Think tank sees big risks in flu gain-of-function research

first_imgThe Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a Washington, DC, group that works to limit the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, contends in a risk assessment report that “gain of function” (GOF) research on highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses poses a serious risk of triggering a deadly flu outbreak.The report attempts to estimate the risk of accidental infection of a lab worker and ensuing transmission of the virus to others on public transportation. It concludes that 1 year of research by one lab poses a risk of releasing a virus that would cause between 180 and 1,100 deaths, and that research by additional labs and for longer periods would multiply this risk.The assessment was written by Lynn C. Klotz, senior science fellow at the center and a former Harvard professor and biotechnology executive. The report is one of very few attempts thus far to estimate the risk associated with research that involves manipulating highly pathogenic avian flu viruses such as H5N1 to make them more transmissible in mammals. A major aim of such experiments is to identify dangerous mutations so that scientists can watch for them in circulating viruses.Last year two teams of scientists published studies that involved generating mutant H5N1 viruses that showed airborne transmissibility in ferrets. The studies were published only after a prolonged controversy and scrutiny of the findings by the US National Science Advisory Board for Biodefense (NSABB), which was concerned that publishing the details would pose a risk of the intentional or accidental release of dangerous viruses.The controversy led to a voluntary moratorium on GOF research on HPAI viruses.As noted in the risk assessment, last month 22 virologists announced their intention to conduct GOF research on the H7N9 avian flu virus, which emerged this year in China and has caused 135 illnesses and 43 deaths so far. The virologists’ plans include studies designed to identify mutations and gene combinations that lead to increased transmissibility of the virus in mammals, such as ferrets and guinea pigs.Klotz’s risk assessment is billed as a “likelihood-weighted consequence analysis,” a standard method for assessing risk. The formula estimates the possible number of deaths associated with 1 year of research in one lab on the basis of three factors: the probability of a virus release, the probability that a releases leads to a pandemic, and the number of deaths in a pandemic.The approach rests on a variety of assumptions. A key one is that the basic reproduction number for the novel virus—the number of new cases generated by each case introduced in an uninfected population—would be 2.0. Another is that the case-fatality rate (CFR) would be 10%. That is far higher than the approximately 2% seen in the 1918 flu pandemic, but much lower than the 60% CFR among known human H5N1 cases.An additional assumption is that a pandemic would cause 100 million deaths worldwide, which is the high end of published estimates of the global toll in 1918. The number is based on the assumption that 15% of the world population of 7 billion would be infected, with a 10% CFR.The estimate incorporates a recent report that four previously unreported lab-acquired infections occurred in US select-agent labs between 2004 and 2010. It also employs assumptions about the proportion of lab workers who use public transit (10%) and the numbers of people who would be exposed to an infected worker on buses and trains, among other things.Using all these factors, Klotz comes up with the estimate that the risk associated with one lab in 1 year of GOF research would be anywhere between 180 and 1,100 deaths. With more labs doing such research, he writes, the risk would increase dramatically.”Whatever number we are gambling with, it is clearly far too high a risk to human lives around the world, so this particular PPP [potential pandemic pathogen] research must be shut down,” he concludes.Nicholas Kelley, PhD, a research associate with the BioWatch program at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which publishes CIDRAP News, said the risk assessment has some limitations but offers a starting point for discussions on how to estimate the risks of GOF research. Kelley was a coauthor of a major CIDRAP report on flu vaccines, published in 2011.”I think some of the assumptions are well within the range of the assumptions we see for influenza,” he said. “There are not a whole lot of these risk assessments out there, so I think it’s a good start for a conversation on how to conduct these risk assessments.”Kelley said the assumed basic reproduction number of 2.0 is higher than the typical number for seasonal flu and for the 2009 pandemic but about what was seen in the 1918 pandemic.As for the 10% CFR, he said government reports about severe pandemic scenarios typically cite a CFR of 2%. The 2009 pandemic CFR was much lower, as were the pandemics of 1957 and 1968. “It would be nice to see a simulation of a variety of CFRs and how that would affect the risk assessment,” he added.”These risk assessments get more useful the more all-encompassing they are; this primarily focused on infection leaving a lab based on transmission during transportation to and from work,” Kelley commented. “There are other means of exposure. They make your model more complex but provide better insight into the risks associated with this kind of work.””We need a lot more work to fully understand the risk of these studies,” he said. “I’m glad some people are starting to conceptualize what some of these risks are and starting discussions on it.”See also: Center for Arms Control report: The Human Fatality Burden of Gain of Function Flu Research: A Risk AssessmentAug 7 CIDRAP News story on virologists’ plan to do GOF research on H7N9Feb 21 CIDRAP News story “Feds unveil new policies for dual-use H5N1 research”last_img read more

