The Pandora Report

This is a Canadian superbug-killing robot. No news yet on whether it also plays hockey.

Highlights include DNA sequencing and privacy, H5N1: yes it does actually have a case fatality of 60%, premature babies with H1N1, your gut releasing hidden mycotoxins, Canadian farmers and biosafety standards, and an awesome robot which kills superbugs. Happy Friday!

DNA sequencing a serious risk to privacy

DNA sequencing is one potenential future of bioterrorism – as it becomes easier and easier, the technical hurdles required to simply make a bioagent oneself (perhaps in a DIY community biolab) continue to diminish.

Homeland Security News wire – “The growing ease of DNA sequencing has led to enormous advancements in the scientific field. Through extensive networked databases, researchers can access genetic information to gain valuable knowledge about causative and preventative factors for disease, and identify new targets for future treatments. The wider availability of such information, however, also has a significant downside — the risk of revealing personal information. New study finds that new policies are needed to safeguard participants’ identity in genetic studies.”

Assessment of Serosurveys for H5N1

Breaking news: H5N1 is as deadly as the WHO says it is. C’mon people, it is the WHO, believe it or not disease surveillance is kind of their thing. The study below tested the argument of  the naysayers who insisted H5N1’s case fatality was lower than 60%, due to the mis – or non diagnosis of asymptomatic patients. The findings? Very few cases were missed.

Clinical Infectious Diseases – “It has been suggested that the true case fatality rate of human H5N1 influenza infection is appreciably less than the figure of approximately 60% that is based on official WHO confirmed case reports because asymptomatic cases may have been missed. A number of sero-epidemiological studies have been conducted in an attempt to identify such missed cases…This review suggests that the frequency of positive H5 serology results is likely to be low; therefore, it is essential that future studies adhere to WHO criteria and include unexposed controls in their laboratory assays to limit the likelihood of false positive results.”

Doctors find three newborns with swine flu virus

It remains unclear how the premature babies, all three of which are asymptomatic, caught the virus.

Times of Israel – “Three premature babies at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa were found on Thursday to be carrying the swine flu virus. The H1N1 virus has remained dormant in all three infants, who have been isolated from the other newborns while the hospital conducts an investigation to determine the source of the virus. So far this winter, two Israelis have died as a result of swine flu. A 3-year-old boy succumbed in mid-January, marking Israel’s first swine flu death since 2009. Two weeks later, a 28-year-old woman died as well. Health Ministry officials said last month that there were currently no special safeguards prepared against swine flu in Israel, but that the flu vaccine administered this year includes immunization against the life-threatening virus.”

Gut Bacteria Liberate Hidden Toxins Found In Grains

According to a new study, plants can neutralize mycotoxins by adding a sugar or sulfate group. While the mycotoxins are rendered harmless to the plants, when they enter our lower intestine, the added group is broken down, and the toxins again become pathogenic.

Chemical and Engineering News – “Scientists have long known that fungi, such as Fusarium graminearium, deposit toxins on food crops. These so-called mycotoxins can contaminate the food supply, causing a wide range of nasty effects and even death in people and livestock. As a result, many countries set a limit for the amount of mycotoxins in food and animal feed…But in the past decade, scientists have discovered that mycotoxins can hide. The toxins are harmful to the crops themselves, so, as a defense strategy, the plants neutralize the mycotoxins by tacking on a sugar or sulfate group to the chemicals. Because of this chemical modification, these masked mycotoxins slip past current detection methods used by food safety inspectors…’what happens to the compounds during human digestion?'”

National dairy farm biosecurity standard launched

Meanwhile, in Canada, farmers are implementing voluntary biosafety standards to prevent the spread of agricultural pathogens. This may seem superfluous  but after taking Dr. Breeze’s Agroterrorism class, any attempt by the farming industry at biosafety self-regulation is highly appreciated. 

Manitoba Co-Operator – “Canada’s food safety agency has formally introduced its biosecurity standard designed specifically for the Canadian dairy farm. Launched Tuesday, the voluntary biosecurity standard maps out dairy farmers’ ‘control areas’ and target outcomes in the areas of animal health management, animal movement, premises management and conditions for workers, visitors, vehicles and equipment.The standard, designed to help farmers cut and control the risk of disease entering their farms, spreading within the farm or to neighbouring farms, ‘will be a tool for all proactive farmers who want to bring animal health to a superior level,’ Wally Smith, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s release Tuesday.”

VGH First in Canada to Use Superbug-killing Robot

Canada is clearly out to show us up. Can we please talk about how cool the above headline is? Why don’t we get superbug-killing robots?  – “She’s just 5’5” and quiet, but don’t let her demure looks fool you—she’s a ruthless killer who moves at the speed of light. Meet Tru-D, the newest member of Vancouver General Hospital’s (VGH) Housekeeping and Infection Control teams. Tru-D SmartUVC, or “Trudi” as staff affectionately call her, is a superbug slaying robot being piloted at VGH for the next few months. The machine disinfects surfaces with a measured dose of ultraviolet (UV) light to kill germs and viruses, such as norovirus, influenza, C. difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).”

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