV and, occasionally, when a chimp scratched or bit a hunter, the virus will have been passed on and may have mutated into HIV. In the distant past, when communications were poor, outbreaks of HIV would not have spread beyond the forest. But in the latter part of the last century, as the commercial exploitation of Africa gathered pace, the opportunities for viral spread increased.

Today, the scale of the slaughter is immense. The Washington-based Bush Meat Crisis Task Force estimates that up to five million tons of wild animals are being "harvested" in the Congo Basin every year – the equivalent of 10 million cattle. The trade was initially driven by hunger – it was a cheap source of food – but has burgeoned with increased logging of the forests and growing demand.

Now, it is international, extending the threat beyond the continent's boundaries. Scientists have warned that Britain is at risk from an outbreak caused by the lethal Ebola or Marburg viruses contained in illegal imports of bush meat from Africa.

The size of the imports is unknown, but one 2010 study estimated that five tons of the meat per week were being smuggled in personal baggage via Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Gorilla and chimpanzee meat is said to be on offer to African communities in Hackney and Brixton at hundreds of pounds per kilogram (Independent, 2012).

Title: Stubborn Infection, Spread by Insects, Is Called ‘The New AIDS Of The Americas’
Date: May 28, 2012
New York Times

Abstract: Chagas disease, caused by parasites transmitted to humans by blood-sucking insects, has been named “the new AIDS of the Americas” in 
a lengthy editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The authors, several of whom are tropical disease experts from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, argue that the dangerous spread of Chagas through this hemisphere somewhat resembles the early spread of H.I.V.

Chagas is also known as American trypanosomiasis, because the bugs carry single-celled parasites called trypanosomes. (Their best-known relative, spread by tsetse flies in Africa, causes sleeping sickness.)

Like AIDS, the authors say, Chagas disease has a long incubation time and is hard or impossible to cure. Chagas infects up to eight million people in the hemisphere, mostly in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Central America. But more than 300,000 of the infected live in the United States, many of them immigrants.

The disease can be transmitted from mother to child or by blood transfusion. About a quarter of its victims eventually will develop enlarged hearts or intestines, which can fail or burst, causing sudden death. Treatment involves harsh drugs taken for up to three months and works only if the disease is caught early.

The drugs are not as expensive as AIDS drugs, but there are shortages in poor countries. Because it is a disease of the poor, little money is spent on finding new treatments.

“Both diseases are highly stigmatizing,” the editorial noted. Immigrants may not get medical treatment, making Chagas more likely to spread (New York Times, 2012).

Title: Chagas Disease, An Incurable Infection, Called The ‘New AIDS Of The Americas': Report
Date: May 29, 2012
NY Daily News

Abstract: Experts have dubbed it the “new AIDS of the Americas.”

A parasitic infection called Chagas Disease has similarities to the early spread of HIV, according to research published recently in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Like AIDS, Chagas is hard to detect and has a long incubation period before symptoms emerge, the study said, according to the New York Times.

As many as 8 million people are infected in the Western Hemisphere, mainly in Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Central America, as well as some 30,000 people in the U.S., the newspaper reported. Chagas infects people in areas of poverty, and most U.S. cases are found in immigrants.

Because Chagas is often left untreated, it spreads easily, either genetically or through blood transfusion. If caught early, it can be treated with intense medication, but the drugs are scarce in poor countries and very little money is invested in searching for new treatments, the paper said.

Chagas is usually transmitted from the bite of blood-sucking insects that release a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi into the victim’s bloodstream. The parasite can eventually make its way to the heart, where it can live and multiply.

Infections often stay dormant for years, and then emerge as heart arrhythmias and heart failure. About a quarter of victims develop enlarged heart or intestines that can lead to sudden death if they burst, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New research suggests Chagas may have led to the death of Charles Darwin — one of the great medical mysteries.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine believe Darwin suffered from three different illnesses, including a Chagas infection contracted on a voyage to the Andes in South America, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

Darwin wrote in his diary that he was bitten by a “great wingless black bug” during the trip in 1835. He died 47 years later of heart failure (NY Daily News, 2012)

Title: Euro 2012 Health Warnings: Measles And STDs
Date: May 30, 2012

Abstract: The 
2012 UEFA European Football Championship or Euro 2012 is ready to kick off next Friday and hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to converge on the hosting countries of Poland and Ukraine and health officials are warning about some health risks that may be encountered.

Both the British Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warnings this week concerning measles in that part of Europe.

Both health agencies are urging travelers to the Ukraine for the football championship to ensure their vaccines are up-to-date.

The HPA said Monday that vaccine shortages in the Ukraine for the past two years have led to more than a million unvaccinated children in the country.

The CDC issued a measles outbreak notice Friday reporting the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine:

As of May 14, 2012, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine reported 9,173 suspected measles cases in 2012, mostly in the western regions of the country.

The HPA expect the measles outbreak to continue to increase during its peak transmission season until June.

And the Ukraine is not alone; measles is a big problem in many European countries, where many of the fans will be traveling from.

Naturally, anytime you get that many people to assemble in one area, some unvaccinated and susceptible, the risks of respiratory infections increase dramatically. Ensuring vaccinations are up-to-date for other respiratory illnesses like influenza would also be advised.

In addition, anytime you get a large amount of out-of-towners coming to an area, the prostitutes will be there looking for business.

In the US, we see this when big events occur like the Super Bowl, and this is expected with the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte this summer.

Not surprisingly, Ukraine’s sex industry is also gearing up for Euro 2012. In a Channel News Asia story Wednesday, it is reported that "Kiev's prostitutes are preparing actively for Euro 2012," one Ukrainian sex site said, claiming that some are even studying the history of the 16 nations taking part in the tournament, plus the basics of football, to get a competitive edge.

This has drawn the ire of the feminist group, Femen and Anna Hutsol, who is targeting the upcoming Euro 2012. They warn against the rise of sex tourism in Ukraine under the banner of “Ukraine is not a brothel".

Prostitution is big business in Ukraine since becoming a misdemeanor six years ago. The country now hosts somewhere around 70,000 sex workers, and with prostitution comes sexually transmitted diseases of all kinds.

HIV for instance has become a major problem in the Ukraine which currently has Eastern Europe and Central Asia's highest rates of HIV infection. Sexual intercourse is the main form of transmission in the country. Formerly, it was injecting drug use.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report at least 350,000 people aged 15 and over up in the nation of 46 million are living with the HIV virus that can lead to AIDS. Ukrainian prostitutes carry a high percentage of HIV positive people.

The UEFA has even started a campaign urging football fans to where a condom when having sex—prostitute or otherwise.

If you are traveling to partake in the Euro 2012 championship, ensure you take all the necessary precautions to avoid bringing an infectious disease back home with you (Examiner, 2012)

Title: Vaccinate All School Children Against Flu: Experts
Date: May 30, 2012

Abstract: Under the plans a new universial vaccination programme could start in the autumn of 2014 with a nasal spray vaccine, called Fluenz, that avoids the use of needles.

Schoolchildren from the age of five would be vaccinated every year. Currently only children with serious long-term illnesses are given the seasonal flu jab.

A panel of independent experts which advises the government believes the move could save lives and stop flu spreading through the general population.

The panel is in the final stages of evaluating research on vaccinating schoolchildren before formally recommending the expansion of the programme.

Parents were clamouring for flu jabs for their children last year when thousands were still falling ill from the H1N1 swine flu virus but were told they could not have it on the NHS as the vaccine was in short supply.

 According to the minutes of a meeting of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation last month, vaccinating children would be both "cost effective" and prevent serious illness in adults.

The minutes state: "Members considered that an extension of the annual influenza vaccination programme should include school-aged children."

Dr George Kassianos, spokesman on immunisation for the Royal College of GPs, told GP magazine that the advisors support for expanding the immunisation programme was ‘extremely welcome’.

"It will be beneficial to children and will benefit other patients as well," he said. "If we can reduce the infection rate among children we can reduce the morbidity and death rate in the community generally, and especially among the elderly."

A study published last year found that immunising healthy children would prevent eight in ten flu infections and free up 790,000 GP appointments a year.

The minutes show the committee, which includes leading paediatricians, said the programme would be cost effective but there are not enough school nurses to implement it at present.

It was warned that such a programme would be received with 'very mixed opinions by parents' and that health professionals could also object.

The committee said it would produce recommendations, which are binding on the Department of Health, at its next meeting.

The new vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, was licensed in December and contains three strains of flu. It is made using hens' eggs so cannot be given to children with a known severe allergy.

It is given in two doses four weeks apart and listed side effects include headache, loss of appetite, fever and muscle pain.

Children already receive 12 jabs against eight diseases by the time they start school.

All seasonal flu vaccines must be updated annually to match the three most common strains of the disease in circulation.

Pregnant women were added to the seasonal flu vaccination programme in 2010 after they were disproportionately affected by the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Elderly people over the age of 65, people with long-term conditions of any age and people in care homes and their carers and healthcare workers should be vaccinated annually against flu.

Jackie Fletcher, founder of Jabs campaign group, said: "I can understand targeting particularly vulnerable individuals but to vaccinate all four to 16-year-olds in close quarters at school is a perfect way to spread the disease according to the literature."

Prof Ian Jones, Professor of Virology, University of Reading, said: “Vaccinating all school children, regardless of whether they are high risk or not, has been discussed before and was an option when pandemic flu appeared to be targeting the young.

“There is very strong evidence of benefits from vaccinating all children as not only does it protect the vaccinated child, but it also benefits society generally as children act as ‘superspreaders’.

"There are many safety tests that are gone through and this particular vaccine has been used extensively in the US. It’s also extremely unlikely that there could be any issue of ‘over-vaccinating’ as it is a nasal spray."

Prof Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol Medical School, said: “The catalyst for this interest is the arrival of a new nasal flu vaccine, which is very easy to give and is licensed for children from age two. There are, essentially no safety concerns about the nasal flu vaccine.

“The only country in Europe that is giving universal childhood vaccinations is Finland. There they are using the old injected vaccine but uptake is not great. Most of the data and experience comes from the USA. The Japanese took this approach for a long time but then gave up in the late 1980s / early 1990s.

“We are currently doing a series of studies in Bristol on acceptability, cost-benefit and the impact of such a proposal. My impression is that there is a need for more research before a decision is made.”

“Each year the World Health Organisation will still advise which mix of flu strains need to be protected against, so this will not do away with the need for regular updates.”

The panel is expected to make a statement to the Department of Health on the plans next month.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said it is unable at this stage to recommend an extension of the flu vaccination programme as there are a number of issues that it believes need further consideration, for example the public response to such a programme.

"Extending the vaccination programme to healthy children would be a huge undertaking, increasing the number of people who get the vaccine, so it is important that we get this decision absolutely right.

"In the meantime, we continue to recommend that people in at risk groups, 65s and over and pregnant women do get vaccinated — they are the most at risk from suffering complications. The JCVI is clear that is the current priority” (Telegraph, 2012)

Title: Ukraine Measles Outbreak Shows No Sign Of Slowing Ahead Of Euro 2012
Date: May 31, 2012

Abstract: The numbers of measles cases increased by dozens in a 24 hour period and show no sign of abating in advance of the masses of fans that will soon arrive for the 
Euro 2012 football championship.

According to the Ukrainian new source forUm, the Ukraine Health Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that they registered 63 cases in a 24 hour period, primarily in the Western areas of the country.

This brings the total measles cases reported in the Ukraine to 10,056 as of May 30, this is up from 9,173 two weeks prior.

Measles or rubeola, is an acute highly communicable viral disease that is characterized by Koplik spots in the cheek or tongue very early in the disease. A couple of days later a red blotchy rash appears first on the face, and then spreads, lasting 4-7 days. Other symptoms include fever, cough and red watery eyes. The patient may be contagious from four days prior to the rash appearance to four days after rash appearance.

The disease is more severe in infants and adults. Complications from measles which is reported in up to 20% of people infected include; seizures, pneumonia, deafness and encephalitis.

