February 20th, 2012
By: Ethan A. Huff
The mainstream media appears to be priming the public consciousness once again for the inevitable release of a highly-deadly pathogen in the very near future. A recent Reuters report explains that many of the world’s biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) and biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratories, which house some of the deadliest pathogens in existence, may not be as safe and secure as people think they are because federal regulations technically require nothing more than a single locked door at such facilities as a security measure.
According to the report, some labs voluntarily employ rigorous safety and security measures, including the Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, which is a highly-protected complex with at least eight levels of secured entry, closed-circuit video monitoring, and negative air flow and dedicated exhaust systems to prevent the accidental release of deadly pathogens. But many other such labs do not have this same tight level of a security, as federal law does not regulate the safety protocols used by private research labs.
“Galveston’s strict security underlines a little-known fact about hundreds of labs working with bacteria and viruses that could make the 1918-19 Spanish flue epidemic — when as many as 40 million people died — seem like a summer cold,” says the report. “Many of the precautions it takes are not required by law.”
Will the militarized H5N1 avian flu strain be ‘accidentally’ released from an unsecured BSL facility?
The report conveniently comes just a few months after it was first announced that scientists in Europe had deliberately created a weaponized H5N1 avian bird flu strain capable of spreading between humans (http://www.naturalnews.com/034228_bioterrorism_flu_strain.html). And since that announcement, there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not the results of this creation should be published in scientific journals, and what the likelihood is that this vicious strain will someday get released into the wild where it could kill off populations around the world at pandemic levels.
The stage is being set, in other words, for the “accidental” release of one of these pathogens at some point in the future, upon which there will be a host of scapegoats to blame. And since all this private research being conducted on deadly viral and bacterial strains at private BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs around the world is apparently not much of a security concern to the federal government, it appears that it is only a matter of time before something catastrophic occurs.
There are also few specifics on the types of research that must be conducted in BSL-4 labs versus BSL-3 labs, which means that the deadly new H5N1 mutant strain can technically be conducted at either, even though BSL-3 labs are intended for less-serious bacterial and viral strains. This is highly concerning because, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, there were 400 accidents at BSL-3 labs just in the U.S. alone that year.
For The Full Story Go To Natural News
February 17th, 2012
By: Stephanie Nebehay and Kate Kelland
Two studies showing how scientists mutated the H5N1 bird flu virus into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic will be published only after experts fully assess the risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
An Ohio drugmaker began releasing limited supplies of a crucial medication to treat childhood leukemia Thursday, sending hospital pharmacists facing life-threatening shortages scrambling for their share
Speaking after a high-level meeting of flu experts and U.S. security officials in Geneva, a WHO official said an agreement had been reached in principle to keep details of the controversial work secret until deeper risk analyses have been carried out.
“There is a preference from a public health perspective for full disclosure of the information in these two studies. However there are significant public concerns surrounding this research that should first be addressed,” said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment.
The WHO called the meeting to break a deadlock between scientists who have studied the mutations needed to make H5N1 bird flu transmit between mammals, and the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which wanted the work censored before it was published in scientific journals.
Biosecurity experts fear mutated forms of the virus that research teams in The Netherlands and the United States independently created could escape or fall into the wrong hands and be used to spark a pandemic worse than the 1918-19 outbreak of Spanish flu that killed up to 40 million people.
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said that because of these fears, “there must be a much fuller discussion of risk and benefits of research in this area and risks of virus itself”.
But a scientist close to the NSABB who spoke to Reuters immediately after the decision said the board was deeply “frustrated” by it.
The only NSABB member attending the meeting was infectious disease expert Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University and he “got the hell beat out of him”, the source said.
“It was a closed meeting dominated by flu people who have a vested interest in continuing this kind of work,” he added.
The WHO said experts at the meeting included lead researchers of the two studies, scientific journals interested in publishing the research, funders of the research, countries who provided the viruses, bioethicists and directors from several WHO-linked laboratories specializing in influenza.
The H5N1 virus, first detected in Hong Kong in 1997, is entrenched among poultry in many countries, mainly in Asia, but so far remains in a form that is hard for humans to catch.
It is known to have infected nearly 600 people worldwide since 2003, killing half of them, a far higher death rate than the H1N1 swine flu which caused a flu pandemic in 2009/2010.
Last year two teams of scientists – one led by Ron Fouchier at Erasmus Medical Center and another led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin – said they had found that just a handful of mutations would allow H5N1 to spread like ordinary flu between mammals, and remain as deadly as it is now.
This type of research is seen as vital for scientists to be able to develop vaccines, diagnostic tests and anti-viral drugs that could be deployed in the event of an H5N1 pandemic.
In December, the NSABB asked two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of the research for fear it could be used by bioterrorists.
They said a potentially deadlier form of bird flu poses one of the gravest known threats to humans and justified the unprecedented call to censor the research.
