Ailments and Age Groups: What Makes Illness Age Dependent?

By Chris Healey An uncommon and underreported virus has affected children in states across America. State health departments around the country have reported an unusual number of enterovirus D68 infections this season. Many hospitalizations – but no deaths – have been reported. Enterovirus D68 was first isolated in California in 1962 from four children with … Continue reading Ailments and Age Groups: What Makes Illness Age Dependent?

Reston Ebola: NOVA’s Namesake Emerging Infectious Disease

By Chris Healey Almost 25 years before the 2014 Ebola epidemic began spreading through West Africa – and the resulting treatment of two American Ebola patients on U.S. soil – public health officials responded to an Ebola outbreak inside the U.S. Reston Ebola is the name given to an Ebola species discovered among macaque monkeys … Continue reading Reston Ebola: NOVA’s Namesake Emerging Infectious Disease

Tuberculosis and Seals: Sea Mammals as Harbingers of Disease

By Chris Healey Seals introduced one of the deadliest illnesses in history to the Western Hemisphere centuries before Europeans carried it over. Researchers at the University of Tubingen in Germany published findings in the research journal Nature describing the role seals played in introducing tuberculosis to the Americas. Before these findings, the presence of tuberculosis … Continue reading Tuberculosis and Seals: Sea Mammals as Harbingers of Disease

Plants and Their Growing Role in the Pharmaceutical Industry

By Chris Healey Pharmaceutical production using plants has been in the spotlight after Mapp Pharmaceutical revealed its experimental Ebola serum ZMapp—credited with saving the lives of two Americans—was created using antibodies harvested from genetically-modified tobacco plants. ZMapp is part of a growing trend of pharmaceuticals created from proteins produced in plants, a practice considered safer, … Continue reading Plants and Their Growing Role in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Ebola’s “Top-Secret” Serum: What Is It? Why Would It Be Kept Secret?

By Chris Healey The deadliest and most pervasive Ebola outbreak in history is underway in Africa. As of August 8, the World Health Organization reported 1134 confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone with 622 confirmed deaths. Two Americans, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, contracted Ebola while helping contain the epidemic … Continue reading Ebola’s “Top-Secret” Serum: What Is It? Why Would It Be Kept Secret?

Biocrime: Lessons Learned Contribute to Future Cases

By Chris Healey Three individuals associated with Peanut Corp. of America are going to court over charges  related to intentionally shipping tainted peanuts. Those charges come after nine people died and 714 people were infected with Salmonella typhimurium after consuming peanut products shipped from the company. Most cases of food contamination are not prosecuted, but the … Continue reading Biocrime: Lessons Learned Contribute to Future Cases

Listeria: Deadly Foodborne Threat to Vulnerable Populations

By Chris Healey A listeria contamination scare has prompted a fruit packing company to issue a voluntary recall of peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots shipped to Costco, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less. The company—Wawona Packing Co.—issued the recall after an internal bacterial test found listeria on two nectarines. So … Continue reading Listeria: Deadly Foodborne Threat to Vulnerable Populations

Abrin: More Deadly and Less Common than Ricin

By Chris Healey Abrin was among toxins found during an apartment search of a San Francisco man charged with possessing explosive material. An FBI affidavit states the suspect told investigators he acquired abrin to ease the suffering of cancer patients. Abrin is a protein-based toxin from the jequirity bean, colloquially known as a rosary bead. … Continue reading Abrin: More Deadly and Less Common than Ricin

Bio-error and Insider Threats: A Two-Pronged Hazard of Biodefense Research

By Chris Healey Researchers may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria during a laboratory procedure at the CDC in Atlanta sometime between June 6 and 13. A CDC statement said established safety practices were not followed in that incident. A follow-up statement by the CDC said risk assessment evaluations have determined anthrax exposure was … Continue reading Bio-error and Insider Threats: A Two-Pronged Hazard of Biodefense Research

Hendra Virus: Vaccines Available but Underused

By Chris Healey Horse owners in Australia are reluctant to vaccinate their horses against an emerging viral illness capable of sickening humans. Hendra virus, an emerging infectious disease of horses and humans, has been responsible for the death of 4 people and dozens of horses in Australia since its discovery during a 1994 outbreak of … Continue reading Hendra Virus: Vaccines Available but Underused