The City of Mali Lošinj and the Tourist Board of the City of Mali Lošinj, in cooperation with the City of Cres and the Tourist Board of the City of Cres, organized this year as well Aromatherapy Festival “Apsyrtides” just with the topic Aloe vera, myrtle, immortelle and iris.Participants will from May 12 to June 1 through an offer of 22 events to hold workshops, trainings and lectures on application Aloe vera myrtle, immortelle and iris in everyday life, cosmetics and nutrition in the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, and the opening of FThe aromatherapy festival “Apsyrtides” will be held in the Fragrant Island Garden on the island of Lošinj on May 12, 2016, starting at 10,00.This year’s Festival is attended by 18 participants from the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, among whom Ecological and family farms have found their place: EOPG Kučić, which will enable workshop participants to make their own soaps and effervescent baths. OPG Dragoslavić Mladen will show those interested the inside of the hive and introduce them to the mysterious world of bees and honey production. In the embrace of myrtle and bees, OPG Stina will introduce everyone to the benefits of beeswax and fragrant myrtle.The preserved natural environment is a unique feature of the island of Lošinj; purity of the sea and air, mild climate, indigenous vegetation, aromatic scents, with relaxation and rest, have a beneficial effect on the body and make it healthier and happier. The Cres-Lošinj archipelago is home to 1018 plant species, 230 of which are medicinal plants, and among them they have found their place. Aloe vera, myrtle, immortelle and iris.The City of Mali Lošinj and the Tourist Board of the City of Mali Lošinj started the project of the Aromatherapy Festival in 2013 by educating the first aromatherapists in the area of Lošinj, after which aromatherapy workshops were held in 2014 and 2015 in various family farms, beauty salons and studios, hotels and educational institutions, and this year’s Festival of Aromatherapy “Apsyrtides” also covers the entire area of the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, which was also the inspiration for the name of the project “Apsyrtides”.Take a look at the entire program of the Apsyrtides Aromatherapy Festival here
Share It is known that people who have attempted suicide have ongoing inflammation in their blood and spinal fluid. Now, a collaborative study from research teams in the U.S., Sweden and Australia published in Translational Psychiatry shows that suicidal patients have a reduced activity of an enzyme that regulates inflammation and its byproducts.The study is the result of a longstanding partnership between the research teams of Professor Sophie Erhardt, Karolinska Institutet Professor Lena Brundin at Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Professor Gilles Guillemin at Macquarie University in Australia. The overall aim of the research is to find ways to identify suicidal patients.Biological factors Pinterest Share on Facebook LinkedIn Email Currently, there are no biomarkers for psychiatric illness, namely biological factors that can be measured and provide information about the patient’s psychiatric health. If a simple blood test can identify individuals at risk of taking their lives, that would be a huge step forward, said Erhardt, a Professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Karolinska Institutet, who led the work along with Brundin.The researchers analyzed certain metabolites, byproducts formed during infection and inflammation, in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid from patients who tried to take their own lives. Previously it has been shown that such patients have ongoing inflammation in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid. This new work has succeeded in showing that patients who have attempted suicide have reduced activity of an enzyme called ACMSD, which regulates inflammation and its byproducts.“We believe that people who have reduced activity of the enzyme are especially vulnerable to developing depression and suicidal tendencies when they suffer from various infections or inflammation. We also believe that inflammation is likely to easily become chronic in people with impaired activity of ACMSD,” said Brundin.Important balanceThe substance that the enzyme ACMSD produces, picolinic acid, is greatly reduced in both plasma and in the spinal fluid of suicidal patients. Another product, called quinolinic acid, is increased. Quinolinic acid is inflammatory and binds to and activates glutamate receptors in the brain. Normally, ACMSD produces picolinic acid at the expense of quinolinic acid, thus maintaining an important balance.“We now want to find out if these changes are only seen in individuals with suicidal thoughts or if patients with severe depression also exhibit this. We also want to develop drugs that might activate the enzyme ACMSD and thus restore the balance between quinolinic and picolinic acid,” Erhardt said. Share on Twitter
