Friday News Roundup!

Highlights include Pakistan discussing  a biological weapons “contingency plan” (no words), NEJM unmasking the new coronavirus, MRSA in your friendly neighborhood bunnies, more fungal meningitis, and bacteria-contaminated antibacterial soap.

Pakistan: Time to Develop Biological Weapons?

Pakistan Today – Ambassador (r) Qazi Humayun said that despite the fact that development and use of chemical-biological weapons (CBW) has been prohibited by international conventions, Pakistan needs to develop a contingency plan, especially considering the vulnerable civilian population, so that it is not taken by surprise in case of a CBW attack.

He said this while chairing a session at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on “Chemical-Biological Weapons and Pakistan”, which featured a presentation by Dr. Tughral Yamin from National Defense University. Humayun said that there were weaknesses in the international conventions on chemical and biological weapons as they could not stop a country if it started making such weapons without declaring them.

New England Journal of Medicine Tackles the Novel Coronavirus

The virus, poetically dubbed “HCoV-EMC”, is a novel betacoronavirus species whose closest cousin is found in bats. Before we collectively exhale, the NEJM wants to remind everyone that “animal coronaviruses can cause severe disease in humans”. Happy Friday.

NEJM – “A previously unknown coronavirus was isolated from the sputum of a 60-year-old  man who presented with acute pneumonia and subsequent renal failure with a fatal outcome in Saudi Arabia.The clinical picture was remarkably similar to that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003…”

For a less science-heavy summary, see the Wired article here.

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Found in Wild Animals

Moral of the story? Don’t touch Thumper.

Wired Science – One of the most notorious and hard-to-treat bacteria in humans has been found in wildlife, according to a new study in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. The researchers isolated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in two rabbits and a shorebird. Wild animals may act as an environmental reservoir for the disease from which humans could get infected. S. aureus can cause skin infections or, if it gets into the bloodstream, life-threatening illness. Most infections are easy to manage with penicillin and related antibiotics, but MRSA, the resistant variety, is on the rise; also known as a “superbug,” it kills an estimated 18,000 Americans a year.

Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Continues, death toll rises to 21

CDC Update – The CDC and FDA have confirmed the presence of a fungus known as Exserohilum rostratum in unopened medication vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate…from one of the three implicated lots … The laboratory confirmation further links steroid injections from these lots…to the multistate outbreak of fungal meningitis and joint infections.

Afternoon Irony: Recall of Bacteria-Contaminated Anti-bacterial Soap

If you are the proud owner of any Avmor Ltd Antibacterial Foaming Hand Soap with Triclosan, you should seriously consider switching to Dove.

Um, there’s some Pseudomonas on your soap…

CTV News – “Laval-based Avmor Ltd. is recalling 19 more lots of its Antimicrobial Foaming Hand Soap with Triclosan, and it is also recalling alcohol-free hand sanitizer. So far nobody has been reported ill, but the bacteria can be dangerous to those with weak immune systems, especially those with cystic fibrosis, cancer, diabetes, burns, lung disease or HIV/AIDS.”

In Case You Missed it:

Where Will The Next Pandemic Come From? And How Can We Stop It? Popular Science
– E. coli cases tied to outbreak now at 61 WSOCTV
– When competition is intense, viruses spill over into new hosts, Discover Magazine
– Livermore Lab developing uniforms that repel biological and chemical agents, SF Business Times
– West Nile Cases Pass 4,500 Mark Nationwide: CDC, Health Day

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