My apologies for lack of update last weekend…but that means a SUPER UPDATE this weekend! This week marked the 70th anniversary of atomic bombs being dropped in Japan. Rather than find an insufficient story that attempted to address the gravity of that event, we’re focusing on a successful Ebola vaccine trial, UN consensus on Syrian chemical weapons, and airplane bathrooms (because I can’t help myself when I see a story like that!) We’ve also got stories you may have missed.
Have a great week!
Vaccine Success Holds Hope for End to Deadly Scourge of Ebola
Some great news from West Africa: an Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea has returned results that are 100% effective. 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case showed complete protection after ten days. A ring vaccination strategy—where those who have close contact with an infected person—was used, and after success was demonstrated, the vaccine is now being extended to 13-17 year olds, and possibly 6-12 year old children.
Reuters—“The success of the Guinea trial is a big relief for researchers, many of whom feared a sharp decline in cases this year would scupper their hopes of proving a vaccine could work. Another major trial in Liberia, which had aimed to recruit some 28,000 subjects, had to stop enrolling after only reaching its mid-stage target of 1,500 participants. Plans for testing in Sierra Leone were also scaled back. That left the study in Guinea, where Ebola is still infecting new victims, as the only real hope for demonstrating the efficacy of a vaccine.”
U.N. Approves Resolution on Syria Chemical Weapons
The UN Security Council unanimously—yes, even Russia—adopted a resolution aimed at identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria over the past two years. The resolution established an investigative body that would assign blame for the attacks “so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”
Salt Lake Tribune—“‘Pointing a finger matters,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the council. “This sends a clear and powerful message to all those involved in chemical weapons attacks in Syria that the [new investigative body] will identify you if you gas people.” But she added that prosecuting perpetrators will take time because there is still no tribunal to investigate alleged crimes during the war in Syria, which has killed at least 250,000 people since it began in March 2011, according to the U.N.”
Airplane Toilets Can Help Researchers Find Disease Outbreaks
A recent study in Scientific Reports finds that researchers can tell what continent you’re from and give early indication of disease outbreaks, all from the poop left in airplanes. (I think this is the first time I’ve been able to say “poop” here on the blog.) The researchers gathered samples from 18 airplanes that departed from nine cities and landed in Copenhagen and were able to identify continental trends. Microbes from Southeast Asia had higher incidence of antibiotic resistance; food transmitted microbes were also more frequent in the Southeast Asian samples; and C. diff was much more common in the North American samples.
Popular Science—“These findings led the researchers to believe that they could start to create a typical microbiome for each continent. And any big shifts that happen in their makeup—say, the concentration of C. diff rises dramatically in samples from Southeast Asia—could indicate a growing public health issue. If it’s caught early enough, public health officials could take preventative action.”
Stories You May Have Missed
- The MERS outbreak in South Korea is over, Seoul declared.
- Do you remember when a group of scientists discovered that there was plague, in addition to tons of other bacteria, on the New York City subway? Evidently, maybe, probably, that wasn’t true.
- Speaking of disease in NYC, there is an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. Over 100 sickened with 10 deaths. What was it caused by? Poorly maintained infrastructure, basically.
- I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to combat anti-vaccine actions. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, the key is not just telling parents to vaccinate, but to also show them what happens when they don’t.
- Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky, and Steve Wozniak are all worried about killer robots. Well, specifically they are worried about the development of autonomous weapons.
- Surplus mustard gas canisters and unexploded bombs that were dumped in the Pacific Ocean have become a reef that is home to numerous marine species. At least some good came out of the weapons.
- The critics have spoken, the Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and International Security Summer Course at GMU was an unbridled success! #humblebrag.
Image Credit: CDC Global