Share Email Share on Twitter Share on Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest Presidents campaigning for re-election use better influential language in their re-election campaign than they did in their first campaign, according to a recent study published online this June in Electoral Studies. The study provides some explanation of the incumbency effect.U.S. presidential election campaigns are the most highly funded and studied attempts to influence the behavior of a wide-ranging audience. Interestingly, from 1868 to 2012, over two-thirds of the 23 presidential candidates seeking re-election won. This “incumbency effect” (incumbency: the holding of an office) suggests that the current president has an advantage over the challenger. However, little is known about why this effect occurs.It has been suggested that this effect is related to 2 main areas: structural advantages held by incumbents and communication advantages. The study, by Christian Leuprecht (Royal Military College of Canada) and David Skillicorn (Queen’s University) examined language patterns in U.S. presidential elections from 1992 to 2012. The analyses involved all three incumbent candidates during this period: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.The results revealed clear differences between the language patterns associated with “successful” and “unsuccessful” U.S. presidential campaigns. The “language of influence” was characterized by: no change in word content (i.e. winners do not have better ideas or present them more cleverly); a decrease in words with negative connotations; words with positive connotations are used more frequently; less attention is paid to competitors; and there is greater variation in word choice overall (e.g. a decrease in the use of economic nouns in second campaigns).The analyses also found that the gap between winner and loser tends to remain roughly constant, suggesting that a challenger raises their level and uses better influential language when facing an incumbent. The researchers also highlighted, “The increase in strength of influence happens quite quickly, either at the beginning of the first term or at the beginning of the second campaign, suggesting that it is driven by changes in self-perception rather than deliberate strategy or increasing experience.”The researchers concluded, “The article shows that, behind the language used by challengers and incumbents, and successful and unsuccessful candidates, there is a linear scale of language that wins elections.” Therefore, presidents campaigning for re-election use better influential language in their re-election campaign than they did in their first campaign, which provides some explanation of the incumbency effect.
LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on Twitter “We wondered what impact this mass movement against institutional racism might have on the American psyche. We know that the Civil Rights movement radically transformed racial attitudes in the U.S, and we wanted to know if this new movement could do something similar. Our society fosters racial bias in many ways, and we wondered if an anti-racist movement could change not only overt racial attitudes, but also more automatic racial biases that we can absorb without being fully aware of it.”The researchers analyzed data from more than 1.3 million Black and White participants who completed the Race Implicit Association (RAI) Test at Harvard’s Project Implicit website between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2016.The test measured participants’ implicit and explicit racial biases. Implicit biases refer to unconscious positive and negative associations people make with different races, while explicit biases are attitudes that people consciously express.The researchers found that pro-White implicit bias was on the rise during the Obama administration, but started to decline after the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013.“Our study demonstrates that while overall racial bias in the U.S. was not reduced by the first four years of the Obama presidency, both implicit and explicit racial bias did decrease during the Black Lives Matter movement,” Sawyer and Gampa told PsyPost.“The beginning of Black Lives Matter coincided with a shift from rising pro-White bias to declining pro-White bias, with additional decreases in bias during periods when the movement was most active in the streets and most visible in the media,” the researchers added. This change occurred mostly among Whites. Implicit attitudes among the Black participants showed relatively little change. However, Blacks’ explicit attitudes did become less pro-Black as the movement rose to prominence, suggesting both Whites and Blacks moved to more neutral, egalitarian positions.“We think our study echoes the lessons of U.S. history, in that institutional racism and racist attitudes have been most effectively challenged by mass movements. For example, it took a Civil War to end slavery, and a Civil Rights movement to end legal segregation and racial discrimination,” Sawyer and Gampa remarked.The researchers controlled for a number of demographic variables, including age, race, Latino ethnicity status, education, political ideology, and gender. But the study, like all research, has limitations.“The size of the attitude changes we found are relatively small, and an overall pro-White bias remains in our society. We also can’t rule out the possibility that people who were less biased were more likely to take the IAT during BLM,” Sawyer and Gampa said.“However, attitude changes occurred during high points of the Black Lives Matter movement, and rising pro-White bias in the years before the movement began to decline once the movement began. This evidence supports that idea that the Black Lives Matter movement played a role in these changes.” “One question remaining to be answered is whether movements that win structural changes in society – like the Civil Rights movement – are more effective in changing attitudes than movements that do not yet have such concrete victories, like Black Lives Matter,” the researchers said. “Finally, our study shows changes in racial attitudes, and future work should explore how this connects to behavior, including actively taking a stand against racism.”The two researchers added that they don’t agree with political speculation that contends BLM has been counter-productive.