If you plan on traveling to Europe for the football championship next week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

Talk to your doctor to see if you need a measles vaccination before you travel. People who cannot show that they were vaccinated as children and who have never had measles should probably be vaccinated.

The first dose of measles vaccine is routinely recommended at age 12–15 months in the United States. However, children traveling outside the United States are recommended to get the vaccine starting at age 6 months. If your child is aged 6–11 months and will be traveling internationally, talk to a doctor about getting the measles vaccine (Examiner, 2012)

Title: STIs: Diagnoses Of Increasingly Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhoea Infections Rise By 'Unprecedented' 25 Percent
Date: May 31, 2012

Abstract: The number of diagnoses of the sexual transmitted infection gonorrhoea has increased by an “unprecedented” 25 per cent in the past year, the Health Protection Agency has revealed.

Gonorrhea, the second most common bacterial STI in the UK, is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment and Britain faces “the very real danger of the untreatable gonorrhoea in the future”, health experts said.

There were 20,965 new cases of gonorrhoea diagnosed in England in 2011, up from 16,835 in the previous year. Overall, diagnoses of STIs were up by two per cent in the UK in 2011, reversing a small decline observed in the previous year.

Although the dramatic increase in gonorrhoea cases was partly attributed to more sensitive testing, the HPA said that too many people were still putting themselves at risk, with gay men and young heterosexual adults were the groups causing the greatest concern. Instances of gonorrhoea were up by 61 per cent among men who have sex with men and young heterosexual adults, between 15 to 24-years-old, represented 57 per cent if all new gonorrhoea diagnoses.  

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at the HPA, said: “We anticipated some increase in diagnoses due to improvements in testing in recent years, but not on the scale seen here,” she said. “Too many people are putting themselves at risk of STIs and serious health problems by having unsafe sex.”

Dr Hughes said that in the past five years laboratory testing of the gonorrhoea bacterium had shown greatly increased resistance to the main drugs used to treat the infection.

Gonorrhoea can have serious effects if left untreated. Young women with gonorrhoea can develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause chronic abdominal pain and also lead to infertility.

New diagnoses of syphilis were up by 10 per cent to 2,915 and herpes was up five per cent to 31,154. Although the number of new cases of Chlamydia was down by two per cent to 186,196, Dr Hughes said this was most likely a reflection of fewer young people getting tested.

Sexual health campaigners warned that public health authorities had “taken their foot of the pedal” on informing and warning the public about the dangers of STIs and said that the upcoming transfer of responsibility for public health to cash-strapped local authorities risked worsening the problem.

 “These figures are a salutary lesson,” said Lisa Power, policy director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading sexual health charity. “Sexual health services have had a much lower profile in recent years and it’s demonstrable what happens when you let up on informing the public about the risks. We’ve been working hard with local authorities and our experience is that the services on offer will incredibly variable. There will be a postcode lottery for sexual health unless services are improved across the board.”

Sexual health services and advice are currently available from a variety of NHS providers. Next year local authorities will take over responsibility for public health, including sexual health (Independent, 2012).

Title: Department of Defense Warns Of “Next Big Thing” In Bioterrorism
Date: June 1, 2012

Abstract: The Department of Defense’s Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter warned a group of experts this week that the department is already monitoring scientists over fears of the “next big thing” in terror.

The DoD is concerned about a new form of bioterrorism utilizing synthetic germs created in labs around the world. As a precaution, Carter said that the DoD is already watching scientists to “make sure they don’t get into trouble,” Business Insider reports.

The DoD believes that weaponized diseases will be used against Americans on the battlefield and at home and says that it has made preparations for that eventuality.

“It’s going to be a defense problem,” Carter said, according to Business Insider. “They will be used in war. They will be used in terrorism.”

The DoD is now working to balance its work on existing pathogens, such as anthrax, with work on potential pathogens.

Carter warned the group that it’s the potential pathogens that now carry the highest risk.

As a precaution, Carter said, the department is watching scientists involved in immunology research and germ development, with a closer eye kept on those who have previously bred pathogens. Scientists with the “know how” to make a germ are also under scrutiny, according to Business Insider (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

Title: Biowarfare Alert: Is A Mass Bio-Terror Pandemic Planned For 2012?
Date: June 4, 2012

Abstract: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), despite America's dubious history of using the population as a test tube for all sorts of crazy things, plans to release what it claims is a harmless bacteria in the Boston subway system this year as a way to test biological sensors, and at least some folks think it may be the start of a bio-terror pandemic with sinister implications.

In an early May report, CBS News/Boston said federal officials "test the subway sensors by releasing dead bacteria called B-subtilis. They say it is used in food supplements, has been rigorously tested and has no adverse health effects for low exposure in healthy people."

The unknown variable here, then, is what sort of an effect will this bacteria have on unhealthy people - will they be able to handle it? Will it make them sicker?

According to the CBS News report, the test will be conducted in Cambridge and Somerville during off peak hours sometime this summer; DHS held a public hearing on May 16 at the Cambridge YMCA in Central Square, to allow the public to ask questions and voice concerns over the test.

Later in the month, Boston mass transit police hailed the test as forward-thinking and said it was a proactive, rather than reactive, measure.

Testing to 'Validate Performance of Technologies'
"So often in the security field we take action retroactively," said Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) Police Chief Paul MacMillian, who referenced the banning of liquids aboard commercial flights. "These things are done after the fact. We have not had a bio attack but there's all this chatter that we hear about it."

DHS itself said in a 28-page summary of the test published in January and titled Environmental Assessment for Bacillus subtilis Particles to Challenge Bio-Detection Sensors in Subway Stations that it is vital to help examine equipment aimed at thwarting, or at least mitigating, a bioweapons attack.

DHS (Science and Technology Directorate) has been developing technologies and sensors needed to rapidly detect a potential biological attack on the Nation's transportation infrastructure in order to minimize public exposure and strengthen security," says an executive summary of the document. "To validate the performance of the technologies, it is necessary to perform field tests in a real-world environment."

The summary went on to say subway systems were being chosen for the test because they "provide one of the most challenging and harsh indoor settings that sensors of this nature would be exposed to in real-world deployment, due to the temperature and humidity extremes that often characterize these types of indoor environments."

"In order to understand the true detection capabilities of the biological sensor networks, challenge tests with a material must be performed," the summary said.

The government has a history of these kinds of tests. In 1977 during a Senate hearing, information was divulged of numerous secret germ "attacks" the Pentagon had launched on U.S. cities - all without the public's knowledge - in an effort to test threats posed by biological agents (sound familiar?).

History of Testing - and Infecting
Leonard A. Cole, writing in Washington Monthly in 1985, cited that Senate hearing, saying the tests "may have caused outbreaks of disease which occurred in some of the test areas."

Such "attacks" included testing by the U.S. Army in the mid-1960s, as the Vietnam war was beginning, in which travelers at Washington's National Airport were sprayed with a bacteria mist without their knowledge.

Other tests included placing Bacillus globigii in light bulbs that were dropped in the subway systems of New York City and Chicago by government scientists. When people began to get ill, the effects of the tests were discarded because Uncle Sam did not keep track of the health effects caused by the substance.

But some see a more disturbing link to the current round of tests. Citing an increase in bio-terror drills since President Obama took office in 2008 - as well as an uptick in bio-terror plots - some believe the government is conditioning citizens and first responders alike for a major attack, one that they believe is coming from the government itself.

Dangerous, dubious, yes - but sinister?

"The overall goal of bio-terror propaganda is to convince America and the world that it is on the precipice of a bio-terror induced pandemic," writes one blogger on a site called TrutherNews. "Bio-terror propaganda is currently at an all-time high and confirms that an upcoming bio-terror attack is in the cards and may be played in a last ditch effort to regain political, economic and military control of society.

While that may be a little paranoid, there's no question the government has conducted tests of bio-weapons for decades, and is intending to continue them, based on what DHS has planned for the subways of Boston.

"Since the 1940's, the military and the CIA have conducted numerous 'tests' on the American people, including the release of dengue fever carrying mosquitoes in Georgia and Florida, biological warfare tests on the civilian population in Puerto Rico, the release of bacillus globigii from a submarine on the port of Oahu, Hawaii, and dozens of other incidents, most of them classified," writes Paul Joseph Watson

Whether there is some disturbing globalist plot to kill tens of millions of Americans later this year is a matter for discussion. But the history of the government to use its own population as a test bed for its own devices is a matter of public record. A growing public record. And one day, probably by accident, it's entirely possible the government could overplay its hand, fulfilling the predictions of the doomsday crowd
(NaturalNews, 2012)

Title: Lyme Disease Not So Rare In Texas, Study Says
Date: June 5, 2012
MyFox Houston

Abstract: Lyme Disease in the Lone Star State is believed to be rare but a study by an area scientist seems to be proving otherwise. Dr. Maria Esteve-Gassent is a Research Professor at Texas A & M University.  She's been studying ticks and Lyme Disease for seven years.  Now Dr. Esteve-Gassent and her students are collecting ticks from all over Texas.  "We go personally out there and we hunt ticks," says Dr. Esteve-Gassent.  They're testing the ticks for Lyme Disease.   From Houston to Sugar Land to Austin and Dallas, to name a few, they have found ticks that have tested positive for Lyme Disease.

Dr. Esteve-Gassent says she tested about 300 of the itty bitty biting bugs so far.  About a quarter of the ticks found here in Texas have Lyme.  Although Lyme in the Lone Star State is said to be rare.  "Most doctors will say there's no Lyme Disease in Texas.  Hopefully this will change at some point," says Dr. Esteve-Gassent.  She started the study months ago because she says there are so many questions about lyme in Texas and so few answers.  One thing we do know, if you find a tick on your skin you're advised to carefully remove it with tweezers making sure to remove the mouth of the embedded bug from your skin and then see a doctor immediately.  "The good thing about Lyme Disease it's curable if you catch it within the first week or so," she says. 

You usually pick up ticks in wooded areas and they stay attached to your skin for several days. Dr. Esteve-Gassent suggests you spray Off bug repellent with Deet before going out.  "It will repel ticks.  So use it.  Every time you go outdoors spray it on your kids, on yourself, on your clothes.  Wear long sleeves and pants," says Dr. Esteve-Gassent and she says check your children and yourself when you go back indoors.  "I would check behind the ears, nape of neck, under the arms, bend of the arms, bend of knees, back of thighs, waist area," she advises.

If Lyme is not caught early the disease can be debilitating with severe pain and even heart and brain problems.  Dr. Gassent is also accepting ticks.

So if you find one in your yard and you would like it tested you can seal it in a container submerged in rubbing alcohol and mail it to her at Dr. Maria Esteve Gassent, Phd 
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Sciences
VMS 215 College Station, TX  77843-4467

Dr. Esteve-Gassent will present her findings at a microbiology conference in California this month.  Also, once her study is complete the results will be featured in a medical journal
(MyFox Houston, 2012).

Title: Extra Whooping Cough Booster Might Protect More Kids
Date: June 5, 2012
NBC News

Abstract: Doctors may need to reconsider the current schedule of whooping cough vaccinations in order to prevent outbreaks, researchers say.

In a recent study of the 2010 whooping cough outbreak in California, researchers found that kids between ages 8 and 12 were vulnerable to whooping cough even though they had been vaccinated against the highly contagious bacterial infection, which is also known as pertussis. These children had a higher rate of whooping cough than vaccinated children of other ages, the researchers said.

The finding suggests children may need to receive whooping cough booster shots earlier than they do currently, perhaps as young as age 8, to prevent immunity from waning to the point where children become susceptible to the disease, said study researcher Dr. David Witt, an infectious-disease physician at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, Calif.

Currently, children receive their last dose of the five-shot vaccine series between ages 4 and 6, and then get a booster shot at age 11 or 12.

The vaccine's protection "doesn’t seem to last as long as the five to seven years that would be required" to keep children from getting sick in the years between the end of the series and the booster, Witt said.