The WHO voiced concern, and flu researchers from around the world declared a 60-day moratorium on Jan. 20 on “any research involving highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses” that produce easily contagious forms.
Fouchier, who took part in the two-day meeting at the WHO which ended on Friday, said the consensus of experts and officials there was “that in the interest of public health, the full paper should be published” at some future date.
“This was based on the high public health impact of this work and the need to share the details of the studies with a very big community in the interest of science, surveillance and public health on the whole,” he told reporters.
Asked about the potential bioterrorism risks of his and the U.S. team’s work, Fouchier said “it was the view of the entire group” at the meeting that the risks that this particular virus or flu viruses in general could be used as bioterrorism agents “would be very, very slim”.
“The risks are not nil, but they are very, very small,” he said.
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Yours in health…
June 22nd, 2011
Dishwashers are a breeding ground for potentially killer bugs, say scientists.
The moist and hot environment serves as a perfect habitat for two types of dangerous fungi which can also be found in other kitchen appliances such as washing machines and coffee machines.
Researchers found 62 per cent of dishwashers contained the fungi Exophiala dermatitidis and E. phaeomuriformis on the rubber band in the door. Both of the black yeasts are known to be dangerous to human health.
Both Exophiala species displayed remarkable tolerance to heat, high salt concentrations, aggressive detergents and to both acid and alkaline water.
This explains why the fungi survived even in high temperatures between 60 to 80C and despite the use of detergents and salt in the dishwasher.
Researchers say that this is a combination of extreme properties not previously observed in fungi.
Exophiala dermatitidis is frequently encountered as an agent of human disease and is also known to colonise in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.
On rare occasions it has caused fatal infections in healthy humans.
The researchers, whose findings are published in Fungal Biology, say the invasion of black yeasts into our homes is a potential health risk.
Biologist Dr Polona Zalar, of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and colleagues said: ‘The discovery of this widespread presence of extremophilic fungi in some of our common household appliances suggests these organisms have embarked on an extraordinary evolutionary process that could pose a significant risk to human health in the future.’
In the case of dishwashers, high temperatures are intermittently produced and aggressive detergents and high concentrations of salt are used in each washing cycle.
The researchers studied the presence of fungus in dishwashers taken from a sample of private homes from 101 cities across the world.
They added: ‘Enrichment of fungi that may require specific environmental conditions was observed in dishwashers, 189 of which were sampled in private homes of 101 towns or communities.
‘One-hundred-and-two were sampled from various localities in Slovenia; 42 from other European countries; 13 and 3 from North and South America, respectively; 5 from Israel; 10 from South Africa; 7 from Far East Asia; and 7 from Australia.
‘Sixty-two per cent of the dishwashers were positive for fungi, and 56 per cent of these accommodated Exophiala. Both Exophiala species are known to be able to cause systemic disease in humans and frequently colonise the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis.
‘We conclude that high temperature, high moisture and alkaline values typically occurring in dishwashers can provide an alternative habitat for species also known to be pathogenic to humans.’
March 15th, 2011
A documentary filmmaker who has spent much of his career focusing on the Japanese nuclear industry says it has a long history of cover-ups.
All eyes are on the industry after Friday’s deadly earthquake and tsunami affected the cooling systems of several Japanese reactors, with two explosions at one plant in Fukushima.
Tony Barrell told PM while it appears authorities are being transparent in this latest crisis, their record is tarnished.
“It’s not been good. This recent occasion is an example of the new regime if you like, of actually telling people in a blow-by-blow way of what’s going on,” he said.
“Well they had to really, because that wave and the earthquake were so obviously threatening nuclear power plants on the east coast of Japan that they couldn’t very well pretend they weren’t.
“Whereas that has been the case on many occasions, including [by] the company that operates those plants.”
He says in 2003 reactors across the country had to be shut down after it emerged the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had hid accidents.
“They had to shut down 17 plants in 2003 because they’d been falsifying the records about what had been happening at them,” he said.
“Now the accidents weren’t of a major nature. They weren’t anything like what’s going on in Fukushima.
“But they were serious in the sense that lives were threatened, systems broke down, there were failures to report and there were cover-ups. People pretended things hadn’t happened.”
He says while this is the largest incident the industry has had to deal with, there have been several other major events.
“Well it depends how you define major. It’s the first partial meltdown. That’s fair enough. But there have been serious accidents where people have been killed and injured,” he said.
“Maybe one of the most spectacular was the collapse of the cooling system of Japan’s first commercial fast breeder reactor which is on the coast, on the opposite coast to the Pacific coast over on the Japan Sea side.
“A place called Monju, which in 1995 sprang a leak in its liquid sodium cooling system which made the whole thing absolutely red hot and had to be shut down immediately and stayed shut down until the beginning of last year – 15 years.”