“In the last few years, the Black Lives Matter movement has been demonized by many on the right, and the political climate from the White House down has given confidence to white supremacists who are organizing and carrying out violence, including that in Charlottesville, VA,” they told PsyPost.“Unfortunately, many liberals have concluded from these events that anti-racist social movements are counterproductive because they inevitably provoke a racist backlash. However, in the period we studied from 2013-2016, we found reductions in pro-White bias among Whites across the political spectrum, including those who identified as very conservative. This suggests to us that anti-racist social movements can have a progressive impact throughout society.” “Furthermore, political movements have the capability to reach far more people than bias reduction trainings that focus on changing one mind at a time, without challenging the social conditions that give rise to racist ideas in the first place.”The study was titled: “Implicit and Explicit Racial Attitudes Changed During Black Lives Matter“. Share Pinterest Email A new study provides evidence that racism in the United States declined during the Black Lives Matter movement, especially among Whites.The findings, which were recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggest that anti-racist social movements can transform people’s attitudes and reduce racial bias.“The Black Lives Matter marches are some of the most inspiring demonstrations that we’ve seen and participated in over the past several years,” said Jeremy Sawyer of City University of New York and Anup Gampa of the University of Virginia, the two authors of the study.
Share Pinterest The researchers pooled data from six Phase 2 clinical trials that were carried out from 2004 to 2017 to examine the outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. The six trials included 103 participants in total, and included both civilians and veterans/first responders.The participants first took part in two or three 90-minute psychotherapy sessions to establish a therapeutic alliance with the therapist and prepare for the MDMA experience. Participants were then randomly assigned to receive MDMA or a placebo during two or three 8-hour psychotherapy sessions.The MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions were based on methods developed by MAPS.“The method includes periods of introspection alternating with periods of communication between therapists and the participant. The method is aimed at allowing participants to revisit traumatic experiences while staying emotionally engaged even during intense feelings of anxiety, pain, or grief without feeling overwhelmed,” the researchers explained in their study.These experimental sessions were followed by an overnight stay and 90-minute psychotherapy sessions aimed at integrating the psychedelic experience. The researchers found that the treatment appeared to be both safe and effective. After two experimental sessions, approximately 50% of participants who received active doses of MDMA no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria, compared to 23% of participants who received placebo.“MDMA is powerful substance showing great promise as treatment for PTSD when combined with psychotherapy. The controlled clinical context and purity of the drug are critical components for the positive outcomes of the studies,” Feduccia told PsyPost.“The severity of PTSD symptoms were reduced for many participants after 2-3 sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, with the effects durable 12 months after treatment.”Although the MDMA treatment was generally well tolerated, participants who received the drug were more likely to report side-effects such as anxiety, dizziness, jaw clenching, lack of appetite, and nausea.“Results from Phase 2 trials are exceptional for a PTSD treatment, but the findings will need to be replicated in a larger number of people in the Phase 3 trials. Phase 2 trials enrolled mostly White participants, lacking diversity in race and ethnicity. Studies need to enroll more people of color to know if this treatment will work in the same way for them,” Feduccia added.MAPS is currently preparing for the Phase 3 clinical trials, which are required to develop MDMA-assisted psychotherapy into an FDA-approved treatment for PTSD.“It has taken many decades to reach this point for MDMA drug development. We are seeing a shift in public opinion as scientific evidence builds support for use of MDMA and psychedelics for treating mental health conditions. These are exciting times we live in, and could very well likely be on the cusp of a new paradigm for psychiatric medicine,” Feduccia said.The study, “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: study design and rationale for phase 3 trials based on pooled analysis of six phase 2 randomized controlled trials“, was authored by Michael C. Mithoefer, Allison A. Feduccia, Lisa Jerome, Anne Mithoefer, Mark Wagner, Zach Walsh, Scott Hamilton, Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Amy Emerson, and Rick Doblin. Share on Facebook MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, can safely enhance the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder when it is used in a clinical setting alongside psychotherapy, according to new research in Psychopharmacology that analyzed the outcomes of clinical trials.“In 2004, I began researching MDMA in rodent models, and was surprised to hear that the first clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD had just started that year,” said study author Alli Feduccia, a clinical data scientist at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the director of Psychedelic Support.“I also learned about the unique effects of MDMA and why it was used in couple’s therapy prior to being placed on Schedule 1 list. Using a drug only a few times to enhance therapeutic processing to resolve underlying issues that cause PTSD symptoms seemed like an approach worth investigating.” Email Share on Twitter LinkedIn