Experts say more research is needed to confirm the findings, and it's unlikely the current vaccination schedule will be changed anytime soon.

The first version of the whooping cough vaccine, known as the whole cell pertussis vaccine, provided long-lasting immunity, but there were concerns about the vaccine's safety.

In 1997, a more purified version of the vaccine, with fewer side effects, was introduced. However, recent research suggests that the immunity this newer version provides is not as durable.

In 2010 California experienced its largest outbreak in 53 years, with 10,000 pertussis cases and 10 deaths.

In the new study, researchers examined medical records from 132 children who were treated for pertussis during the outbreak at the medical center where Witt works. They also looked at vaccination rates among children at the center who didn't develop the disease.

The rate of whopping cough among vaccinated children was about 245 per 10,000 for children ages 8 to 12, compared with 36 per 10,000 for children ages 2 to 7. (The rate for unvaccinated children was higher, at about 320 per 10,000 children ages 8 to 12.)

The researchers determined the vaccine was 41 percent effective in protecting children ages 2 to 7, but only 24 percent effective in protecting children ages 8 to 12. It was 79 percent effective in protecting those ages 13 to 18.

A whooping cough booster shot at age 8 would "lessen the burden of pertussis disease," said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, but "it would be a burdensome thing to do."

A booster scheduled for this age would require a doctor's visit at a time when kids don't typically have one, Offit said. Children usually go to the doctor for shots in their younger years, and then again at ages 11 or 12, when entering middle school. "There's not really a platform on which to build that vaccine," Offit said.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said the first line of action will be to make sure everyone currently recommended to receive a whooping cough vaccine gets it, including adolescents ages 11 to 12 and adults. This will lessen the amount of circulating pertussis disease and lower the chances that those with waning immunity will become infected, Schaffner said.

After the current vaccine schedule is properly implemented, researchers could take another look at whether to recommend a booster shot around age 8, Schaffner said.

The study is published in the June issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. It first appeared online March 15 (NBC News, 2012).

Title: WHO: Sexually-Transmitted Superbug Could Be Major Crisis
Date: June 6, 2012

Abstract: A major public health crisis is emerging, in the form of a sexually-transmitted disease that doesn't respond to antibiotics, World Health Organization officials said Wednesday.

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections. It is spread through oral, vaginal and anal sex. About 106 million people worldwide become infected every year.

"Once this organism develops full resistance to this last antibiotic that we have, we have nothing else to offer to these patients," says Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, scientist at the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.

The organization has just released a global action plan encouraging greater awareness and advocacy, research, increased prevention efforts and monitoring of gonorrhea treatment failure. The same sorts of prevention messages apply for gonorrhea as for HIV/AIDS: Practice safe sex - correct and consistent use of condoms - and limit the number of sexual partners.

Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are among the countries reporting cases of gonorrhea that does not respond to cephalosporin antibiotics, which is the last treatment option against gonorrhea. These are developed countries with good health care systems, meaning countries less well off may be even more at risk for a crisis.

"If the resistence is there, what we think is that we’re sitting at a tip of an iceberg,"  Lusti-Narasimhan said. "For places in many other parts of the world where there are much less both human and financial resources, it’s very difficult to know the extent of the data."

The consequences of an untreated infection are harsh. In both men and women, it can cause infertility. Up to half of babies born from mothers with gonorrhea have severe eye infections, which could lead to blindness. Women who are pregnant may have spontaneous abortions or ectopic pregnancies. If the bacteria gets to other parts of the body, joint pain, swelling and stiffness are possible.

The WHO does not know the extent of the spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea yet. The infections don't seem to be as resistant in the United States as in some of the other countries, but there is increased susceptibility, Lusti-Narasimhan said. More surveillance is needed globally to fully assess how widespread these resistant infections are.

Bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics as a result of overuse or improper use of antimicrobial agents as well as poor-quality versions of these drugs. Strains of gonorrhea in particular appear to have a particularly good ability to become resistant (CNN, 2012)

Title: Report Finds Kids' Vaccines May Have Been Improperly Stored
Date: June 6, 2012

Abstract: Free vaccines meant for children as part of a U.S. government program may have been stored at the wrong temperature, which could make them less effective, according to a report released on Wednesday.

David K. Randall, author of a new book on the mysteries of sleep, talks to about the state of sleep research, why some of us just can’t seem to get enough Zzzzzs, and also about those sometimes humorous, but more often dangerous, nighttime rambles.

The report also found that both expired and unexpired vaccines had been stored together in some doctors' offices and clinics, which could potentially lead to mistakes in giving the wrong version, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of Health and Human Services said.

The findings could apply to a much wider lot of vaccines, since many of the same clinics that provide free immunizations for low-income children also give shots to insured children.

"We do know that vaccines exposed to temperatures that are too warm, too cold, or past the expiration date, may not provide maximum protection against disease," Holly Williams, a program analyst in the OIG's office, said in a podcast interview posted online. She added that the vaccines are still safe.

The OIG visited 45 medical practices from the five areas that ordered the most vaccines in 2010: California, Florida, Georgia, New York City and Texas. Together, they accounted for 36 percent of all vaccine orders that year.

The inspectors found 76 percent of the offices or clinics had stored vaccines at the wrong temperature for at least five hours in a row during a two-week period. These improperly stored vaccines were worth nearly $370,000.

The study also found 13 of the 45 providers mixed expired and unexpired vaccines, and 16 of them kept expired vaccines.

Since 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been providing free vaccines to children when parents cannot afford them or do not have insurance. The Vaccines for Children program spent $3.6 billion in 2010 to give 82 million vaccines to some 40 million children.

The federal government gives grants to state or local health departments, who then distribute the vaccine funds to 44,000 doctors' offices and clinics.

None of the providers managed vaccines according to all the program's rules, or had the proper documentation. And none of the five state or city agencies that gave the grants met all the oversight rules.

The CDC agreed to work with clinics and states to make sure the vaccines are better managed, and said the United States still has one of the best vaccination rates in the world, with 90 percent or greater reduction in preventable diseases.

The CDC said its efforts could help vaccine management in general, since 90 percent of U.S. children are vaccinated by medical practices that participate in the Vaccines for Children program.

Vaccines from companies including Sanofi SA, Merck & Co Inc and GlaxoSmithKline PLC provide protection against communicable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles and meningococcal disease (MSNBC, 2012).

Title: African Sleeping Sickness Shrouded In Superstition
Date: June 9, 2012
Source: AFP

Abstract:  A frail 65-year-old woman sitting under the mango trees in a rural village in Chad suffers from a tropical disease that eats into the brain, and the locals blame on witchcraft.

"I've been suffering for more than two months now. I have headaches, fever, and I just feel very tired," said Lea Sadene, who has just been tested and diagnosed.

She has Human African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness, which is transmitted by tsetse flies found in 36 sub-Saharan African countries.

Sadene is in the first phase of the often fatal illness. Without treatment in four months to a year, "the parasite penetrates into the brain, causing serious neurological symptoms, until death," said Doctor Benedict Blaynay, head of neglected tropical diseases at French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

"The symptoms can cause a change in personality, mental deterioration, leading to a long sleep or coma," which gives the illness its name, he said.

Chadian health officials say around 3,300 people were infected between 2001 and 2011 in several areas of the landlocked central African nation, one of the poorest in the world.

"With more than 100 cases per year Chad is considered an endemic country," said Doctor Peka Mallaye, who is in charge of the national programme to fight against sleeping sickness.

In Kobitoi in southern Chad recently, village women lined up with their children, many with swollen bellies, in the scorching sun as temperatures hit 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) to undergo tests for the disease organised with Sanofi.

The team found 14 cases of sleeping sickness out of 120 people examined, Mallaye said.

"This village is located next to a forest where the tsetse flies live. During the rainy season, people pass through the forest to go fishing or hunting," he said.

Fighting the disease, however, takes more than testing and drugs. For the people living in Chad's rural communities, the strange symptoms of sleeping sickness have long been shrouded in superstition about witchcraft and demonic possession.

"Before we didn't know that it was the disease that was killing people. People died like flies, they blamed witches," said Alngar Legode, a village mother trying to comfort her eight-month child still crying after being pricked for the blood test for the disease.

"Witchcraft is seen as a real phenomenon in traditional societies," said sociologist Serferbe Charlot. "They think that a man or a woman suspected of witchcraft is eating away at a person's soul."

In the advanced stages of the disease the infected person experiences severe neurological problems.

"When this disease reaches the brain, the patient loses control of his life, he even becomes violent. That is when the villagers believe that the sick person is possessed by evil spirits," said Charlot.

"It is up to the health specialists to prove" to the population that it is not witchcraft, he said, adding: "The fight against sleeping sickness calls for raising awareness."

But the World Health Organisation says it is not a losing battle.

After continued control efforts, the most recent statistics available show the number of cases in 2009 dropped below 10,000 for the first time in 50 years, and the trend continued in 2010 with 7139 new cases reported, the WHO reported on its website.

WHO estimates the number of actual cases is currently 30,000. The most affected country has been the Democratic Republic of Congo, which declared 500 new cases in 2010.

The WHO has established public-private partnerships with Sanofi and also Bayer Healthcare to create a surveillance team and provide support to endemic countries in their control efforts as well as a free supply of drugs to treat the sick.

Diagnosis should be made as early as possible before the disease reaches the neurological stage, which calls for more complicated and risky treatment.

The chief executive of Sanofi, Christopher Viehbacher, said the main challenge ahead "is to keep up the expertise in diagnosis and treatment in the medical centres, so that the monitoring for sleeping sickness is maintained."

Sleeping sickness figures on the WHO's list of 10 neglected tropical diseases. In January in London, the UN health agency brought together the US, British and United Arab Emirates governments along with 13 pharmaceutical companies and international organisations like the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make a new push to eliminate these diseases by the end of the decade.

"If we keep doing the right things better, and on a larger scale, some of these diseases could be eliminated by 2015, and others by 2020," WHO Director General Margaret Chan has said (AFP, 2012)

Title: Airflow Problems Plague CDC Bioterror Lab
Date: June 12, 2012
USA Today

Abstract: A $214 million bioterror germ lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has had repeated problems with airflow systems designed to help prevent the release of infectious agents, government documents and internal e-mails show.

While the agency says no one has been infected, a biosafety expert says the problems appear to be major violations of laboratory operating standards.

The area of the building with problems involves Biosafety Level 3 labs that can be used for experiments involving anthrax, dangerous strains of influenza, the SARS coronavirus, monkeypox and other microbes that have the potential to be used as bioweapons.

In February, air from inside a potentially contaminated lab briefly blew outward into a "clean" corridor where a group of visitors weren't wearing any protective gear which raised concern about exposure risks, according to e-mails reporting and discussing what happened. Research animals in the lab had not yet been infected at the time of the incident, the records say.

CDC engineers have raised written concerns about the air containment systems since at least 2010. At that time, scientists working with poxviruses, such as monkeypox, expressed concerns about airflow and said they "don't want to go into that facility because they don't feel comfortable with the way it is currently designed," according to minutes from a February 2010 meeting to discuss reversing the way air flowed through the labs and animal-holding areas.

According to the minutes, CDC safety manager William Howard said: "Bottom line is we can't continue to operate the building the way it is … if (a bioterror lab inspector) finds out air is moving this direction they will shut this place down."

The CDC refused to grant interviews or answer any questions submitted in writing about the problems inside the high-containment labs and animal-holding area of the agency's 11-story Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, also known as CDC Building 18.

In a statement, the CDC said there have been no releases of germs and no one has been injured. Experiments in the building's high-containment labs are "done in an environment with highly skilled staff, technical equipment, and safety systems that unfortunately, at times, experience challenges. Fortunately, this unique facility has multiple systems in place that provide appropriate redundancy, so when there is an incident, the public's safety, as well as worker safety, is not compromised." The agency said it always takes "appropriate steps" to address incidents when they occur, but provided no details.

BSL-3 labs are required under federal safety guidelines to have "sustained directional airflow by drawing air into the laboratory from 'clean' areas toward 'potentially contaminated' areas."

