From Foster's Online:
"Medical experts and state officials say they're taking notice of a potentially deadly bacterium that has developed a more virulent strain and may be spreading beyond medical facilities, where it once was thought to be concentrated.
At least one New Hampshire mother acquired the more dangerous strain after only a brief stay at a hospital to give birth, according to Dr. L. Clifford McDonald, an epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacterium, called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, causes diarrhea and other serious intestinal maladies like colitis. Over the past two years, several states have reported the more dangerous strain, which is more severe and has higher mortality rates, according to the CDC.
The bacterium historically has been found in nursing homes and hospitals, but some recent reports show that people who only have visited medical facilities briefly, or not at all, also are acquiring the bug. One CDC study, published in the Dec. 2 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, highlighted 33 cases of C. diff infections in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Ohio."
It's this new, spreading strain that has been connected to young adults deaths by chronic diarrhea. It is, of course, highly resistant to several antiobiotic medications.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Saturday, January 14, 2006
This was garnered from Genetic Engineering News website:
"The threat of bioterrorism has prompted the government to invest billions of dollars to defend against such an attack as well as impose new restrictions on how research is conducted. In the Jan. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, David Relman, MD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has an opinion piece evaluating the threat and the nation's response. The interview below is adapted from that article, available at:
Relman is a member of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity."
What follows next is a couple of nice and scripted "Q's & A's":
"Question: How have advances in bioscience changed the risk of biological threats?
Relman: So far, nature has been the most effective bioterrorist. In the future, however, the ability of experimenters to create genetic or molecular diversity not found in the natural world and to select for virulence-associated traits may result in new biologic agents with previously unknown potency.
Q: But don't policy-makers have decades of experience in preparing for germ warfare?
Relman: Policy-makers weighing the likelihood and dangers of bioterrorism tend to seek guidance from a past era of large, state-sponsored bioweapons programs, but we cannot assume that the logic behind biowarfare programs of the past will either guide or predict future misuses of the life sciences. Indeed, the lessons of this history can be dangerously misleading. Large-scale industrial processes are not necessary for the development of potent biologic weapons.
Q: So in a nutshell, what is different about bioterrorism when compared with the past?
Relman: Today, anyone with a high-school education can use widely available protocols and prepackaged kits to modify the sequence of a gene or replace genes within a micro-organism. One can also purchase small, disposable, self-contained bioreactors for propagating viruses and micro-organisms. Such advances continue to lower the barriers to biologic-weapons development."
-- Really? All that with a high school education?!
"Q: Is there an upside to all of these advances?
Relman: Tomorrow's science and technology will present a new landscape with features that are both worrisome and reassuring: the methods and reagents used for reverse-engineering a virus with novel, potentially harmful properties, for instance, can also be used to engineer a vaccine against it. It is reasonable to expect that the "forces of good" can keep up with the relatively few that intend harm.
Q: What specifically do we need to do to prepare for bioterrorism?
Relman: First of all, the idea that we might restrict the flow of information in the life sciences must be rejected as counterproductive, not to mention impractical.
We must sensitize the science and technology communities to the "dual-use" potential of the life sciences. Thoughtful discussions about codes of conduct in the life sciences must take place at multiple levels. The general public and some policy-makers are clearly concerned about the cavalier attitude of some in the science and technology sector who dismiss this problem outright; such attitudes will come back to bite us.
In devising a robust biodefense strategy, a key challenge will be to define the optimal balance between fixed and flexible defenses. The creation of fixed, or static, defenses against specific agents can be justified for clear, imminent and potentially catastrophic biologic threats -- including avian influenza and prominent drug-resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, as well as anthrax and smallpox.
For the vast array of other potential threats, however, we should invest even more in flexible, dynamic defenses, which will rely on integrative science, new insights into biologic systems and advancing technology. We need methods and technologies that can generate effective diagnostics, therapeutics and prophylactics against any new or variant infectious agent within days or weeks after its characterization.
Given the pace of change in the life sciences, we cannot afford to be constrained by the past, nor can we afford to make incremental, short-term fixes. Recent investments in biodefense offer immense potential benefit, if guided by a creative, future-oriented perspective."
Thanks for finally speaking out, Relman!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/14/2006
Thursday, January 12, 2006
A recent speech by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney posted on the ThugLifeArmy.com website makes some interesting allegations concerning the Carlyle Group and their connection to supposed bioweapons research companies. In it the Congresswoman states:
"Finally, I canâ€™t leave this discussion without mentioning the Bush family portfolio and the fact that Carlyle is currently investing in bioweapons labs, satellite communications, and the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against. Just dial Carlyle when the next disaster strikes."
A quick browse of Carlyle's holdings by industry doesn't reveal any in the "biowarfare" sector, so a quick google for "Carlyle Group" + "bioweapons" leads me to the company DynPort, a subsidiary of DynCorp. This company produces vaccines and runs biodefense labs. That is, they don't make weapons - they do things like develop bacteria that eat nasty chemicals like sarin gas.