Jul 7, 2010Barry says world’s pandemic response flawed by political misstepsIn an assessment of how the world has handled the H1N1 pandemic, historian John M. Barry, author of a widely acclaimed 2004 book on the 1918 pandemic, praised the scientific and medical response but said the arrival of a pandemic that was milder than anticipated threw the world off balance, revealing flaws in some national health systems and in international relations. Barry’s analysis appears in the summer issue of World Policy Journal, a publication from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wrote that public health officials have learned many lessons, such as the potential usefulness of a pandemic severity scale and the need for better and faster vaccine technology, from the pandemic response. But he said countries don’t seem as willing to learn political lessons from their experience. For example, he wrote that the World Health Organization (WHO) has become a scapegoat for critics of the response, whose charges of pharmaceutical industry influence he called “nonsense.” Barry said some countries, out of fear or political reasons and against the advice of global health and agriculture groups, imposed unwarranted trade and travel restrictions. He criticized the United States for backpedaling on a commitment to share vaccine with developing countries, Egypt for slaughtering pigs, Indonesia for underestimating the disease threat, and China for efforts to brand the virus a “foreign disease.” Barry wrote that such actions are counterproductive, hurt national credibility, and make the world vulnerable to other disease threats such as H5N1 avian influenza.’Opt-out’ approach may boost flu immunization ratesAutomatic scheduling of influenza shots—making vaccination the “default” option—may be an effective way to increase flu vaccination rates in institutional settings, according to a research letter published today in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). To test the approach, researchers at Rutgers University randomly assigned 480 faculty and staff members to “opt-out” or “opt-in” groups. Those in the opt-out group were notified by e-mail that they had been scheduled to receive a flu shot but that they were free to cancel or change the appointment. The opt-in group received an e-mail saying that free flu shots were available and pointing to a Web page where recipients could make an appointment. Those with appointments were sent a reminder 5 days later. The results were that 108 of 239 (45%) people in the opt-out group were vaccinated, versus 80 of 239 (33%) in the opt-in group, a significant 36% increase. Only 18 opt-out participants (8%) canceled their appointments, while 50 opt-in participants (21%) made appointments, and those with appointments were more likely to be immunized than those without. Both approaches give people a choice, but the opt-out approach increases the likelihood of their getting vaccinated, the researchers conclude.Jul 7 JAMA research letter abstractGlobal food safety group addresses melamine, fresh greens, seafoodThe Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations (UN) food standards group, which met this week in Geneva, has offered new guidance on several food safety issues. The commission issued a ruling limiting melamine content in food, offered guidance on fresh greens and seafood safety, set maximum levels of aflatoxins in Brazil nuts, and established new methods for food sampling and analysis. The melamine limits are designed to help governments distinguish low levels of melamine that get into food during production processes from levels associated with deliberate adulteration, according to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), which runs the commission along with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Though the melamine standards aren’t legally binding, they allow countries to refuse importation of products that contain excessive melamine. The group’s new guidance for fresh greens covers production, harvesting, packing, processing, storage, distribution, marketing and consumer education to reduce risks associated with these products. To minimize bacterial contamination in seafood, such as Vibrio in oysters, the commission’s new guidance describes how to control the pathogen throughout the food chain.Jul 6 WHO statementUS efforts help reduce H5N1 risk in more Bangladesh bird marketsA US government agency and its Bangladeshi partners yesterday launched new efforts to decrease the risk of H5N1 avian influenza at live bird markets in Bangladesh, according to a press release from the US State Department. Funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the STOP AI (Stamping Out Pandemic and Avian Influenza) Bangladesh project started conducting cleaning and disinfection at a live bird market in Sreepur in the country’s Gazipur district. USAID collaborated with local and market officials to develop a plan to prevent the spread of H5N1 in birds and people. Improvements include renovating the water supply and adding a proper waste-disposal facility and a slaughterhouse. USAID had previously piloted cleaning and disinfection programs at two markets in Dhaka, which led to a program expansion that upgraded 19 more markets in Gazipur and Dinajpur districts.Jul 6 US State Department press release
