Federal government announces special oversight for avian flu experiments By Carolyn Y. Johnson / Globe Staff
The federal government announced Wednesday a special oversight process for experiments that involve tinkering with a new strain of avian flu detected in Asia earlier this year, but the decision has not come without controversy.
Such experiments, which can produce forms of the H7N9 virus that are more dangerous to people, are aimed at understanding the pathogen that has infected more than 130 people in China and killed about a third of them. Researchers also announced Wednesday that they had seen the first evidence that the virus had spread from person to person.
The knowledge gained from this type of research could help prepare health officials for a potential pandemic and lead to the development of new therapies or vaccines, but also poses scary what-if scenarios, ranging from the accidental escape of a Read more…
A nightmare gut bacteria that can kill up to 50 percent of those infected, the extremely drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC)–producing K. pneumoniae sequence type 258 (KpnST258) has emerged as an important pathogen worldwide. Hospitals are scrambling to get rid of this bacteria. Check out the video, “Hospitals scramble to kill ‘superbug’”on NBCNews.com.
A deadly class of superbugs nearly impossible to treat with a fatality rate approaching 50 percent need to be stopped. But how do scientists stop the CRE outbreaks from reaching the general public? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified deadly ‘nightmare’ bacteria that’s resistant to antibiotics and spreading through the nation’s hospitals. There’s the potential for CRE bacteria to spread to patients with common ailments such as diarrhea or more severe infections such as pneumonia. The doctors don’t have any drug to treat CRE outbreaks because the bacteria is resistant to Read more…
A SARS-like virus may have been passed between humans for the first time, health experts believe.
One person is thought to have contracted the new coronavirus from a relative and is being treated in an isolation room at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and is said to be in a stable condition.
Previously experts believed the infection may have come from contact with animals. If the virus can spread between people it poses a much more serious threat.
This is the third case of the respiratory illness identified in the UK and the 11th in the world. The first two UK patients had been Read more…
Although the flu is on everyone’s mind this season, the winter vomiting bug, or the norovirus, is making its rounds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the norovirus causes about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year, mostly in young children and the elderly.
Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains. The CDC points out that the norovirus is often referred to as the stomach flu, but it is unrelated to influenza.
A new norovirus strain, GII.4 Sydney, was detected last year in Australia. The strain hit the U.K and sickened over a million people. It has now reached the United States and this new strain appears to be taking over. Of norovirus cases reported from September to December, 54 percent have been identified as GII.4 Sydney, according to recently released data.
The first norovirus outbreak was Read more…
This summer, three people died and eight were infected with hantavirus — a disease carried by rodents — after visiting Yosemite National Park; a Colorado girl reportedly contracted the plague from flea bites she received while camping; researchers reported the cases of two Missouri men infected with a never-before-seen virus carried by ticks; and nearly 2,000 people across the United States fell ill with West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.
Experts say the number of new diseases crossing from animals to people has indeed increased in recent years, from fewer than 20 in the 1940s to about 50 in the 1980s, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Nature. Between 1990 and 2000, more than half of newly identified infectious diseases originated in Read more…
The major paradox about rare diseases is that collectively rare diseases are not rare. In fact, 3.5 million people in the UK will be affected by a rare disease at some point in their lives – 1 in 17 of us. To put this into perspective, this represents the entire population of Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greater Belfast and Cardiff put together. Despite these considerable numbers, in the past rare diseases have largely been overlooked by health policy makers.
A disease is classed as rare when it affects fewer than 5 in 10,000 of the general population. Some rare diseases are relatively well known; cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and muscular dystrophy for example. Few people would Read more…
But don’t pull out the hand sanitizer leftover from the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic just yet. When asked about the implications of this discovery for human health, one of the researchers, Ruben Donis, said: “It’s still too early to tell.”
We still don’t know that this bat flu virus can infect people, according to Donis, who is chief of the molecular virology and vaccines branch in the influenza division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He and a team of American and Guatemalan researchers isolated the virus from fruit-eating, little yellow-shouldered bats in Guatemala. So far, there is no Read more…
The Schmallenberg virus causes stillbirths and birth defects in sheep, goats and cattle and is so new there is no treatment and no cure.
Yesterday, the Government’s vet agency confirmed that the first case has been reported in Wiltshire, leading to fears that this year’s lambing season could be badly hit.
The chairman of the NFU’s livestock board, Alistair Mackintosh, said the virus, which is named after the German town where it was first spotted and discovered only last year, has “the potential to become a catastrophe in the UK”.
It is believed to be spread by midges and is not thought to be a danger to humans, but farmers have little or no defence against it for their livestock. After the first cases last year in Germany, it quickly spread to Read more…
VANCOUVER — When dead sea mammals started washing ashore on Canada’s west coast in greater numbers, marine biologist Andrew Trites was distressed to find that domestic animal diseases were killing them.
Around the world, seals, otters and other species are increasingly infected by parasites and other diseases long common in goats, cows, cats and dogs, marine mammal experts told a major science conference.
The diseases also increasingly threaten people who use the oceans for recreation, work or a source of seafood, scientists told reporters at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held this year in this western Canadian city.
The symposium “Swimming in Sick Seas” was one of many sessions at the meeting that drew a bleak picture of the state of
Professor Paul Keim, chairman of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, controversially recommended that researchers be stopped from publishing the precise mutations needed to transform the H5N1 strain of birdflu virus into a human-transmissible version.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he argued it had been necessary to limit the release of the scientific details because of fears that terrorists may use the information to create their own H5N1 virus that could be spread easily between people.
Professor Keim said that it was necessary to slow down the release of scientific information because it was clear that the world is not yet prepared for a strain of highly lethal H5N1 influenza that can be transmitted by coughs and sneezes.
“We recognised that, in the long term certainly, the information is going to get out, and maybe even in the mid term. But if we can restrict it in the short term and motivate governments to start getting busy in terms of Read more…