The more interesting holding by far is the aerosol company Sprayway which they bought in 1998. Nice, covert, automatic aerosol deployment capabilities are the hallmark of any decent bioweapons project and if Carlyle Group was primarily a biotech company I might be concerned, but they own a fuckton of other companies too. While the possibility to develop bioweapons is there I doubt Carlyle is activily developing them, seeing as they are a financial company and not a weapons manufacturer.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/12/2006
Sunday, January 01, 2006
"First came stomach cramps, which left Christina Shultz doubled over and weeping in pain. Then came nausea and fatigue -- so overwhelming she couldn't get out of bed for days. Just when she thought things couldn't get worse, the nastiest diarrhea of her life hit -- repeatedly forcing her into the hospital.
Doctors finally discovered that the 35-year-old Hilliard, Ohio, woman had an intestinal bug that used to be found almost exclusively among older, sicker patients in hospitals and was usually easily cured with a dose of antibiotics. But after months of treatment, Shultz is still incapacitated.
"It's been a nightmare," said Shultz, a mother of two young children. "I just want my life back."Shultz is one of a growing number of young, otherwise healthy Americans who are being stricken by the bacterial infection known as Clostridium difficile -- or C. diff -- which appears to be spreading rapidly around the country and causing unusually severe, sometimes fatal illness.
That is raising alarm among health officials, who are concerned that many cases may be misdiagnosed and are puzzled as to what is causing the microbe to become so much more common and dangerous.
"It's a new phenomenon. It's just emerging," said L. Clifford McDonald of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "We're very concerned. We know it's happening, but we're really not sure why it's happening or where this is going."
"There are no national statistics, but the number of infections in hospitals appears to have doubled from 2000 to 2003 and there may be as many as 500,000 cases each year, McDonald said. Other estimates put the number in the millions.
The emerging problem first gained attention when unusually large and serious outbreaks began turning up in other countries. In Canada, for example, Quebec health officials reported last year that perhaps 200 patients died in an outbreak involving at least 10 hospitals. Similar outbreaks were reported in England and the Netherlands.
After the CDC began receiving reports of severe cases among hospital patients in the United States -- and in people who had never, or just briefly, been hospitalized -- it launched an investigation.
In the Dec. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the CDC reported that an analysis of 187 C. diff samples found that the unusually dangerous strain that caused the Quebec cases was also involved in outbreaks at eight health care facilities in Georgia, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
"This strain has somehow been able to get into hospitals widely distributed across the United States," said Dale N. Gerding of Loyola University in Chicago, who helped conduct the analysis. "We're not sure how."
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/01/2006
Wow! It's 2006, finally!!! January is here, which means the peak and drop-off of flu season, and H5N1 packs up and goes home for another 9 months. Well, caught completely with our pants down I think we did pretty good, as a globe. Next year we have more of the same to look forward to, but we'll also have some fairly good vaccines, bird cull programs, and tamiflu deployment operations in place.
While no doubt some sociopaths are slightly disappointed by the lack of viral carnage this winter, well - uh, screw you. Over 300,000 Pakistanis are dead from the earthquake and subsequent deaths due to exposure, hypothermia and illness brought on by malnutrition and freezing weather conditions because the homeless never got off the streets, the dead never got picked up off the streets, the medics never came, and the shelters were never built. Yes, there was a slight gesture of support from the international community, it did nothing, and downtown Kashmir is still rotting. (And hey, if that's not mast-fodd for you socios then I don't know what is!)
Anyway, I think it's befitting to take a look at the year to come with the highly-trained SuperStrain eye. Bioweapons councils, Dr. Germ's ghostwritten book, possibly a 1918 Spanish Flu/2005 H5N1 Recombo-pack and subsequent vaccine? I mean, don't get me wrong - I'm just a paranoid kid, but if I were heading up a Bioweapons program I'd want to do that straight away. There's probably already several strains in existence, it's only a matter of time before some gets put on the market... the black (plague) market, of course.
And of course, no Jan 1st blog-post would be complete without a look back into the year past! Instead of obsessing on all the really terrible things that happened, i'll obsess on the inane: the International Response to the Threat of a Global Influenza Epidemic (that's it's official name).
Vietnam sure killed a lot of birds, didn't they! For that I give them the gold star of making an interesting study for zooarchaeologists of the distant future. They'll know how many birds you guys killed, they'll know. Indonesia gets my sick-pidgeon award, for having the most lethal and ugly versions of H5N1 and doing basically nothing to try and stop it's spread. They're playing the game of "wait for China to develop a vaccine." Not a very smart move, seeing as China's response was to immunize all poultry in china. The apparent outcome of this was a few dozen ducks got shot full of some sugarwater. The real thing's coming this spring, right guys?
As for Eastern Europe, the front was a total snoozefest. Did anything even get to Hungary? Either the virus isn't very pathogenic or those handsome Turks wearing the masks did their job. Thanks, boys in blue!
And finally the US, which did everything in it's power to stop Bird Flu: by publishing a 17-page report on the threat via the DHS. Watch out world, this tiger gives very nasty papercuts! Well, do be fair, we do have our hands a little full - it is kind of hard being the world's police and the world's doctor. We're only one anthropomorphized nation-state!
Allright folks, keep stockpiling those antivirals, and keep watching the skies!!!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 1/01/2006