May 24, 2011Germany investigates big spike in severe E coli infectionsGerman health officials are investigating a dramatic increase in the number of patients with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infections, which includes 80 reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal kidney complication, according to a post from ProMed, the internet mailing list of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. The post included stories on the outbreak from the German media and Agence France-Presse. So far 400 confirmed or suspected infections have been reported since the middle of May, with a higher-than-expected rate in women. Germany typically records 800 to 1,200 similar cases in a calendar year. Public health officials have not determined a food source yet, but they suspect the culprit could be fresh produce or other product marketed mainly to women. One death has been reported, in an 83-year-old woman. Several other patients are hospitalized. A ProMed moderator speculated that an outbreak that produces so many HUS cases might be linked to a verotoxin-producing E coli (VTEC) strain.May 24 ProMed postExpert details food import risksThe increasing portion of US food imported from other countries poses greater risks of foodborne diseases, due to overseas farming practices, lax oversight, and the sheer volume of imported products that can overwhelm federal inspectors, food safety expert Dr Michael Doyle said yesterday. He was speaking at a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) in New Orleans. Doyle, a microbiologist at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, said in an AMS press release that much of the contamination in imported food stems from fecal matter. For example, in 2010 80% of fish and seafood in the United States was imported from Asia, where many countries use raw domestic or livestock sewage in fish farming. He added that in China, crops and seafood are often grown on small parcels of land, a practice that requires farmers to also use large amounts of pesticides and antibiotics, some of which aren’t approved for use in the United States. Doyle said consumers shouldn’t avoid food products from particular countries. “It is incumbent on food processors to ensure ingredients or products they import are produced under good sanitary practices. It is the industry that is responsible for producing safe foods. It is the government’s responsibility to verify that they are providing safe foods,” Doyle said in the press release. The ASM also conducted a webcast interview with Doyle.May 23 EurekAlert press releaseMicrobeWorld archive of Doyle interviewDominican Republic reports cholera spreadThe Dominican Republic’s cholera outbreak has now spread to 28 of the country’s 32 provinces, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. Earlier media reports said most of the country’s cases had been centered around its capital, Santo Domingo. The country’s deputy health minister, Jose Rodriguez, told the AP that the number of new cholera cases has increased 50% since the middle of May. He said since the outbreak began in November the ministry has received reports of 1,143 cases and 14 deaths. In neighboring Haiti, which since October has battled a massive cholera epidemic, cholera deaths have now topped 5,000. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a May 20 epidemiologic alert that as of May 10 Haiti’s health ministry has received reports of 302,401 cholera cases, of which 5,234 were fatal. PAHO said it is seeing a rise in cholera hospitalizations, especially in South-East and North-West departments, as well as in Port-au-Prince.May 23 AP storyMay 20 PAHO alertSick airline passenger prompts measles alertHealth officials are tracking airline passengers who may have been exposed to measles during two Continental Airline flights on May 17, the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (SDHHSA) said in a May 21 press release. The actions are linked to a woman who got sick in London and then flew to the United States, where she was hospitalized on May 17 shortly after landing in San Diego. On the first leg of her trip she flew from London to Houston, Her symptoms worsened on her flight from Houston to San Diego, and she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. The SDHHSA said 113 passengers who flew with the woman from Houston to San Diego are being contacted to warn them of possible exposure to measles. Fifteen passengers on the international portion of the flight are also being contacted. No one in the San Diego air terminal was exposed to measles, because paramedics took precautions, the SDHHSA said. Several European countries are reporting measles outbreaks, and some US states and jurisdictions have linked local infections to European travel (see today’s related news story).May 21 SDHHSA press release
