Editor’s note: As Managing Editor, I know my job is never done because the news never stops. As a social scientist, I know there is always more than one side to any story. As such, before we get into the news roundup for March 14, here are two follow up articles from our report last week.
Last week we learned about BCX4430, a drug that could possibly treat Marburg virus. This week, news coming out of Mount Sinai in New York outlines further research findings on the virus that can lead to greater understanding or possible development of virus inhibitors. The full findings of this research are available at Cell Reports.
Newswise — “A protein that normally protects cells from environmental stresses has been shown to interact Marburg virus VP24, allowing the deadly Marburg virus to live longer and replicate better, according to a cell culture study led by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The investigators say that deciphering the molecular details of how Marburg virus and the host protein interact may help in developing inhibitors of the virus.”
As was pointed out by our eagle-eyed reader Jean Pascal Zanders, there, of course, is disagreement about the supposed Nazi insect weapons program. Jean writes about it on his blog, and GMU Biodefense’s own, Dr. Gregory Koblentz, is incredulous.
National Geographic – “‘Research to assess the threat posed by different biological agents and vectors, such as May’s research on mosquitoes and malaria, is especially hard to categorize as offensive or defensive,’ Koblentz says. ‘Even if May’s intent was offensive, it was very preliminary-many steps away from actually producing a viable insect-borne biological weapon.’”
And now for our regularly scheduled Friday news…
Highlights include Project BioShield, Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, and Clostridium difficile with antibiotics. Happy Friday!
Should we be afraid of bio-terror or bio-error? In this massive, front-page Newsweek story, the author looks at the creation of the Project BioShield Act and its resulting effects including the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act and increased availability of biological threat agents used for scientific research. The Soviet bioweapons program, BSL-4 labs, and the intersection of science and government are also addressed.
Newsweek – “Though BioShield’s initial goals made sense when the threat of biological warfare seemed imminent, the act may have permanently undermined some of the essential protections against unsafe practices in at least one area of science research: the regulations that keep untested drugs off the market, and labs from leaking deadly biological agents into the environment.”
Under the UN Security Council backed deal to deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal, provisions are included for this to happen aboard a U.S. cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Under the plan, hydrolysis systems aboard the ship are to mix heated water and other chemicals to break down the lethal agents, resulting in a sludge equivalent to industrial toxic waste. This plan has prompted protests in Italy, Malta, and Greece despite assurances there will be no negative impact on the surrounding environments.
Agence France-Presse – “‘If this happens it will obliterate the island’s economy, will pollute the sea and will lead the people of the Mediterranean to a grim future.’ Pavlos Polakis, mayor of the city of Sfakia told AFP.”
According to the CDC, an overwhelming percentage of cases of pediatric Clostridium difficileinfection occur in children who were prescribed antibiotics during the 12 weeks prior to illness for unrelated conditions—such as ear, sinus, or upper respiratory infections. C. difficile is a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and is potentially life threatening.
CDC – “Taking antibiotics is the most important risk factor for developing C. difficile infections for both adults and children. When a person takes antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that protect against infection can be altered or even eliminated for several weeks to months. During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider’s hands.”
(image courtesy of CDC/James Gathany)