The airflow system is designed to protect against the release of microbes, especially those that have the potential to become airborne and infect workers who could spread disease in the community.

The CDC is responsible for inspecting its own labs, as part of a federal program where it also oversees labs nationwide that work with germs or toxins that could potentially be used as bioweapons.

Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said excerpts of CDC documents provided to him by USA TODAY "raise serious concerns. There appear to be significant irregularities." The problems seem to be the type that CDC's inspectors "would flag as major violations in inspections of non-CDC facilities," Ebright said.

The same lab building, which opened in 2005 and was touted by the agency as the world's most advanced laboratory, made news in 2007 when backup generators didn't work to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, then again in 2008 for a high-containment lab door that was being sealed with duct tape. The duct tape was applied after a 2007 incident where a ventilation system malfunctioned and pulled potentially contaminated air out of the lab and into a "clean" hallway; nine CDC workers were tested for potential exposure to Q fever bacteria. None were infected.

Most CDC staff quoted in the documents obtained by USA TODAY referred questions to the agency's press office or did not respond to requests for interviews.

Anthony Sanchez, the building's high-containment lab manager, in a brief interview said that although no building is perfect, "the scientists are happy with the facility … It is safe, and we have highly professional persons working in there, and they don't have anything to worry about." Sanchez added: "I think the American public has gotten its money worth, and more."

The records show that other CDC staff have expressed safety concerns.

The CDC "will do anything … to hide the fact that we have serious problems with the airflow and containment in this whole building," wrote CDC animal resources biologist Kismet Scarborough in an April 9 e-mail to several agency officials, including CDC Director Thomas Frieden. Scarborough's CDC voice-mail greeting describes her position as a high-containment lab manager for the agency's Animal Resources Branch.

Scarborough, e-mails indicate, was a witness to the Feb. 16 incident. where air blew out of a potentially contaminated BSL-3 lab into a "clean" corridor.

Another witness was Eddie Jackson, a biologist and inspector with CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins - the arm of CDC that is responsible for inspecting U.S. labs that work with bioterror germs. Jackson e-mailed a top CDC safety official the day the incident happened. Jackson described how he was part of an escorted group standing outside the door of a lab when an animal technician inside opened an interior door to an animal room. "As the door closed a very noticeable puff of air could be felt coming through the slit in the window out into the 'clean' corridor."

Jackson noted in his e-mail that Scarborough told him the room didn't house infected animals at the moment, but there is a room with infected animals on the same corridor. He asked whether there is any risk of exposure for people walking down the hallway without respiratory protection. "Don't know whether this was a fluke or the norm, and the reason I'm commenting is one of the visitors seemed concerned and has been talking about it since we've come back," Jackson wrote.

It is unknown what answer Jackson received to his question. According to Scarborough's April 9 e-mail, CDC safety officials dismissed concerns about the incident saying "it doesn't matter if the dirty BSL 3 lab blows positive into the clean corridor as long as it is not sustained." Scarborough called this a "totally ridiculous response" and wrote that she is "horrified and dismayed at the events surrounding safety and the fact that even though this has been taken clear up the chain of command all the way to Dr. Frieden, no one is willing to admit the mistake or more importantly fix it."

The mistake Scarborough appears to reference is a decision CDC implemented around late 2010 to re-engineer the air movement within these labs and nearby animal-holding areas. CDC engineers warned in early 2010 that reversing the airflow in this area could have "unintended consequences," including back-washing dirty air into clean areas when doors are opened and closed.

According to presentation slides for a February 2010 meeting about reversing the airflow in the lab and animal areas, CDC engineers Karen Moss and Tom Blanchard wrote that with the proposed changes "the potential exists to create large airflow disturbances, vortices and flow mixing between corridor and rooms will result, rooms may become same pressure as dirty corridor." If the airflow is going to be reversed, they wrote, anterooms - with negative air pressure - would need to be built to preserve airflow integrity.

The records indicate that CDC never built the anterooms, in part because of concerns about cost and time delays, and because some safety officials questioned whether they were necessary.

In a February 2010 e-mail, Blanchard proposed sending a bluntly worded memo to the agency's safety office warning that reversing the airflows in the lab area "represents an extreme departure from the existing design and operation" and that the change will result in "no safeguards against flow disturbances." It noted that there was not universal acceptance of "such a radical change" by those involved in the building, including animal staff and researchers working with tuberculosis.

After the air was reversed, air pressure problems developed in some areas resulting in fire code violations. Under certain circumstances, the pressure needed to open doors that scientists and other workers would need to escape through in an emergency is more than three times what the fire code allows, according to a contractor's report from December 2010 and an e-mail from Moss in January 2011.

The report noted: "Also, on some doors the excessive negative pressure prevented the release of the electronic security latch as commanded by the card reader; it was necessary to push/pull the door inward/outward before turning the handle and opening the door." CDC assumed responsibility for reopening the lab area with the "known code violation" and was going to begin work to address it, the contractor's report said. The CDC wouldn't say whether the problem has been fixed (USA Today, 2012)

Title: 10,000 Germ Species Live In And On Healthy People
Date: June 13, 2012

Abstract: They live on your skin, up your nose, in your gut — enough bacteria, fungi and other microbes that collected together could weigh, amazingly, a few pounds.

Now scientists have mapped just which critters normally live in or on us and where, calculating that healthy people can share their bodies with more than 10,000 species of microbes.

Don’t say “eeew’’ just yet. Many of these organisms work to keep humans healthy, and results reported Wednesday from the government’s Human Microbiome Project define what’s normal in this mysterious netherworld.

 One surprise: It turns out that nearly everybody harbors low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy — like the 242 U.S. adults who volunteered to be tested for the project — those bugs simply quietly coexist with benign or helpful microbes, perhaps kept in check by them.

The next step is to explore what doctors really want to know: Why do the bad bugs harm some people and not others? What changes a person’s microbial zoo that puts them at risk for diseases ranging from infections to irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis?

Already the findings are reshaping scientists’ views of how people stay healthy, or not.

“This is a whole new way of looking at human biology and human disease, and it’s awe-inspiring,’’ said Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University at St. Louis, one of the lead researchers in the $173 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“These bacteria are not passengers,’’ Tarr stressed. “They are metabolically active. As a community, we now have to reckon with them like we have to reckon with the ecosystem in a forest or a body of water.’’

And like environmental ecosystems, your microbial makeup varies widely by body part. Your skin could be like a rainforest, your intestines teeming with different species like an ocean.

Scientists have long known that the human body coexists with trillions of individual germs, what they call the microbiome. Until now, they’ve mostly studied those that cause disease: You may recall health officials saying about a third of the population carries Staphylococcus aureus harmlessly in their noses or on their skin but can infect others.

But no one knew all the types of microbes that live in healthy people or where, and what they do. Some 200 scientists from nearly 80 research institutions worked together for five years on this first-ever census to begin answering those questions by unraveling the DNA of these microbes, with some of the same methods used to decode human genetics. The results were published Wednesday in a series of reports in the journals Nature and the Public Library of Science.

First, the researchers had to collect tissue samples from more than a dozen body sites — the mouth, nose, different spots of skin, the vagina in women, and from feces. Then they teased apart the bacterial DNA from the human DNA, and started analyzing organisms with some daunting names: Lactobacillus crispatus, Streptococcus mitis, Corynebacterium accolens.

Our bodies are thought to be home to about 10 bacterial cells for every human cell, but they’re so small that together microbes make up about 1 percent to 3 percent of someone’s body mass, explained Dr. Eric Green, director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute. That means a 200-pound person could harbor as much as 6 pounds of bacteria.

There are about 22,000 human genes. But the microbes add to our bodies the power of many, many more — about 8 million genes, the new project estimated.

Those bacterial genes produce substances that perform specific jobs, some of which play critical roles in the health and development of their human hosts, said Dr. Bruce Birren of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, another of the project’s investigators. Genes from gut bacteria, for example, lead to digestion of certain proteins and fats. They also produce certain beneficial compounds, like inflammation-fighting chemicals.

Another surprise: There isn’t one core set of bacteria that perform those functions. A wide variety can do the same jobs, the researchers found.

That’s fortunate considering people carry a customized set of microbes, one that varies dramatically depending on where you live, your diet and a host of other factors. Your microbial zoos also can change, such as when taking antibiotics that kill infection-causing germs as well as good intestinal bacteria that may be replaced with different but equally effective bugs.

“We don’t all have the same bacteria although they all seem to have been organized to do the same things,’’ Birren said. It may be that our lifestyle and environment “induces each of us to have arrived at a solution that works for us.’’

With this first snapshot of what normal looks like, studies now are under way to see how the microbes differ in people with certain diseases, in hopes of learning how to prevent or treat the illnesses.

Consider the intestinal superbug named C. difficile that people all too often catch while they’re in the hospital, and that sometimes kills. Washington University’s Tarr wants to know what mixture of gut bacteria can fend off the diarrhea-causing germ or make it more likely to infect — so that doctors might one day know who’s more vulnerable before they enter a hospital.

Also, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reported Wednesday that the kind of bacteria living in the vagina changes during pregnancy, perhaps to give the fetus as healthy a passage as possible. Previous research has found differences in what first bacteria babies absorb depending on whether they’re born vaginally or by C-section, a possible explanation for why cesareans raise the risk for certain infections.

All new information in some ways is humbling, because it shows how much more work is needed to understand this world within us, noted infectious disease specialist Dr. David Relman of Stanford University, who wrote a review of the project’s findings for the journal Nature.

For example, the project included mostly white volunteers who live around Houston and St. Louis. Relman said more work is needed to define a normal microbiome in people with different racial, ethnic and geographic backgrounds.

And there are many remaining questions about how these microbes interact with human genetics.

“We are essentially blind to many of the services that our microbial ecosystems provide — and on which our health depends,’’ Relman wrote (, 2012)

Title: Azerbaijan Fears Anthrax Outbreak In Georgia
Date: June 14, 2012

Abstract: Azerbaijan’s ministry of agriculture recently warned customs authorities and retail facilities to remain on alert for signs of an anthrax outbreak spreading out of neighboring Georgia.

The Azerbaijan State Veterinary Service, which is part of the ministry, said the warning particularly applies to meat and other food products imported from Georgia, according to

Baku said it recently sent a request to the Veterinary Service of Georgia for a report on the outbreak, but has yet to receive any information.

The veterinary service said that all imported meat should be vaccinated and placed in a 21 day pre-export quarantine in order to conduct laboratory safety testing.

The Georgian media reported that the anthrax outbreak has spread to regions of the country heavily populated by Azerbaijanis. At least 30 people have been infected, including 20 Azerbaijanis, since the outbreak began. No cases of anthrax have been reported inside Azerbaijan, according to

Anthrax is a disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Outbreaks of the disease occur in nature, usually when people handle products from infected animals.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers anthrax to be a Category A biological agent, one that poses a significant potential risk for use by terrorists against public health. In 2001, anthrax was deliberately sent through the U.S. postal system, infecting 22 people and killing five, according to the CDC (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Threat Reduction Programs Shift Focus To Bioweapons
Date: June 14, 2012

Abstract: A two decade-long U.S. Department of Defense program designed to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction from the former Soviet Union is shifting its focus from nuclear to biological weapons and from Russia to Southeast Asia and Africa.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global and Strategic Affairs Madelyn R. Creedon recently told a Senate panel that the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, established in 1991, is gradually shifting its efforts to biological threat reduction as it adapts to take on emerging threats in new regions.

“With all the work that’s gone on in Russia over the better part of the last 20 years a lot has been accomplished,” Creedon said.

Creedon recently testified before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, which was meeting to review President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request for programs that seek to slow the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons around the world.

“We do continue to do a variety of work with Russia and in time that will phase down a bit,” Creedon said. “But we also value the relationship with Russia and in that context are seeking an extension of the umbrella agreement that allows for the work in Russia.”