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US officials expected to announce Ebola screening at airports

first_imgFederal officials are finalizing details on Ebola screening steps for travelers arriving at US airports, which may be announced in a few days and may resemble the kinds of questions that outbreak countries are asking departing passengers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said today.The risk of another travel-linked Ebola case, such as the one in Texas, can never be reduced to zero until West Africa’s outbreak is extinguished, he said at a media telebriefing today. But he said the CDC and other government agencies are taking a hard look at additional steps, focusing on ones that won’t hamstring the response process underway overseas.The three main outbreak countries have so far screened about 36,000 people departing on airlines, with three fourths of them bound for destinations outside the United States. The CDC has trained airport screeners in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which have flagged 77 people with fever and 3 people with other symptoms. As far as the CDC knows, none of the people with fever had Ebola, and most had malaria, a common illness in that part the world, Frieden said.”I can assure you we will take additional steps, and the details will be worked out and announced in a few days,” he added.Senator suggests screening stepsUS Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement today saying he spoke with Frieden about tougher screening at US airports and is pleased that the CDC is preparing to implement some new steps. Schumer outlined a host of suggestions in an Oct 5 letter to the CDC and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).He said the CDC could train CBP agents to actively screen passengers for fever if their travel originated from a West African outbreak country. Health officials have said fever screening can’t identify all patients infected with Ebola. For example, the Liberian patient in Texas didn’t start having symptoms until 4 days after he arrived in the United States.Schumer also suggested that passengers arriving from the affected countries should fill out a detailed health form to pinpoint any Ebola exposure they had before arriving in the United States. He also urged the CDC and CBP to rigorously screen people working on cargo ships at entry ports, especially since Liberia has the world’s second largest cargo ship fleet. Though experts have said a universal travel ban won’t keep the disease out, he said, temperature checks and screening on US soil could be an acceptable middle ground.Schumer has also urged the Department of Homeland Security to create a searchable database of passengers flying to and from West Africa, directly and indirectly, and share it with the nation’s hospitals, which could help them avoid missing that risk factor, as occurred during the Texas patient’s first visit to the emergency department.Texas patient’s condition still criticalAt today’s media briefing, David Lakey, MD, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), said none of the 48 patients who are being monitored for Ebola in Texas have fevers or other symptoms of the disease. The state is monitoring 10 people who had direct contact with the patient and 38 who were thought to have low-risk contact.Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said today that the man remains in critical condition and is on a ventilator and receiving kidney dialysis. Official said his liver condition declined over the weekend and subsequently improved, but his doctors have said that it could vary in coming days. The hospital added that the main continues to receive the investigational antiviral drug brincidofovir, which he began taking on Oct 4.Spain details contact tracing, probes health worker caseElsewhere, Spanish health officials have said a second test has confirmed an Ebola infection in a health worker who got sick after assisting with the care of a Spanish priest who was flown to a Madrid hospital after he was infected in Sierra Leone. The nurse’s infection, announced yesterday by Spain’s health ministry, is the first local transmission of the disease outside West Africa. The priest died on Sep 25, a few days after he arrived back in Spain.The nurse, a woman, is a “sanitary worker” who entered the sick priest’s room twice, according to media reports yesterday.Three other people have been hospitalized in connection with the sick Spanish health worker, Reuters reported today. They include the woman’s husband and two other people, one of whom is another health worker. A separate Reuters report said the other health worker, who had diarrhea but no fever, has tested negative for Ebola.The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement on the case that most of the woman’s contacts are medical staff, but some are family members. It said two ECDC experts are being deployed to Spain to help investigate how the woman was infected.In a related development, the European Commission has asked Spain’s health ministry to clarify how the health worker was infected, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. Spain’s health ministry is investigating the woman’s infection, according to several media reports.Spain’s