Mr Barrell says the latest crisis will continue to fuel local opposition to the plants.
“I think because the proliferation of nuclear power plants has been sort of so gradual and extensive that it’s taken a long time for people to realise just how many of these places there are,” he said.
“They’re all built in remote areas, often in multiples as in Fukushima. There’s six in one complex and four in another.
“Now that’s the sort of accumulation of anxiety which has driven a very grassroots kind of movement to say, ‘well wait a minute, we don’t want one in our backyard’.
“But in fact the backyard is always somewhere remote where people actually have little to say in what really happens to them. And it’s very occasionally you get a grassroots movement that gets together enough support to actually stop something happening.”
He says the unfolding emergency will also raise questions over the role of nuclear power in combating climate change.
“There has in the last few years been quite a strong movement to suggest that nuclear power is the answer to global warming or climate change, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
“And the Japanese government has actually come out in favour of that as a strategy. So that’s a bit up in the air now.”
But Mr Barrell says whatever happens in the future, it is clear several plants will have to be closed as a direct result of the crisis.
“I suppose it depends on how many of them actually do go down, because although they’re saying there’s no explosion and no danger of a really huge disaster, the plants that are affected could be terminally – I mean one of them is definitely finished once it starts melting down,” he said.
“It should have been shut down years ago because it’s 40 years old this month.”
February 22nd, 2011
By: David Gutierrez
In spite of a decade of efforts to improve patient safety, dangerous medical errors are still common in U.S. hospitals, according to a study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and published in the “New England Journal of Medicine.”
“Hospitals are places where medical errors are rampant; people are given the wrong drugs at the wrong doses, or undergo the wrong medical procedures with horrifying frequency,” writes Mike Adams in his book “Spam Filters for Your Brain.”
“Sometimes people even have the wrong limbs operated on or amputated, waking up wondering, ‘Where is my good arm?’ ”
The researchers examined admission records from 2,300 patients at 10 hospitals across North Carolina in 2007. The hospitals were randomly selected. The researchers found 588 incidents in which patients were harmed due to medical procedures or medications, representing no change in the rate of medical errors since 2002. Fully two-thirds of all errors were considered preventable.
“These harms are still very common, and there’s no evidence that they’re improving,” lead researcher Christopher Landrigan said.
According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, medical complications are responsible for 180,000 patient deaths and cost Medicare as much as $4.4 billion every year.
“The problem is that the methods that have been best proven to improve care have not been implemented across the nation,” Landrigan said.
Among methods proven successful, Landrigan cited computerized patient records, computerized prescription orders, limits on how long a doctor or nurse’s shift can be, and the use of checklists for medical procedures.
In Michigan hospitals using a Johns Hopkins University checklist designed to reduce hospital blood infections, Landrigan noted the rate of such infections has fallen to nearly zero in just three years.
Lucian Leape, a Harvard University health policy analyst, said that hospitals need to undergo a “cultural shift.”
“In order to change the way we do things, we have to work effectively as teams, and to become a good team is difficult in healthcare because that’s not how it’s set up, that’s not how we train our doctors,” Leape said.
February 2nd, 2011
By: Maggie Fox
Researchers have found a compound that tumors make when they are likely to spread, and said they hope to use to it predict which patients are most at risk of dying from their cancers.
And experiments in mice show there may be a way to block the protein, preventing cancer from spreading and becoming deadly.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, are at a very early stage. But a team at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Hong Kong and elsewhere said on Tuesday they will work to develop both a test and, perhaps, a treatment.
The protein is called CPE-delta N and ordinarily plays a role in processing insulin and other hormones.
“This form is present in large amounts in primary tumors that have spread or metastasized,” said Y. Peng Loh of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“As everyone knows, cancer cells break away from the primary tumor, pass through surrounding tissues into lymph and blood vessels and these cancer cells then travel through the body and form tumors elsewhere.”
This spread of tumors usually kills cancer patients. Early stage cancers that can be completely removed or destroyed usually do not kill the patient.
Loh’s team described a series of experiments involving patients with liver cancer, a rare adrenal cancer, colon cancer and other types of cancer.
They tested the tumors of 18 patients with stage 2 liver cancer, which has spread but only within the liver.
“These patients would normally be told by their physicians that the cancer not likely to recur,” Loh told reporters in a telephone briefing. They would not get chemotherapy after surgery.
Thirteen of the patients had low levels of CPE-delta N, and 10 of them were still cancer-free three years after surgery. However, three with low CPE-delta N levels did have their cancer come back, giving the test a 77 percent accuracy level in clearing patients.
Five of the original 18 had high levels of CPE-delta N and four of them did have their cancer come back, Loh said — a 90 percent accuracy rate.
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October 15, 2010
Dengue outbreaks are now a major threat to global public health.
The UN health agency warned that unless countries act now then the situation will only get worse.