Jul 28, 2011CDC issues new edition of public health emergency guideAn updated version of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Public Health Emergency Response Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Public Health Directors was issued yesterday. The all-hazards reference tool, first published in early 2009, provides information on activating a jurisdiction’s public health system and integrating it into the existing emergency response structure, focusing on the first 24 hours after an incident. The assessments needed and the actions to initiate are divided into the immediate (0-2 hours), intermediate (2-6 hours), and extended (6-24 hours) response phases. Also included is discussion of ongoing functions and tasks after the initial 24 hours as well as guidance on responses to specific incidents such as floods, earthquakes, and acts of terrorism. The manual is available in Spanish as well as English and has templates for users to record such individualized data as contacts, assignments, and assessment of preparedness levels. As stated by CDC, “The guide is not a substitute for emergency preparedness activities and is not intended to replace existing emergency operations plans, procedures, or guidelines within a jurisdiction’s health department.”CDC page with links to online versions, templates, and hard copy ordering informationDirect link to pdf versionECDC, CDC offer standard terminology for multidrug-resistant bacteriaWith the aim of improving surveillance for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, a committee of experts from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the CDC has released a set of standardized definitions and terms for bacteria that are resistant to multiple drugs, the ECDC announced yesterday. The terms describe resistance profiles in several pathogens that commonly cause infections in hospitals and are prone to multidrug resistance: Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus species, Enterobacteriaceae (other than Salmonella and Shigella), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobacter species. The ECDC said harmonized definitions are needed so that epidemiologic and surveillance data can be reliably collected and compared across healthcare settings and countries. The definitions were published online yesterday by Clinical Microbiology and Infection. The article notes that many different definitions are currently used in the medical literature for “multidrug-resistant,” “extensively drug-resistant,” and “pandrug-resistant.”Jul 27 ECDC statementClin Micro Infect articleGene study sheds more light on German E coli outbreak strainThird-generation, real-time DNA sequencing of the complete genome of the German Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak strain by a group led by University of Maryland researchers found that it is closely related to other enteroaggregative strains of the same subtype but contains a prophage encoding Shiga toxin 2 and distinct virulence and antibiotic resistance factors. They published their analysis yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their investigation involved new single-molecule real-time testing technology from their collaborators at Pacific Biosciences, based in Menlo Park, Calif. The researchers made genomewide comparisons of the outbreak strain with seven other diarrhea-associated E coli O104:H4 strains from Africa, four enteroaggregative E coli strains from other serotypes, and 40 previously sequenced E coli isolates. Findings suggest the strain emerged through horizontal genetic exchange, which can occur due to the plasticity of bacterial genomes. David Rasko, PhD, first author of the study, said in a University of Maryland press release that the outbreak strain isn’t a true hybrid because it only contains a small amount of DNA sequence from enterohemorrhagic E coli. He said scientists have not seen the unique combinations in the past, but with new technological tools may be identifying them more in the future. Rasko praised international researchers who have been studying the outbreak strain and sharing their findings. “This was an international collaboration pulled together in a matter of days. I expect we will see more collaborations like this to deal with new emerging pathogens in the future,” he said in the statement.Jul 27 University of Maryland press releaseJul 27 N Engl J Med abstractStudy: HVAC air sampling a valuable tool for bioterror responseA pilot project carried out in New York City in 2006-07 has demonstrated that a “native air sampling” (NAS) strategy could be implemented with effective public-private collaboration as a valuable and relatively inexpensive step in responding to release of an aerosolized bioweapon, according to a report in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism. Theoretically, samples from the NAS filters from the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial properties could help quantify the threat to the public after initial detection of an agent through dedicated air sampling (DAS). DAS, the first-line tool for detecting the release of weaponized agents, is accomplished through such initiatives as the federal BioWatch program. The authors say NAS could help determine the size and direction of a pathogen plume and would be far more efficient than environmental surface sampling and testing. The method, they write, “represents an untapped, scientifically sound, efficient, widely distributed, and comparably inexpensive resource for postevent environmental sampling.” Through the pilot project, the researchers were able to determine nominal building requirements for NAS locations (eg, 24/7/365 operation and emergency access), develop procedures to identify and evaluate candidate NAS buildings, design data collection and other tools to expedite building selection and evaluation, and write sample playbooks for emergency responders.Jul 27 Biosec Bioterror article