government has announced plans to euthanize the woman’s dog, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. At today’s CDC media briefing, Frieden, when questioned about that development, said he’s aware of only one study in the medical literature about dogs and Ebola infection, which found dogs may have antibodies to the virus. He said in rural Africa, Ebola can infect mammals, and is probably spread by bats, which are mammals. Lakey said no potentially infected dogs have been identified in connection with the Texas case.Other developmentsThe World Health Organization (WHO) today said it is pulling together a 14-member expert group for informal consultation on the science to guide its Ebola outbreak response. It said the team will review the current science and information emerging from the outbreak countries. The WHO said it may use the expert observations to consider any changes in control steps immediately or after better data are available or to help gather data needed to guide decision making. The group’s first meeting will take place by teleconference, with subsequent meetings depending on the WHO’s needs. Peter Piot, MD, PhD, a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researcher who helped identify the Ebola virus in 1976, will lead the first meeting.An assessment of health infrastructure and emergency preparedness in four of Liberia’s remote southeastern counties in mid August before any Ebola cases had been detected found only three physicians to cover all four counties, with physicians and some nursing staff having abandoned their posts and others still working, though they had not been paid in 3 months, according to an article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Hand washing stations were scarce, with some consisting of just a bamboo stem filled with water. Though the counties had Ebola task forces, limited resources and communications problems hampered community mobilization efforts. The team identified one suspected Ebola death and a confirmed death that involved the area’s first instance of secondary transmission. The group said more Ebola cases have since been detected in the area and Ebola preparedness has improved, with task forces meeting and an incident command system in place. But they emphasized that the counties urgently need equipment and staff to do contact tracing, case management, and other tasks.In an effort to speed the development of safe and comfortable personal protective equipment (PPE) and other tools to help healthcare providers in West Africa battle Ebola, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) today launched a technology competition to fund and test innovations in infection control and a Web portal to help incubate new ideas about how to deliver care and stop the disease. USAID first announced the PPE challenge at a global health security summit in Washington, DC, on Sep 26.Though there are no regulations or recommendations about donations of blood and other human substances by people in the European Union who have recovered from Ebola infections, been exposed to the virus, or have traveled in outbreak regions, asymptomatic travelers should be barred from donating blood or other substances for 2 months after leaving outbreak areas, the ECDC said yesterday in a risk assessment. However, if organ transplantation is urgently needed, the period can be reduced to 1 month if the donor tests negative for Ebola. Contacts should be excluded from donating blood and other substances for 2 months beginning at the start of the monitoring period, and those who have recovered should not donate for 12 months, in line with guidance for viral hemorrhagic fevers. Also, the ECDC said living and deceased people who recovered from Ebola should have tested negative for Ebola in donation situations. The agency noted that its recommendations don’t apply to blood collected from convalescent patients for use in treating Ebola infection.See also:Oct 7 Sen Schumer press releaseOct 7 Texas Health Resource statementOct 7 Reuters report on Ebola testing of second Spanish health workerOct 7 AFP storyOct 7 ECDC statementOct 7 AP storyOct 7 WHO statementOct 7 MMWR reportUSAID Ebola Grand Challenge Web portalOct 6 ECDC technical report on Ebola transmission risk and donated blood and other substanceslast_img read more

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Harlem’s shake-up in full swing

first_imgWould you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletters To access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week.last_img

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Fox River Dredging Starts (USA)

first_imgThe Fox River dredging operations for the 2014 season resumed last week.Work to remove shipwreck debris behind 1611 State St. in Green Bay, WI, is expected to be underway soon, and capping and covering operations will start in May.The Fox River Cleanup Project, designed to reduce risk to human health and the environment due to the presence of PCBs in Fox River sediment, is a multi-year cleanup effort that includes dredging, capping and covering.The project officially started with dredging and processing on April 28, 2009, and this program has a target completion date of 2017.[mappress]April 14, 2014last_img read more

