Pandora Report 4.25.14

While Ebola Viral Disease still rages in West Africa and MERS continues to spread, let’s take this Friday to look at some other stories.

Highlights include Polio eradication in Southeast Asia, Manure and Antibiotic Resistance, Chemical weapons in Syria (yes, again), and the 28th anniversary of Chernobyl. Have a great weekend!


80% of the World Polio Free

If you’re anything like me, you hang on every word Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC and active tweeter, says. This week he lauds polio eradication in the 11 countries of Southeast Asia as a “remarkable achievement.” The countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste and are home to 1.8 billion people.  While he applauds the work that has already been done, he highlights Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria as countries where there is still work to be done.

Huffington Post—“The lessons of Southeast Asia are being applied in these last three countries — improving immunization activities, outreach to underserved populations, special approaches in security-compromised areas, outbreak response, improved routine immunization and disease tracking — so the world can get to the finish line in the fight against polio.”


Cow Manure May Lead to Antibiotic Resistance

Using five stool samples collected from four cows at a dairy farm in Connecticut, scientists at Yale University found 80 unique antibiotic resistance genes, approximately three quarters of which were unfamiliar. Genetic sequencing showed that the AR genes were only distantly related to those already known to science. When applied to a lab strain of E. coli, the genes made the bacteria resistant to certain well-known antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracycline.

The New Zealand Herald—“Further study is needed to probe whether cow manure may harbour a major reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes that could move into humans.

“This is just the first in a sequence of studies – starting in the barn, moving to the soil and food on the table and then ending up in the clinic – to find out whether these genes have the potential to move in that direction,” Jo Handelsman, senior study author and microbiologist at Yale said.”


As Syria Closes in on Chemical Weapons Disarmament, New Concerns Arise

Like Russia, it seems Syria cannot stay out of the news lately. While Reuters reported this week on an apparent chemical attack in the province of Idlib (which followed a chemical attack in Hama earlier in April), news outlets are cheering Syria’s commitment to meeting their deadlines for disarmament of their chemical weapons stockpiles. Reports estimate that 85-90% of the Syrian stockpile has been shipped for dismantlement and destruction.

Los Angeles Times—“Under a revised plan, Syria has promised to remove all of its chemical weapons material by April 27. In the last two weeks, Syria has shipped out six batches, “marking a significant acceleration in the pace of deliveries,” the OPCW said. Russia provided armored vehicles and other equipment to assist the chemical convoys, which sometimes traversed roads near contested zones where rebels were present.

The U.N. set June 30 as a deadline for destruction of the chemicals.”


28th Anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

What is there to say, as we approach the 28th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster? This event remains one of the most catastrophic nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. The ongoing after effects have harmed the environment, people, and there are consequences still yet unknown.

As the media looks back on this event, there are many good stories that cover the effects of this meltdown that happened in the early hours of April 26. Some focus on the lasting impact on the environment.

Birds Adapt to Long-Term Radiation Exposure

What’s Wrong With Chernobyl’s Trees?

Radiological Damage Still Poses ‘Catastrophic’ Threat to Ukraine

Some focus on the risks of nuclear power and call for greater awareness.

Ban marks Chernobyl anniversary with call for greater support for recovery efforts

Some focus on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and its effect on Chernobyl.

Chernobyl Radiation Shield Under Threat Amid Ukraine Crisis

But the one of the most interesting remembrances of this event was from the 10th anniversary of the meltdown in 1996. It is the tale of the Swedish scientist who alerted the world to the uptick in radiation…since the Soviet Union did not.

Chernobyl haunts engineer who alerted world


(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons Firef7y)

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