Two fifths of the world’s population are at risk of the disease, with the majority living in the Asia Pacific region.
Dengue is a serious flu-like illness that is transmitted by mosquitoes, and can develop into dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
The disease is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito.
The WHO has warned that the increased number and size of dengue outbreaks in some countries in the Western Pacific region, as well as cases recorded in previously unaffected areas, are signs that firmer action cannot be delayed.
The WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, said:
“National resources need to be mobilized to sustain dengue prevention and control, and the disease’s profile needs to be raised on the global health agenda to stimulate the interest of international agencies and donors.
“The fight against this disease is everybody’s problem.”
The number of cases in the Western Pacific Region has more than doubled over the past 10 years.
There has been a significant increase in many countries this year alone.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the Philippines appear to be particularly affected.
2.5 billion at risk
Two-fifths of the world’s population is at risk of the disease.
Out of these 2.5 billion people, more than 70% live in Asia Pacific countries.
The warning was delivered at the WHO’s Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.
The increased number of outbreaks may be caused by a number of factors; including higher temperatures and rainfall which produce perfect breeding conditions for the mosquitoes that carry the disease.
Growing populations, particularly in cities, and greater international travel by infected individuals could also explain the rise.
The WHO says there is as yet no clear evidence that the increase in cases was due to global warming.
But changes in climate do affect mosquitoes which spread the disease.
At a local level eliminating breeding sites like water jars, building sites and discarded garbage is essential in reducing the number of mosquitoes.
But a concerted international effort is vital, with urban planning and improving sanitation essential to reducing the number of dengue cases.
October 15, 2010
Superbugs — bacteria strains resistant to antibiotics — are on the rise. Today, according to Dr. Philip Tierno, Director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Langone Medical Center at New York University, there are 2.5 million infections annually worldwide which result in about 100,000 needless deaths and cost billions of dollars in additional treatments.
One particularly deadly infection is MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). While hospitals generally don’t publicize cases of patients acquiring such superbugs, one incident was widely covered in the media two years ago. In that case, Alonzo Smith, an 18-year old high school football player in Kissimmee, Florida, became sick after being infected by MRSA. It was not clear where he first came in contact with the infection — in the school’s locker room or in the hospital. But it tragically killed the youngster.
One year before his death, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that MRSA causes 19,000 deaths every year in the U.S., which is more than HIV/AIDS causes. The study pointed out that the number was particularly ominous because 20% of those who get the bacteria die from it and increasingly, its victims are young, healthy people like Alonzo Smith.
Then there is the cost of treating MRSA. A patient who contracts it while hospitalized stays an average 10 days longer and costs an additional $30,000.
Another superbug attacked a woman in central Florida a few years back. Claudia Meijia delivered her baby in the hospital. But the happy occasion became devastating. While she was there, she was infected by a flesh eating bacteria that became so bad, doctors had no choice but to amputate both her arms and legs to keep her alive.
Superbugs Get Stronger
Superbugs have been plaguing hospitals in the U.S. and around the world since the creation of antibiotics. As more antibiotics are used, superbugs acclimate to them, and become stronger.
“Globalization is a driver,” says NYU’s Dr. Tierno. “Americans go to India because it’s cheaper to get some surgical procedures done there, but then they pick up various strains and spread them.”
The Most Feared Newcomer: NDM-1
How can superbugs be controlled? One of the latest attacks on killer infections comes from Newark, N.J -based BioNeutral Group, which has developed a sterilizing compound called Ygiene, which is designed to quickly and inexpensively help hospitals to kill superbugs. Chief Scientist at BioNeutral, Andrew Kielbania, says that Ygiene can kill superbugs faster and more cost effectively than alternative methods. So far, the product has been approved for sale as a disinfectant in Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden. It is waiting for approval from the EPA — expected in January — before it can be used in the U.S.
In the meantime, there are other products such as antimicrobials and bleach that can destroy superbugs. But they can take a long time to work. Bleach, in particular, is toxic, so many doctors and nurses are averse to using it. In addition, bleach can be costly since after a certain amount of use, hospitals have to shut down wings to repair rooms and equipment. Ygiene, which comes in a variety of formats, has not had any negative side effects in hospitals.
Best Approach: Rigorous Hygiene
Perhaps the best attack against the superbugs is rigorous hygiene. Superbugs can be transmitted by doctors and nurses who have not properly washed their hands and by ventilators and catheters that have not been cleaned properly.
Dr.Tierno says the Scandinavian countries serve as a model. There, hospitals are known for meticulously cleaning and disinfecting rooms and equipment between patients, for testing incoming patients for superbugs to ensure they are not bringing anything in to the hospital, and for taking simple steps such as making sure beds don’t butt up against each other so infections don’t spread. Another important strategy: No routine use of antibiotics so that infections don’t become resistant to any particular one.