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Hansom

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

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Expanded Panama canal sees first transit

first_imgThe Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela, thanked the nearly 30,000 people who had worked on the canal’s expansion, which has delivered considerable business for project forwarders, specialist transport engineering companies and heavy lift shipping lines.Construction on the new locks for the canal, which runs for 77 km, began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014, but strikes and disputes over costs delayed the USD5.2 billion project.The original Panama Canal was first used in August 1914. It was built by the USA and handed over to local control in 1999 and the expansion will allow larger generation of container ships to pass through the isthmus.www.pancanal.comThe Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela, thanked the nearly 30,000 people who had worked on the canal’s expansion, which has delivered considerable business for project forwarders, specialist transport engineering companies and heavy lift shipping lines.Construction on the new locks for the canal, which runs for 77 km, began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014, but strikes and disputes over costs delayed the USD5.2 billion project.The original Panama Canal was first used in August 1914. It was built by the USA and handed over to local control in 1999 and the expansion will allow larger generation of container ships to pass through the isthmus.www.pancanal.comlast_img read more

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Dieter

first_imgNetherlands Railways has been testing methods for removing chewing gum from stations, and found that a mixture of solvents, steam and brushing worked best. Dieter is concerned that more thorough cleaning may have unexpected side effectslast_img

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Ride a Panda

first_imgACCESS: DIGI Project has developed its Panda Station lift to help wheelchair-using passengers board trains.With a capacity of 350 kg, the Panda Station has an automatic brake on the drive wheel, sensors to stop ascent and descent, 20 sec fall time and a manual mode for emergency use. The battery supports 100 cycles per charge.last_img

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Met Office Issues Overnight Ice Warning for Dumfries & Galloway

first_imgAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to LinkedInLinkedInLinkedInIcy stretches are expected to form overnight leading to difficult driving conditions on untreated roads and slippery conditions on pavements.In addition, wintry showers will affect parts of western Scotland and Northern Ireland with up to 2 cm possible over higher ground.A colder airmass will follow Sunday’s depression across Northern Ireland and much of Scotland during the night and Monday morning. This will bring frequent showers of rain, sleet and snow, especially to western areas exposed to the strong westerly wind. Icy stretches are expected to form on untreated surfaces and also where showers wash off previously applied treatment.In addition to icy patches up to 2 cm of snow may accumulate in places above 100 m.last_img read more

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Export Assistance Watch: Q1 CWT assistance helps export 34.8 million pounds

first_imgIn the first three months of 2018, CWT member cooperatives submitted 246 total requests for export assistance. CWT ultimately provided assistance for 188 of these bids, resulting in contracts to sell 29.2 million pounds of cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheese, and 5.6 million pounds of butter (made to the world standard of 82 percent butterfat content). These products will be delivered during the first six months of 2018.advertisementadvertisementStrategic changes being consideredCWT has recently formulated a new strategic assessment to evolve the CWT program to address the new challenges of today’s world marketplace. CWT’s member cooperatives are reviewing a series of proposed improvements with the goal of incorporating these strategic approaches as the program’s membership authorization is renewed for 2019 and beyond:Expand the range of exports to engage more products, shippers and customers.The present emphasis on American-style cheeses (cheddar, jack, Gouda, Swiss, colby) needs to include more varieties, as well commonly traded cream cheese and natural cheese blends.Adjust the bidding process to facilitate longer-term contracts.The current limit of three months to fulfill an export contract will be increased to six months for cheese. This would help CWT’s members move beyond short-term commodity spot sales.Encourage higher-value marketing strategies in retail and foodservice channels.This adjustment would help CWT evaluate and potentially contribute matching funds toward efforts by members to create integrated export sales and marketing plans.Develop improved market intelligence on prices and market needs.Maximize collaboration with other farmer-funded efforts, such as USDEC and DMI.Although cooperation already exists, greater emphasis will be placed on market intelligence and identifying new market opportunities. CWT continues to focus its export-assistance efforts on dairy products that most directly impact producers’ milk checks: American-type cheeses and butter containing 82 percent butterfat.last_img read more

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