The current agreement ends in 2013, but an extension is in place to allow some work to continue in sustainment operations.

Creedon also said that the DOD is also working in some states in the former Soviet Union, particularly Kazakhstan and Ukraine, that have large biological security programs, but the effort is beginning to change.

“We are beginning to shift focus in the biological program to Africa and the Middle East, so in time we will transition over to those areas of the world as well,” Creedon said (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Will Bacterial Plague Follow Crude Oil Spill Along Gulf Coast?
Date: June 17, 2012
New York Times

Abstract: Some bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico love eating oil as much as they like infecting humans.

A close relative of the bacteria infamous for seafood contaminations that often lead to fatal disease, the microbeVibrio parahaemolyticus, is common in warm coastal waters like the Gulf. The long comma-shaped bacteria, slurped down with raw oysters, brings twisting cramps and nausea to 4,500 American shellfish aficionados each year.

But unlike some of its finicky peers, V. parahaemolyticus has a deep thirst for crude oil. "You can feed it exclusively oil," and it will thrive, said Jay Grimes, marine microbiologist at the University of Southern Mississippi.

As many have noticed, oil is not in short supply on the Gulf Coast.

Scientists have long known that the ultimate end of the crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged BP PLC well will rest in the hands of marine bacteria, single-cell organisms that have been purging the seas of oil from natural seeps for millenia, having only recently added human folly to their cleanup resume. Without these bacteria, whose numbers surge in response to hydrocarbons, enough oil would leak each year to coat the world's oceans in a fine film, molecules deep.

Beneath this awareness, however, sit vast reserves of uncertainty. Microbiologists are unsure which bacteria, feeding off the oil, are already growing exponentially in the Gulf. They are curious how long the bacterial growth will last once the oil's hard remnants drift down into ocean sediment. And no one seems certain how the surge in microbial life will alter the intricate, disentangling web of the Gulf's already weakened ecology.

One of the more pressing questions involves Vibrios, which, until the oil spill, were one of the primary threats to the region's vital shellfish business. While parahaemolyticus rarely causes serious disease, another Vibriospecies, vulnificus, kills dozens of Americans each year, largely through seafood contamination. The disease, only recently discovered, has caused fierce debate between health officials and local Gulf politicians over raw oysters, the primary carriers of the disease.

Since Vibrio populations swell in the summer -- they love the heat -- this year there is a likely possibility, scientists say, that Vibrio growth could be further spurred, directly or indirectly, in response to the oil and the organic flotsam it has left behind.

"The question is: Will there be an inadvertent enhancement of the growth of these potential human pathogens?" said Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation and an expert in marine microbial life. "It's a question, and the answer is uncertain."

So far, hard evidence is scant. Grimes recently examined an oiled water sample taken by the research ship Pelican. The oil, likely exposed to dispersant, was finely divided. Using gene-staining technology, Grimes discovered several microbes attached to the droplet. Now glowing blue, they had been gorging. At least one was a Vibrio.

"There's no question bacteria, in general, increase following spills, and this includes Vibrios," said Jim Oliver, a Vibrio specialist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Whether the pathogenic Vibrios "significantly increase is unsure, I would say, but they are coastal bacteria ... so [they] could well increase either as a direct result of oil degradation or as a side effect of the added nutrient levels."

The ingredients are there for heightened concern, Oliver added. The carcasses of bacteria feeding off the oil will increase overall nutrient levels as sweltering summer temperatures hit their peak. While there are natural controls, like bacterial viruses and protozoa, that can check Vibrio growth, those can be overwhelmed, studies have shown. And because of the cleanup, more people could be coming into direct contact with the bacteria.

"I think that combination could lead to very serious public health concerns," Oliver said.

FDA Aware of Threat
Already, the spill is stressing and killing marine life, covering oyster cages in oily films, Oliver's Gulf colleagues tell him. The most common vector for seafood contamination, the oysters that survive the crude could see their immune systems weakened, potentially leaving them easy prey for bacteria. And what if their offspring are weakened?

There are few answers, said Doug Bartlett, a microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Mostly questions. "If the oil is killing all these marine animals and if the marine animals are highly compromised, would they be more likely to succumb to infectious disease?" he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is aware of the Vibrio threat but believes the bacteria's numbers will decline in parallel with the oil, said Meghan Scott, an FDA spokeswoman. Currently, most oyster reefs within the spill's reach are closed as part of the federal response, which has shuttered about a third of federal waters in the Gulf.

"Closure of oyster harvesting areas is based upon the presence of oil, and reopening cannot occur until the presence of oil is gone and shellfish have been tested by sensory and chemical analysis," Scott said. "Concurrent with acceptable test results for oil in oysters, Vibrio levels will have returned to background."

When harvesting resumes, Vibrio controls will be enforced by state shellfish control authorities. Those requirements have been the source of controversy in recent years, as last year FDA sought to reduce Vibrio-related deaths by tightening controls on raw oyster processing. Gulf fishermen and politicians fended off those standards, at least temporarily, citing economic concerns.

Without a doubt, higher Vibrio numbers would pale in comparison to the oil, which should remain the primary concern of emergency responders, given its potential to accumulate in wildlife and disrupt fish larvae. The synthetic dispersants used to break down the crude, making it available for microbes, are a close second. But there should be awareness that even as the oil recedes -- which, at times, seems an ever remote possibility -- its impact on the Gulf will linger, invisibly.

"I honestly don't know what is going to happen with regard to the oil spill," Scripps' Bartlett said. "It's very likely in the heavily impacted areas to have a strong influence on the composition of microbial communities. But gosh, I just don't have a good sense of where that all is going to go."

'Insufficient Investment' in Research
Marine microbiology has long been a meagerly funded field. Even when oil spills have been on politicians' agendas, most money has gone toward technological fixes like double-hulled tankers. As a result, microbiologists have few specific answers to offer on how the Gulf's bacterial life will change. Some lessons have been learned from spills in Japan, Alaska and France, but over the past 20 years, when biological tools have rapidly advanced, money has slipped out of reach.

"We are now reaping the sad result of insufficient investment in the kind of research that should have been happening all along," said Colwell, who was tapped this week to lead an independent panel advising where BP's promised $500 million in research funds should be invested.

Given the uncertainty, microbiologists are scrambling to reach the Gulf and sample waters near the former site of the Deepwater Horizon. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Santa Barbara, backed in part by emergency federal grants, have set out on research ships like Cape HatterasBrooks McCall and Ocean Veritas to sample the ocean's smallest residents.

Few initial results are available, and much microbial activity has been inferred from a drop in oxygen levels in waters surrounding the spill. This plunge, however, even in the undersea plumes of oil-water mixture, has not been deep enough to limit the oxygen needed by microbes, according to Ken Lee, director of Canada's Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research. Lee has had researchers monitoring the spill for weeks.

"We've been monitoring oxygen profiles in the water column continuously," Lee said. Early tests likely used inaccurate equipment, he added, as "it doesn't look like there's a significant or any significant change in oxygen profiles at this time."

The undersea plumes are less dense than previous analogies may have suggested, Lee added. "It's certainly not salad dressing under water at depth," he said. "We've collected many samples for [analysis] and it appears that the concentrations are quite low."

There is evidence that the dispersants, despite whatever toxicity they may cause in the deep sea, are breaking down the oil into finer droplets than even the most efficient microbes, Lee added. Since most bacteria cannot live in oil and can only "stick their noses into it," as Oliver put it, increasing the surface area is critical to degradation. It is a tough call to use them in such volumes -- more than 1.3 million gallons so far -- but it may have been the right one, USM's Grimes added.

"As a microbiologist, I think the dispersants were the right way to go," Grimes said.

Colwell is not so certain, though, citing evidence that the dispersants could block vital nutrients from reaching oil-degrading bacteria. Much of the first $25 million pledged to Gulf-area research institutes from BP will investigate the effect of dispersants.

In these investigations, one of the more impressive bacteria that scientists expect to find in large numbers near the spill are Alcanivorax borkumensis, a microbe described only a decade ago by German scientists, or similar species. Alcanivorax are selective microbes, so focused on hydrocarbons that they can create their own surfactants, the detergent-like chemicals used by dispersants, to break apart oil.

Typically, bacteria that consume oil grow from less than 1 percent of the marine population to 10 percent or more, as seen in the Exxon Valdez spill. It is expected that microbe species similar toAlcanivorax constitute a large part of this primary growth, said Kenneth Timmis, a microbiologist at Germany's Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research who helped discover A. borkumensis.

"The unfortunate thing is Alcanivorax can only handle a small part of the problem," Timmis said. The bacteria target saturated hydrocarbons, simple chemical chains that constitute the major volume of the Gulf oil but are also the most likely to evaporate. It is small, he said, "but it's an important part of it."

Indeed, the word "oil" can mask the sheer complexity of crude, Colwell said. Recent studies have found more than 17,000 different chemical components in crude, spawning a term that mirrors the complexity of biology: petroleomics. Some bacteria, like the Alcanivorax, will degrade the simple components, while others, like some Vibrios, hanker for aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene, which are more stable and toxic.

"It's what we call a consortium activity," Colwell said, chains of bacteria that tag-team to devour the oil. "It's a complex system and we, in the 21st century, need to be thinking of systems. ... We have to understand sequential events. It requires a new way of thinking."

Nature's Limits
While bacteria -- be they AlcanivoraxVibrio or some other flagella-tailed bug -- will degrade much of the oil in the Gulf, they will encounter limits in their efforts. Even with enough dissolved oxygen in the water, it is likely that the nutrients needed by the microbes will be in scarce supply, if they are not already, scientists said.

"My guess is that biodegradation is limited by nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and iron," said Jim Spain, a microbial engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology. "There might be a time when addition of such nutrients could be helpful, but the caveat is that stimulation of photosynthesis -- algal blooms -- should be avoided."

Fertilization of the ocean should be explored, Colwell agreed. But, she added it should only be considered in a serious, science-based approach that knows exactly what is being added into contaminated waters with volumes calculated based on oil and microbial concentrations.

Soon enough, however, the Gulf will receive a dose of nutrients that it can do little to control. Each summer, runoff from the fertilizer-saturated farms of the Midwest sluices down and out the Mississippi River, typically causing a massive bloom in algae growth and, in turn, a "dead zone" without oxygen. How this runoff will interact with Gulf microbes is anyone's guess.

It could stimulate the hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, Bartlett said. But if algae instead bloom, the local Vibrio population could also escape its normal limits. Bartlett saw such results during one bloom off the California coast, where the protozoa were no longer able to stop the growth of Vibrio, which can have an affinity for algae.

"The lesson from that is that under high nutrient conditions, it may be that the Vibrio numbers would go up," Bartlett said. "Though one might need to distinguish one algae from another. So we have more questions than answers."

In the end, there is just too much oil for bacteria to break down before large recalcitrant chunks of the crude -- resins and asphaltenes -- sink to the seafloor, coating marine life. The chemicals will then burrow into sediment and, while not very toxic, in such a oxygen-free environment, the oil will take many years to degrade, Helmholtz's Timmis said.

While efforts to limit the oil's spread are understandable, given the wildlife and ecosystem concerns, the high concentrations will make it much more difficult for bacteria to mitigate the oil, he said. The short-term fix complicates the long-term solution.

"It needs to be contained on one hand, and dispersed at the same moment," Timmis said.

For the oil that has not reached the shore, it will be "marine bacteria that will ultimately save the day," UNC's Oliver said. They will degrade the oil to water and carbon dioxide, he said, given time and the assistance of wind and waves.

But those days of clear seas remain on a distant horizon.

"This oil," Colwell said, "will be around for a long time" (New York Times, 2012).

Title: H5N1: Bird Flu Pandemic May Be Closer Than Thought, Study Finds
Date: June 21, 2012

Abstract: After a delay of more than six months, a controversial paper describing a virulent, man-made form of bird flu was published in the journal Science on Thursday. The findings suggest that we may be closer than we thought to a potentially deadly influenza pandemic.

