The Pandora Report

Highlights include H5N1 research for everyone, a gift all Biodefense students can get behind, finally detecting the tiniest virus, why bacteria are to blame for you eating that third piece of fruitcake, USAID’s PREDICT program, and staying away from the hand dryer. Happy Friday!

The End of Days for H5N1 Moratorium?

H5N1 research is out of the dog (ferret?) house, following a lifting of a year long ban, put in place after the controversial “Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus Between Ferrets” study. Stay tuned for the GMU Biodefense review of the decision.

The Scientist – “After a 2-day meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, this week, government officials have finally reached a consensus on a policy to review requests to research the potentially dangerous H5N1 influenza virus. The new policy could end a longstanding debate that began when two research groups published studies showing their ability to create viruses that are transmissible between mammals. The National Institutes of Health policy, which is to take effect next month, will effectively lift a 12-month ban on H5N1 research that started in January. But some countries may not wait. ‘I suspect that we will be seeing a lifting of the moratorium on the part of people who are not NIH-funded,’ Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said at the meeting…”

Preparing for Bioterrorism

Unsure what to get the Biodefense student who has it all? Look no further! The Alfred P. Sloan foundation has released a book helpfully titled “Preparing for Bioterrorism”, which is about, you guessed it, bioterrorism. Download it for free from their website, pass it along to your favorite BIOD student, and then sit back and bask in your gift-giving glory.

Get it here (be sure to check out the forward by D.A. Henderson, available here).

Dr. Kolchenko

Groundbreaking research leads to detection of smallest virus particle, implications for early treatment of disease

Vasily Kolchenko (great name, great mustache) and his team, by attaching a nano-antenna to a light-sensing device, have managed to detect the smallest virus particles. – “…Their work has made it possible, for the first time, to detect the smallest virus particle. Since even one viral particle can represent a deadly threat, the research likely will make an important contribution to ongoing research on early detection of such diseases as AIDS and cancer. Until the research team announced their discovery this year in Applied Physics Letters (July 27, 2012), no instrument or methodology had been successful in reliably and accurately detecting a single virus particle, which is in the size range of a nanoparticle. (About 80,000 nanoparticles side by side would have the same width as a human hair.) The research will potentially have an immense impact on the general public, aiding disease detection at its earliest stage when fewer pathogens are present and medical intervention can be most effective.”

Are Bacteria Making You Hungry?

I know defending against our nation’s proclivity towards baked goods isn’t necessarily an issue of biodefense, but it’s the holiday season, and as the pounds are added on, any and all scapegoats are appreciated (George Mason Biodefense is in no way condoning unhealthy eating habits. A balanced diet and frequent exercise are the best way to remain healthy).

Science Daily – “Over the last half decade, it has become increasingly clear that the normal gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria play a variety of very important roles in the biology of human and animals. Now Vic Norris of the University of Rouen, France, and coauthors propose yet another role for GI bacteria: that they exert some control over their hosts’ appetites. Their review was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Bacteriology.”

USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats Program Trains 1,500 in Infectious Disease Surveillance, Diagnostics and Outbreak Response and Identifies 200 Novel Viruses

Microbial and infectious disease experts from around the world came together earlier this month for the 20th annual meeting of the Institute of Medicine (IoM)’s Forum on Microbial Threats.

“Over the past three years, the PREDICT Project of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Pandemic Influenza and Other Emerging Threats (PIOET) program has trained 1,500 people in surveillance, diagnostics, and outbreak response; has discovered 200 novel viruses related to groups known to cause disease in humans; and has standardized animal sampling protocols as part of detecting and preventing pathogens of pandemic potential from spilling over from animal to human populations – and vice versa. These figures were presented by Stephen Morse, PhD, of Columbia University and Co-Director of the PREDICT Project during a panel…on “Disease Detection, Emergence and Spread: Tools and Approaches for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Detection” .

Why Paper Towels are Important

Using an air dryer in the bathroom is always better, right? Especially one of the automatic ones that you don’t have to touch? Wrong.  In doing your bit to stop the spread of flu this holiday season, consider reaching for the towel. From the Mayo Clinic:

“Hand hygiene has the potential to prevent diseases and reduce health care–associated infections. The proper drying of hands after washing should be an essential component of effective hand hygiene procedures. Most studies have found that paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively, and cause less contamination of the washroom environment. From a hygiene standpoint, paper towels are superior to air dryers; therefore, paper towels should be recommended for use in locations in which hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics. The provision of paper towels should also be considered as a means of improving hand hygiene adherence among health care workers. Our findings may have implications for health professionals and medical educators aiming to design effective programs to promote hand hygiene practices.”

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