Science released in their entirety the details of a series of experiments conducted by virologist Ron Fouchier and his colleagues at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, in which they genetically engineered the H5N1 bird flu virus and made it jump easily from host to host. The research, along with another paper submitted to Nature by scientists led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who also created an airborne strain of H5N1, was initially suppressed in December by a U.S. government biosecurity group over concerns that the experiments could pose a bioterror risk. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) asked the editors of Scienceand Nature to strip the reports of their detailed methods, or withhold them altogether, sparking an intense dispute within the scientific community.

In March, the NSABB reviewed revised papers submitted by Fouchier and Kawaoka and gave them the green light. The release of Fouchier’s paper marks the end of months of bitter debate (Kawaoka’s paper was published in Nature in May) over the risks of government censorship on science versus those of bioterrorists getting their hands on the recipe for deadly flu, but it’s likely just the launching point for continued discussions and yet-to-be formulated policies for dealing with so-called dual-use research that can have both beneficial and destructive consequences.

Fouchier’s intent was to further researchers’ understanding of how flu viruses work — how they adapt to new hosts and how they learn to hop from person to person. H5N1 spreads easily among birds and usually kills them, but it rarely transmits from one person to another, mainly because it isn’t airborne. When it does infect human beings, however, it’s often deadly: of the 606 cases of human H5N1 infection confirmed by the World Health Organization since 2003, nearly 60% have resulted in death. If the virus were to mutate and go airborne — flying from person to person through sneezes and coughs — it could trigger a potentially deadly pandemic. So, Fouchier wanted to know what it would take to make that happen and, by publishing his work, enable scientists to stay one step ahead of the virus by better predicting and preparing for a potential pandemic.

In the highly anticipated report published on Thursday, Fouchier describes how he and his team introduced three key mutations to a common H5N1 strain. The team chose genetic changes that had previously appeared in strains of H5N1 that caused pandemic illness among people in outbreaks in 1918, 1957 and 1968. They then introduced their genetically engineered flu virus into ferrets, which because of their anatomy are good models for studying how influenza behaves in people. The virus did not reproduce efficiently in the ferrets, nor did it develop the ability to spread via air droplets from one animal to another.

So the researchers then allowed nature to run its course, repeatedly “passaging” the mutant virus, with its three genetic alterations, in the nasal passages of ferrets and allowing the virus to mutate in its host on its own. The researchers infected ferrets with the original strain, then collected virus samples from the nose and lungs of the animals, and used these strains to inoculate the next set of animals, and so on, thereby mimicking how influenza viruses would naturally circulate and replicate among a group of animals (or people).

Fouchier found that after only four to five such passages, the virus began to mutate, changing to become more efficient at living and thriving in the ferret’s respiratory tract. After 10 passages, the H5N1 became airborne, evolving the ability to jump from an infected ferret and colonize an uninfected neighbor through air droplets; Fouchier’s group confirmed this when three of four ferrets, separated physically from infected animals, became infected by influenza particles released in sneezes by the sick ferrets.

While the virus gained transmissiblity, however, it lost lethality; it wasn’t deadly for animals. More work needs to be done to see how virulent the altered strain might be in humans, but getting airborne is an important first step for a potentially pandemic bug.

It’s hard to predict how close we are in the real world to a version of H5N1 that would go from being a bird-only problem to one that would pose a serious human threat. But the new paper shows it’s exceedingly possible. “As little as five and less than 10 mutations are sufficient to make H5N1 airborne,” Fouchier told a group of reporters in a teleconference.

The experiments in the ferrets also showed that it wouldn’t take much for these mutations to occur. Some experts believed that H5N1 could become airborne only if it combined genetically with other flu strains, such as those that are responsible for the seasonal flu, in a process called reassortment. That’s what Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin showed in his report in Nature: his team combined mutated H5N1 genes with genes from H1N1 — which is highly transmissible if not highly deadly — resulting in an airborne version of H5N1.

But Fouchier’s studies proved that H5N1 could mutate on its own to become airborne. And to highlight how easily the virus makes these changes, another group of scientists led by Fouchier’s colleagues at Erasmus, report in the same issue of Science that two of the mutations are already common among circulating H5N1 strains that currently infect birds and fowl. One appears in about 30% of H5N1 strains, while the other appears in half of strains that can infect both birds and people. That means that in order to become airborne, and easily spread from mammal to mammal, all it would take for some H5N1 strains are three additional mutations.

It’s possible that those mutations could evolve in humans, but again, the likelihood is difficult to estimate. “It’s like being in a situation where we would like to predict earthquakes or tsunamis,” says that paper’s senior author, Derek Smith, in the department of zoology at University of Cambridge and a biologist at Erasmus Medical Center. “We now know that we are living on a fault line, and what we discovered is that it’s an active fault line.”

In January, Fouchier and Kawaoka agreed to temporarily halt work on the H5N1 strains they created, but they’re eager to pick up where they left off and figure out how generalizable the ferret studies are to human populations, and specifically, how virulent the airborne strains might be in people.

To do that, they’ll first need some guidance on how best to pursue such scientifically valuable and potentially life-saving work, while minimizing the risk that such information could be used by terrorists to create a biological weapon. In March, U.S. officials issued an umbrella policy for addressing such dual-purpose research, which they hope will guide future studies like Fouchier’s and Kawaoka’s and avoid the months-long delays in publishing. The U.S. Government Policy for Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern lists 15 agents or toxins whose study requires additional oversight and monitoring because of their potential to cause societal harm. But the document does not detail exactly how studies with these agents should be conducted or monitored, based on the lessons learned from the Fouchier and Kawaoka papers. That will come in a more specific policy that will be open to public discussion shortly. “That policy will get down to being more granular about the kinds of things we need to pay attention to, and some principles we need to follow,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In the end, the NSABB determined that both papers provided more benefit than risk, but it’s clear that such experiments will only continue to raise difficult questions about whether and how to proceed. And weighing those risk and benefits will likely not come in a single, permanent policy but in an evolving one that accommodates our changing knowledge of the threats around us and how best to contain them (TIME, 2012)

Title: Plague Rare In U.S., Surfacing In More Affluent Areas
Date: June 13, 2012

Abstract: Although the plague is typically considered a remnant of the Middle Ages, when unsanitary conditions and rodent infestations prevailed amid the squalor of poverty, this rare but deadly disease appears to be spreading through wealthier communities in New Mexico, researchers report.

Why the plague is popping up in affluent neighborhoods isn't completely clear, the experts added.

"Where human plague cases occur is linked to where people live and how people interact with their environment," noted lead researcher Anna Schotthoefer, from the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Wisconsin. "These factors may change over time, necessitating periodic reassessments of the factors that put people at risk."

This latest study confirms previous reports that living within or close to the natural environments that support plague is a risk factor for human plague, Schotthoefer said.

Plague is caused by a fast-moving bacteria, known as Yersinia pestis, that is spread through flea bites (bubonic plague) or through the air (pneumonic plague).

The new report comes on the heels of the hospitalization on June 8 of an Oregon man in his 50s with what experts suspect is plague. According to The Oregonian, the man got sick a few days after being bitten as he tried to get a mouse away from a stray cat. The cat died days later, the paper said, and the man remains in critical condition.

For the new study, published in the July issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the researchers used U.S. Census Bureau data to pinpoint the location and socioeconomic status of plague patients.

About 11 cases of plague a year have occurred in the United States since 1976, with most cases found in New Mexico. Plague has also been reported in a handful of other states.

Although many cases were in areas where the habitat supports rodents and fleas, the researchers also found cases occurring in more upper-class neighborhoods. In the 1980s, most cases occurred where housing conditions were poor, but more recently cases have been reported in affluent areas of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the investigators found.

"The shift from poorer to more affluent regions of New Mexico was a surprise, and suggests that homeowners in these newly developed areas should be educated about the risks of plague," Schotthoefer said.

Schotthoefer noted that these more affluent areas where plague occurred were regions where new housing developments had been built in habitats that support the wild reservoirs of plague, which include ground squirrels and woodrats.

Bubonic plague starts with painful swellings (buboes) of the lymph nodes, which appear in the armpits, legs, neck or groin. Buboes are at first a red color, then they turn a dark purple color, or black. Pneumonic plague starts by infecting the lungs. Other symptoms include a very high fever, delirium, vomiting, muscle pains, bleeding in the lungs and disorientation.

In the 14th century, a plague called the Black Death killed an estimated 30 percent to 60 percent of the European population. Victims died quickly, within days after being infected.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said he doesn't expect to see that kind of outbreak ever again.

"This is not a disease of the past, but you are never going to see a massive outbreak of plague in this country," he said.

"We don't have the public health problems we used to have and people would be quickly confined if there were ever a large number of cases," Siegel explained.

Yet, it is not surprising to see plague in these more affluent areas, he noted.

"We know that plague only exists where you have wild animals, and once a reservoir of plague is already present it is likely to persist," Siegel explained. "It isn't only about squalor; it's about where the reservoir is."

However, if the disease is caught early it is treatable with antibiotics, Siegel added (Yahoo, 2012)

Title: Some Bird Flu Strains Only Three Mutations Away From A Pandemic, Researchers Find
Date: June 21, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: A new study raises concerns that it may be possible for airborne transmissible, human-to-human avian H5N1 flu viruses to evolve in nature.  

The study looked at five mutations identified previously in the controversial bird flu studies published in the journals Nature and Science—led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, respectively—which would make it possible for bird flu to spread from human to human.

In those studies, the researchers experimented with bird flu strains to show which mutations would be necessary for the virus to evolve to become transmissible between mammals.

The papers revealed with only five mutations (amino acid substitutions), or four mutations plus reassortment, bird flu can become transmissible between mammals – and potentially humans.  Currently, bird flu can be transmitted from birds to humans, but not from humans to humans.

U.S. federal officials initially asked the journals to withhold publishing the papers, based on bioterrorism fears, but relented after an independent panel of experts determined there was no threat to public health.

Now, in an accompanying study, led by Professor Derek Smith and Dr. Colin Russell at the University of Cambridge, researchers analyzed all the surveillance data available on avian H5N1 flu viruses in the past 15 years and discovered two of the five mutations needed to make bird flu transmissible between mammals had already occurred in numerous avian flu strains that exist in nature.

Not only that, but a number of the virus strains had both of the mutations, the researchers added.

"Viruses that have two of these mutations are already common in birds, meaning that there are viruses that might have to acquire only three additional mutations in a human to become airborne transmissible,” Russell said in a released statement. “The next key question is, 'Is three a lot, or a little?'"

In order to address the question, the researchers used a mathematical model of how viruses replicate and evolve in mammals to see which factors would increase the likelihood of the three mutations occurring spontaneously in nature.

According to the model, factors that increased the likelihood of the virus evolving included random mutations and positive selection.  Viruses can replicate billions of times within a single host, sometimes imperfectly, leading to random mutations.  Positive selection may favor some of these mutations if they help the virus adapt to mammals and spread.

A long period of infection can also increase the likelihood of the virus evolving, because the longer a person is infected, the more the virus replicates and mutations can accumulate.  According to the researchers, it is also likely that there are other mutations not identified by the Fouchier and Kawaoka papers, which can act as functional substitutes for the three remaining mutations.

Finally, the diversity of the virus within the bird population can spell trouble for humans as well.  The more mutations there are within the bird population, the higher probability there is that a key mutation may be missed by routine surveillance.  

However, even after identifying those factors, as well as a few factors that may actually decrease the likelihood of bird flu evolving, the researchers said it was impossible to determine the exact risk.

“You can’t put a number on it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health, told “ But nature has already told us this is very unlikely—not impossible, but unlikely.”

According to Fauci, health officials first noticed the bird flu virus in 1997 and started following it closely since 2003.  

“In nine years, there have been 600 cases in that period, and the virus has not naturally mutated to get to the point where investigators got it in [the papers by Kawaoka and Fouchier],” Fauci said.  “…But some of the mutations induced experimentally are to a certain extent occurring naturally in the wild, so the bottom line is, it is feasible.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture continually does surveillance on chickens for traces of H5N1, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention periodically samples influenza strains in people, according to Fauci—who added that no potential pandemics have been observed as intensively as this one in the past.  So far, there have been no reported cases in the U.S. of H5N1 in humans.

The Cambridge researchers recommended continued surveillance of the bird flu virus, particularly in regions where mutations necessary for human transmission have occurred, as well as in regions connected to those by bird migration and trade.  They also called for additional studies and deep sequencing of bird flu viruses to identify any other mutations that may play a role in human-to-human transmission.

In a statement, Smith compared the situation to assessing the risk of an earthquake or tsunami. “We don't know exactly when and where, but by increasing monitoring and research – some of which is already underway – scientists and public health officials will be able to increase the accuracy with which the risk can be assessed and to minimize those risks."

Fauci added: “If in fact the mutations can happen, you want to get an idea of what the virus would look like in order to have better surveillance, determine its sensitivity to current drugs and see if the vaccine still protects against it."

The study will be published in the journal Science (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Vaccines Can Now Be Rolled Out Quickly
Date: June 21, 2012
USA Today

Abstract: Knowing that the 
H5N1 bird flu can mutate into a form that can be easily transmitted, researchers have redoubled efforts to quickly create a vaccine should a pandemic strain emerge.

The good news is that there now exists technology that makes creating vaccines much faster than in the past, says Rino Rappuoli, global head of vaccines research for Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, in Siena, Italy. He authored a companion paper to the H5N1 research published in Science this week. Rappuoli's piece focuses on options to improve pandemic preparation.

Fast and increasingly inexpensive machines allow the genomes, or genetic blueprints, of newly evolved flu varieties to be quickly sequenced. Instead of needing to ship live virus to vaccine manufacturers, today researchers only need to e-mail a computer file containing the genetic code.

Scientists can then simply buy short strands of genetic code from commercial DNA synthesis companies and stitch them together in the correct order to synthesize a copy, creating a virus "seed."

This can quickly be grown in cell cultures to produce vaccines. It is a process that is much faster than the current one, which involves injecting the actual virus into chicken eggs to grow. "The hurdle will be only to change the regulatory process," Rappuoli says.

Some of this is being implemented, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

He envisions the creation of libraries of possible viruses for quick-turnaround vaccine production. Powerful computers now make it possible to do "computational sequencing of every possible strain of influenza that could emerge," Fauci says. A databank of virus seeds for making vaccine can be created so when a new flu strain emerges "you don't have to count on growing it and growing it in the right medium. You could already have the seed ready" (USA Today, 2012)

Title: Indian CBR Material Remains Vulnerable
Date: June 21, 2012

Abstract: A new study suggests that chemical and biological weapons material in India remains poorly secured and could fall into the wrong hands.

The joint study, conducted by Indian and British researchers, said the situation was first brought to the Indian government three years ago after 14,000 tons of chemicals disappeared in the state of Madhya Pradesh, according to

Former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai said such material is vulnerable to theft in India, especially when it is being transported. He said he fears the bulk of the stolen chemicals might have ended up in explosives made by Maoist rebels, though it also might have been used in illegal mining operations.

In a 2011 incident that was widely publicized, a metal pipe containing radioactive Cobalt-60 was found in a Delhi scrap yard. It was eventually traced back to the chemistry department at Delhi University, from where it was sold to the scrap dealers at an auction.

There have also been less noticed cases of radioactive exposure in India, including an incident where Tritium contaminated drinking water in 2009 and sickened 90 people.

“These incidents show while elaborate security structures have been put in place to prevent radioactive material falling into the hands of malicious actors, thus far it has not provided to be completely foolproof,” the study concluded, reports.

The study also concluded that large facilities containing chemical and biological material, particularly those under the protection of the Central Industrial Security Force, are generally well-protected. At medium and small facilities, however, the level of protection can vary greatly (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Mutant Bird Flu Would Be Airborne, Scientists Say
Date: June 21, 2012

Abstract: Here's what it takes to make a deadly virus transmissible through the air: as few as five genetic mutations, according to a new study.

This research, published in the journal Science, is the second of two controversial studies to finally be released that examines how the H5N1 bird flu virus can be genetically altered and transmitted in mammals. Publication of both studies had been delayed many months due to fears that the research could be misused and become a bio-security threat.

Although these particular engineered forms of H5N1 have not been found in nature, the virus has potential to mutate enough such that it could become airborne.

H5N1 influenza can be deadly to people, but in its natural forms it does not easily transfer between people through respiratory droplets, as far as scientists know. The World Health Organization has recorded 355 humans deaths from it out of 602 cases, although some research has questioned this high mortality rate.

The journals Science and Nature had agreed to postpone the publication of the two studies related to the genetically altered virus.

In January, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity recommended that this research be published without "methods or details" that terrorists might be able to use for biological weapons. The board also said the data could assist in preparing for a possible future outbreak, however.

Then in February, the World Health Organization convened a meeting, at which the recommendation was to publish the studies - just not yet. In April, the National Institutes of Health chimed in, also recommending publication.

The first study to be published on the topic was in the journal Nature, and was led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka. It was released in May.

The other research group, which authored the new study in Science, was led by Ron Fouchier at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Both Kawaoka and Fouchier's groups created a mutated version of H5N1 that made it easier to transmit from mammal to mammal. They used ferrets because these animals are a good approximation for how viruses behave in humans.

Fouchier's study examines what mutations would be necessary to get the virus airborne. He and colleagues found five mutations consistent in a form of the H5N1 flu virus that could spread among ferrets through the air.

None of the ferrets died after developing the flu, the researchers said.

In a separate analysis, researchers looked at the likelihood that an airborne avian flu virus would evolve on its own from the H5N1 currently found in nature.

This study, also published in Science this week, looked at nearly 4,000 strains of influenza virus and frequently found two of the five mutations that appear to be involved in airborne transmission. These two mutations have been found in viruses from both birds and humans, although not in naturally-occurring H5N1 strains.

Derek Smith of the University of Cambridge, who co-authored that study, said at a press briefing that it's possible that only three mutations are necessary for the virus to evolve.

Smith's group also did mathematical modeling to look at whether the other mutations could evolve when the bird flu jumps to a human or other mammal.

"We find that it is possible for such a virus to evolve three mutations within a single host," Smith said during the press call.

If it takes four for five mutations to become airborne, that would be more difficult - but it's unclear just how likely it would be, Smith said.

While the Nature study looked at how a bird flu virus could become airborne through mutations and re-assortment with other viruses, the latest research in Science suggests mutations alone could do the trick.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that the benefits from the Science study, in terms stimulating ideas and pursuing ways to understand the transmissibility, adaptability and pathogenesis of the virus, outweigh the risks that someone will use the data for nefarious purposes.

"Does that mean that there's no risk? No, of course not. I can't tell you at all
that there's no risk. But the benefits in my mind outweigh the risks," he said.

Making the research available generally will hopefully spark input on this topic from researchers in a wide variety of fields, he said.

It is technologically possible to create vaccine based on the genetic code of a flu virus strain including this one, researchers said. Several companies are already making H5N1 vaccines.

Research is ongoing to accelerate the amount of vaccine doses available by using adjuvants, which are agents that modify the effects of vaccines, Fauci said. There is also work ongoing into using computational sequencing to anticipate every possible influenza strain that could emerge, such that a databank could be established to prepare for the outbreak of any one of them, he said.

"Right now we're in a much, much better position than we were when we had vaccine available after the peak of the 2009 H1N1 two years ago," Fauci said (CNN, 2012).

Title: EU Teams With U.N. To Prevent Biological, Nuclear Disasters
Date: June 26, 2012

Abstract: The European Union and the United Nations have teamed up to create a program that will prevent future biological and nuclear incidents worldwide.

The Centers for Excellence Initiative is meant to alleviate risks connected to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disasters by promoting CBRN policies that are coherent and effective, Xinhua reports.

“(The initiative decreases risk by) promoting cooperation, coordination, and coherent national and regional CBRN policies,” a press statement said, according to Xinhua.

Bruno Dupre, the policy coordinator for CBRN issues for the EU Diplomatic Service, said that the agency means to increase dialogue, vigilance and cooperation in areas that have higher risks of nuclear incidents. While the CoE Initiative is not meant to respond to crises, it will attempt to prevent the crises from occurring in the first place.

“The initiative maximizes existing capacities and supports countries to better address the risks posed by CBRN through the coordination and integration of their actions within a broader network,” Jonathan Lucas, the director of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, said, according to IANS.

The initiative involves over 60 countries and has already commenced in eight regions including South East Europe, Central Asia, Moldova and Ukraine in addition to multiple regions in Africa (BioPrepWatch, 2012).

Title: Swine Flu Deaths May Have Been 15 Times Higher Than Reported
Date: June 26, 2012

Abstract: The 2009 swine flu pandemic may have killed 15 times more people globally than reported at the time, according to the first study to estimate the death toll.

The H1N1 influenza virus probably killed about 284,500 people worldwide, compared with 18,500 deaths reported to the World Health Organization, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases today. More than half the deaths may have been in southeast Asia and Africa, compared with 12 percent of officially reported fatalities, the authors wrote.

 The estimate shows the difficulty in tracking the effect of a pandemic as it’s unfolding, Cecile Viboud of the National Institutes of Health and Lone Simonsen of George Washington University wrote in an editorial. The WHO, which was criticizedfor exaggerating the H1N1 threat, said during the outbreak that the toll would end up being “unquestionably higher” than that reported to it by national authorities.

“Laboratory-confirmed deaths are gross underestimates of influenza-related mortality because of the lack of routine laboratory tests and difficulties in identification of influenza-related deaths,” they wrote.

The H1N1 virus was reported in more than 214 countries through August 2010, when the WHO declared an end to the pandemic. It’s since become one of three seasonal flu strains circulating worldwide, causing infections mostly during the winter months.

Mathematical Model
Seasonal influenza kills as many as 500,000 people every year, according to the Geneva-based WHO. Those estimates are typically based on the number of deaths above a country’s normal death rate that coincide with a flu season.

Researchers led by Fatimah Dawood at the Atlanta-based CDC’s influenza division developed a mathematical model using data from 12 countries on flu cases that were diagnosed by a patient’s symptoms alone, and not by a laboratory test. They hypothesized that the risk of death is higher in some countries than others.

Shortcomings in the availability of data in poorer countries may affect the accuracy of the estimates, they said.

The number of deaths from the pandemic highlights the need to expand production and improve delivery of vaccines to poorer countries, which are often hardest hit by pandemics and lack the resources to monitor diseases, the researchers wrote.

“The study underscores the significant human toll of an influenza pandemic,” Dawood and colleagues said in an e-mailed statement. “We hope that this work can be used not only to improve influenza disease burden modeling globally, but to improve the public health response during future pandemics in parts of the world that suffer more deaths.”

Eighty percent of the deaths were probably in people younger than 65 years, the authors wrote (Bloomberg, 2012)

Title: Security Lapses Found At CDC Bioterror Lab In Atlanta
Date: June 27, 2012
USA Today

Abstract: A federal bioterror laboratory already under investigation by Congress for safety issues has had repeated incidents of security doors left unlocked to an area where experiments occur with dangerous germs, according to internal agency e-mails obtained by USA TODAY. In one incident, an unauthorized employee was discovered inside a restricted area.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says the unsecured door incidents in 2010 and 2009 inside its Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta were "not an acceptable practice of the agency." At no time, though, were bioterror organisms such as anthrax at risk of falling into the wrong hands, he said.

"The doors in question here are but one layer of multiple layers of security when it comes to both the animals and the agents that are worked on," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said. "The security measures we have in place, without going into detail, make it close to impossible for anyone who doesn't have approved access to the agents to get their hands on them."

The e-mails document doors being left unlocked in the building's high-containment lab block, which includes an animal-holding area and Biosafety Level 3 labs where experiments are done on microbes that can cause serious or potentially fatal diseases and can be spread through the air. Anthrax, monkeypox, dangerous strains of influenza and the SARS virus are examples.

One e-mail by a CDC safety manager describes an unauthorized man discovered in the animal-holding area and multiple doors that were unsecured at the time. Skinner says the man was a CDC scientist but was not immediately able to provide further details about why he was in the restricted area. Skinner said the man was in an outer corridor of the BSL-3 suite of labs.

For safety and security, access to BSL-3 labs is restricted and they are supposed to have special airflow systems designed to help keep organisms inside. Problems with the airflow systems revealed by USA TODAY, including a February incident where air briefly blew out of a lab into a "clean" hallway, prompted the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week to launch a bipartisan investigation into safety issues. The committee is examining whether CDC — which inspects its own labs along with others nationwide that handle bioterror agents — is complying with federal safety requirements at the lab building, also known as CDC Building 18.

E-mails written by CDC Safety and Occupational Health manager Patrick Stockton indicate the lab has had security lapses that Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said may be a "major violation" of security standards for labs that work with potential bioterror agents.

In a November 2009 e-mail, Stockton wrote to several CDC officials involved with Building 18's high-containment laboratory area: "We are continuing to have some difficulties with doors remaining unsecured in the (high-containment lab) area. … If we continue to have issues, we will need to begin looking at individual access rights for these doors." The particular issue involved expansion sections of the doors, used to accommodate large pieces of equipment. The "through-bolts are not being re-engaged, and the doors are remaining unsecured," Stockton wrote.

Five months later, the expansion doors continued to be left unlatched and unsecured. According to an April 29, 2010, e-mail to more than a dozen CDC officials involved with the lab building, Stockton wrote that earlier that day "an individual with no access and no escort" was found in the research animal-holding area of the high-containment lab area.

The e-mail continued: "He did not have access and at this point we are not sure how he got there." Stockton wrote that he talked to program and animal staff and "no one from their programs let this person in." CDC's Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, was investigating, the e-mail said. Homeland Security officials did not respond to questions about the CDC security incidents.

Stockton's e-mail says that after the incident he and the building's high-containment lab manager, Anthony Sanchez, walked the entire high-containment block and found two doors unsecured. "This can certainly happen by mistake on occasion but we have addressed this issue in the past and now it seems to be a common failure point. … It is imperative that all doors leading to high containment remain secured," Stockton wrote.

Stockton and Sanchez didn't grant interviews. CDC spokesman Skinner said: "Doors being left open by staff is not a standard practice. It's unacceptable, and our safety office has sent out numerous reminders to staff of the importance of staff practicing good physical security."

Skinner said he is unaware of any other door security incidents after the one in April 2010. He emphasized that multiple layers of security in the building would have prevented any unauthorized person from accessing germs that hold the potential to be used as bioterror weapons. "The bottom line is, worker safety and the public safety were never compromised," he said.

Ebright, of Rutgers University, expressed concern about the repeated issues revealed in news reports about Building 18 since the $214 million building opened in 2005, including articles in 2007 about backup generators that failed to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, and in 2008 about a high-containment lab door that the CDC sealed with duct tape after an incident where an airflow system malfunctioned and sent potentially contaminated air into a "clean" corridor.

The "documents you have obtained over the past several years make it clear that there has been a pattern of corner-cutting and negligence at CDC biocontainment facilities —starting with the failure to include provisions for emergency backup power, and encompassing inadequate door seals, improper airflow, jury-rigged repairs, and unsecured access points," Ebright said.

If the security issues described in Stockton's 2010 e-mail continue and bioterror agents are being used in that area, Ebright said, "then heads should fall."

The CDC currently is responsible for inspecting the safety and security of its labs that work with bioterror agents. Skinner said CDC has a 66-year record of operating its labs safely.

The CDC said this week, in the wake of USA TODAY's reports, that it is considering having its labs' safety reviewed by an outside agency, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

Biosafety and biosecurity concerns have been the subject of previous congressional concerns. A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, examined the potential risks posed by the growing number of high-containment labs doing research on potential bioterror agents. It found that while lab accidents are rare, they do occur, primarily because of human error and systems failures.

It also noted that insiders working in the labs can pose risks, pointing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's allegation that Bruce Ivins, a scientist at USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Md., was the "sole culprit" in the 2001 anthrax attacks. While he was under investigation in 2008, Ivins died of a drug overdose.

"There are arguably two aspects to insider risk: the motive of the insider and the ability to misuse material and laboratory facilities," the GAO wrote in its report (USA Today, 2012).

Title: U.S. Beaches Laden With Sewage, Bacteria: Study
Date: June 27, 2012
Raw Story

Abstract: US beaches can be dirty places, making about 3.5 million people sick each year from sewage in the water, said an annual study Wednesday that rates American beaches by how dirty they are.

The Natural Resources Defense Council report included 3,000 beaches nationwide and listed 15 “repeat offenders” that have turned up again and again in the pollution rankings.

Those included four beaches in Louisiana, Avalon and Doheny State Beaches in southern California, and select waterfront beaches in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin.

 Overall, the total number of beach closures and water quality advisories nationwide last year was the third highest in 22 years of monitoring, said the study.

“America’s beaches are plagued by a sobering legacy of water pollution, including bacteria-laden human and animal waste,” said NRDC Water Program Director Steve Fleischli.

“So when people dive into the ocean, it can make them sick with a range of waterborne illnesses including stomach flu, skin rashes, pink eye, ear nose and throat problems, dysentery, hepatitis, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and other serious health problems.”

Louisiana tallied the highest number of dirty samples (29 percent) that exceeded national standards for designated beach areas in 2011.

The southern state famed for its seafood and music and whose shoreline was among those sullied by the BP oil spill in 2010 ranked last out of 30 states measured for beachwater quality.

However, since the ranking was based on bacteria sampling in the waters, the problem was not solely attributable to the devastating oil spill, the NRDC said.

Instead, the main problem across most of America’s beaches is polluted storm water runoff — with more than 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water making its way into surface waters each year, according to US Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

“The biggest known cause of beach closings and swimming advisories is polluted storm water runoff,” said Fleischli.

“When it rains, the water carries trash, chemicals, oil, animal waste — you name it — off the paved streets of our communities into sewers and ultimately to our beach.”

The environmental group appealed for tougher EPA standards on beach water quality and improved measures to halt runoff pollution and sewer overflows.

“EPA believes it is acceptable for one in 28 swimmers to become ill with gastroenteritis from swimming in water that just meets its proposed water quality criteria,” said NRDC.

“This risk is unacceptably high and is not protective of public health.”

As many as 3.5 million people get sick from coming in contact with raw sewage from sanitary sewer overflows every year, the EPA says.

The NRDC also listed the best beaches for water quality. The top beaches were in the northeastern states of Delaware (Dewey Beach) and New Hampshire (Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands Beach).

Other five-star ratings went to Newport Beach in California, Ocean City Beach 6 in Maryland, and Gulf Shores Public Beach in Alabama.

No Florida beaches made the top 12 that received the five-star rating (Raw Story, 2012)

Title: Meselson Calls For Stronger Oversight Of Bioweapon Research
Date: June 28, 2012

Abstract: Matthew Meselson, a Harvard professor and biodefense expert, spoke on the subject of increasing biological weapon oversight in Washington on Tuesday at an event hosted by the Federation of American Scientists.

Meselson called for improved international cooperation in monitoring diseases that come about in the lab or the wild. He said that such cooperation was the only way to protect the United States from biological threats as H5N1 bird flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, AOL Defense reports.

“We’re protecting against a devastating epidemic that comes out of China and kills all the Americans,” Meselson said, according to AOL Defense. “Infectious agents don’t stop at frontiers, they don’t have passports.”

Meselson was a crusader of the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention and is an advocate for overseeing potentially dangerous research. He said that additional layers of oversight including compliance review groups and a score of permanent staffers to look at proposals, interview researchers and visit research sites should be employed to determine if a project is problematic or has dual-use potential. Meselson said that the goal should be to develop a harmonized procedure across all agencies that could be used as a model for updating the Biological Weapons Convention in 2016.

Meselson said that he doesn’t want to stop research that could be dangerous, he simply wants to monitor it more effectively. In his opinion, it would be counterproductive to cripple research into topics that could be dangerous.

“You want to know about the things that are dangerous,” Meselson said, according to AOL Defense (BioPrepWatch, 2012)

Title: Discovery Sheds Light On Flu Infections
Date: June 28, 2012
University of Edinburgh

Abstract: Scientists have discovered a new gene in the influenza virus that helps the virus control the body’s response to infection.

Although this control is exerted by the virus, surprisingly it reduces the impact of the infection.

The findings will help researchers better understand how flu can cause severe infections, as well as inform research into new treatments.

Role of key gene
Researchers found when the virus gene - called PA-X - was active, mice infected with flu subsequently recovered.

When the PA-X gene did not work properly, the immune system was found to overreact.

This made the infection worse, and did not help destroy the virus any quicker.

The study looked at how the gene affected the behaviour of “Spanish flu”, a virulent strain of influenza that caused a pandemic in 1918.

It was carried out by the Universities of Cambridge, Cork, Edinburgh and Utah, the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle and the United States National Institutes of Health.

Scientists discovered the PA-X gene some 30 years after flu genome was first decoded.

The researchers, whose study is published online in the journal Science, found the hidden gene by analysing patterns of changes in the genetic information of thousands of different flu strains.

“The flu virus has a very, very small genome - just 12 genes. Finding a new gene makes a pretty significant change to our understanding of this virus.” ~Dr Andrew Firth, University of Cambridge

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the U. S. National Institutes of Health, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Wellcome Trust (University of Edinburgh, 2012)

Title: Tapeworm Death Suit Was Brought Too Late
Date: August 24, 2012
Courthouse News

Abstract: A widower waited too long to go after Homeland Security after his wife allegedly died of a tapeworm infection in her brain while awaiting deportation, the 8th Circuit ruled. Immigration authorities arrested Maria Inamagua Merchan in Minneapolis in 2006 and transferred her to Ramsey County Adult Detention Center as it initiated removal proceedings. After a month in detention, Merchan complained to a doctor about severe migraine headaches and a rash that spread from her legs to her upper body.

The doctor gave Merchan pain medication and hydrocortisone cream. After another month passed, Merchan fell off her top bunk bed, hit her head and again complained of a bad headache. The correctional officer gave her an ice pack.
By evening, she was vomiting and unresponsive to commands. The doctors sent Merchan to the hospital where she died nine days later from neurocysticercosis, a tapeworm infestation that causes cysts in the brain. The disease is contracted by ingesting tapeworm eggs from human feces.

In 2009, Merchan's husband, Patricio Flores, and her uncle, Jose Encalada, sued the Department of Homeland Security and numerous doctors at the detention center, for violating Merchan's equal protection rights and for medical malpractice.

After a federal judge dismissed the case as untimely, the 8th Circuit affirmed Monday. "The magistrate judge did not clearly err in finding that plaintiffs' claim accrued upon Inamagua's death," rather than the date on which Flores received his wife's medical records from Ramsey County, the decision states.

"In his April 10, 2006, letter, plaintiffs' attorney advised Ramsey County that he represented Flores and explained that Inamagua had complained of headaches and lost weight while detained, that she had fallen out of her bunk and thereafter displayed symptoms of a head injury, and that Detention Center staff observed her for four hours before she was transferred to a hospital," Judge Roger Wollman wrote for a three-member panel.

"Plaintiffs thus knew of Inamagua's injury and reasonably should have known of its cause in the days following her April 3, 2006, hospitalization. The information available to them on April 12, 2006, was sufficient to form the factual basis of plaintiffs' administrative claim."

Merchan's family also cannot advance medical malpractice claims because they "have failed to show any excusable neglect for their failure to comply with the statute's time limits," Wollman wrote. "Despite plaintiffs' arguments to the contrary, they possessed sufficient medical records and information to obtain the expert affidavits and serve them in a timely manner"
(Courthouse News, 2012).