Jan 23, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – A year-long voluntary moratorium on research involving transmissible H5N1 avian flu viruses ended today with a letter from a group of scientists that supports resuming the work in countries that have addressed the biosafety issues involved.Today’s letter, endorsed by 40 scientists who signed on to the voluntary moratorium last year, appeared in the journals Science and Nature. The research pause was designed to allow countries and the scientific community to discuss biosecurity and biosafety issues that were raised by the publication of two controversial H5N1 papers, one from a group in the Netherlands led by Ron Fouchier, PhD, and the other from a team at the University of Wisconsin led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD.The scientists wrote that the moratorium allowed the community to explain the public health benefits of the transmission studies, to describe the systems that are in place to protect researchers and the public, and to allow organizations and governments to review their policies regarding the experiments.”Thus acknowledging that the aims of the voluntary moratorium have been met in some countries and are close to being met in others, we declare an end to the voluntary moratorium on avian flu transmission studies,” they wrote. The moratorium was originally planned to last 60 days.Three of the researchers who signed the letter—Fouchier, Kawaoka, and Richard Webby, PhD, from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis—spoke about the end of the research moratorium today at a media telebriefing sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the publisher of Science.Kawaoka said the research work needs to resume, because it has important public health benefits, such as providing more clues about what it would take for the H5N1 virus to become more transmissible in mammals. “We understand the risk, and we take every precaution,” he said. “The benefit outweighs the risks. That is why we need to resume.”Many countries have reviewed their oversight of H5N1 research issues, so the need for the moratorium has passed, said Webby.The researchers said the number of countries in which H5N1 transmission studies take place is limited, and it’s not entirely clear which ones are ready to resume work. They said the list includes the Netherlands, European Union countries in principle, and China. Canada has already said H5N1 transmission work can take place under biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) conditions.Two holdouts are Japan, which is still reviewing its policies, according to Kawaoka, and the United States, which is still reviewing the H5N1 virus’ select agent level and finalizing guidelines for funding gain-of-function H5N1 studies.US plan ‘weeks’ awayThe fact that work can’t yet resume in the United States is notable, because its National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds many H5N1 research studies, including the ones by Fouchier and Kawaoka that sparked the debate, which originally focused on the potential biosecurity risk of publishing sensitive data from the studies in scientific journals.Fouchier told reporters that the group of researchers didn’t wait for the United States to take its final actions before ending the moratorium, because it’s not clear how long it will take.In October the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the public to comment on whether H5N1 should be designated as an HHS special agent, meaning that labs handling it would have to register with the agency and meet special security and personnel screening and training requirements.The comment period was slated to end on Jan 31, but Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CIDRAP News that the CDC has submitted a notice to the Federal Register that would extend the period another 30 days to allow more public comment.He added that the CDC has no target set for a decision.Anthony Fauci, MD, who directs the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told CIDRAP News that the NIH has revised its draft guidance for funding H5N1 avian influenza research based on feedback it received at a conference in December and public comments it received through Jan 10.He said NIH has forwarded the revised document to the HHS, which will finalize the work.Though Fauci said there is not an exact timetable for the final guidance, he said he expects that it will be released within several weeks rather than several months.Future research goalsAt today’s media briefing, the three researchers reflected on the lessons learned during the moratorium and outlined some of the key next steps with the research. Fouchier said some of his H5N1 work, the part not funded by NIH, will resume over the next few weeks as soon as lab preparations are in place. Kawaoka said his work is stalled until US agencies finalize their guidelines.Webby said a major lesson is the need to discuss the importance of the research earlier in the process. “That’s our job, to highlight the benefits, and the biggest lesson is that we can do better,” he said.Fouchier added that the H5N1 controversy and moratorium have opened up a more general discussion of dual-use research (which can be used for good or bad intents) that is ongoing and will yield future benefits. He pointed to a World Health Organization (WHO) conference last February that focused on the risks and benefits of publishing results of the two transmission studies, and he added that the group will soon host a wider dual-use research discussion.Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO, told CIDRAP News that the meeting will include H5N1 as well as other dual-use issues and will take place Feb 26 through 28.Fouchier said he and his research team, which already found that five to nine mutations were sufficient to make the H5N1 virus they tested airborne, are eager to identify a more specific number within that range. He said researchers would also like to detect mutations that make other H5N1 viruses airborne, as well as crucial characteristics that make the strain more transmissible in humans and other mammals.He said his team worked with an Indonesian strain and Kawaoka’s group worked with a Vietnamese strain, and that scientists are eager to learn more about mutations that might make strains from Egypt and China airborne.He said the primary goal of the H5N1 transmission studies is to provide a fundamental understanding of the viruses, but he added the work could be useful for guiding countries in their virus eradication efforts and for evaluating what antiviral drugs and vaccines work best, especially against a virulent virus that replicates in the upper airways.Voices of cautionMichael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, said discussion that took place during the year-long moratorium did not resolve a primary issue: how to safety share the information.”The concerns I had 6 months ago I still have today,” he said, alluding to a US advisory group’s assertion that terror groups or others could use certain details of the H5N1 studies to make biological weapons.The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), of which Osterholm is a member, in December 2011 had urged Science and Nature to omit key portions of Fouchier’s and Kawaoka’s studies, but in March 2012 reversed its recommendation. In the March decision, it unanimously voted that Kawaoka’s full paper be published, but 6 of 18 members voted against the publication of certain details in Fouchier’s study.The journals eventually published full versions of both studies, Kawaoka’s in a May issue of Nature and Fouchier’s in a June issue of Science.Osterholm said he believes the research work should be done. “I think Ron and Yoshi are two of the best researchers in the world to be doing this work, and I have faith in their practices,” he said.He said he still has concerns, however, about making the information available to groups that might not use the same level of care in handling transmissible H5N1 viruses, not only bioterror groups, but also vaccine companies that don’t have impeccable safety measures or universities that don’t have the most modern safety features and staff training.He also says he doesn’t believe scientists and health leaders have exhausted exploring all of the possible mechanisms for limiting key details of H5N1 transmission studies only with people who have a need to know. And while the emphasis of the debate seems to have shifted to biosecurity issues, accidental or intentional leaks are still a major concern for some settings. “All we have to do is be wrong once,” Osterholm said.Richard Ebright, PhD, molecular biologist at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University who has an interest in biosecurity issues, told CIDRAP News that ending the moratorium is “premature and irresponsible.” He added that the substantive issues and context haven’t changed much over the past year.”No independent risk-benefit assessment has been performed, and no independent decision has been reached that risks are outweighed by benefits. Not in the US. Not overseas,” Ebright said in an e-mail, noting that efforts to implement the risk-benefit process are at the proposal state in the United States and in even earlier stages overseas.He wrote that the WHO and NIH meetings that discussed the issues last year were dominated by handpicked panelists and featured scientists and funders who were involved in the work and had potential conflicts of interest. “Promises by the WHO and the NIH to hold a broader discussion, analogous to the Asilomar meeting that addressed the safety of recombinant DNA technology, have not been fulfilled,” he wrote.An editorial on the moratorium’s lifting that appeared in Nature today acknowledged the lack of a formal risk-benefit assessment and alluded to the perception, justified or not, that the debate was dominated by researchers and funders and took place partially behind closed doors.”The formal, quantitative risk assessment common in the nuclear power and other industries could have helped to nail down and quantify risks, and would have informed the debate better,” the editorial stated. “One year on, an irreproachable, independent risk–benefit analysis of such research, perhaps convened by a body such as the World Health Organization (WHO), is still lacking.”However, the editorial noted that the moratorium period has yielded important fruit, such as greater scrutiny of public health benefit claims, better explanations of biosafety and biosecurity precautions, and more attention to dual-use research issues. The editorial lauded the WHO’s guidelines on H5N1 transmission research and its recommendation that labs that can’t identify and control the risks refrain from doing research on the viruses.”The lifting of the moratorium by researchers must not be seen as closure of the debate. The potential risks of the work demand exceptional precautions in any future research,” the editorial concluded.See also:Jan 23 Science letterJan 23 Nature letterJan 23 Nature editorialDec 26, 2012, CIDRAP News story “Experts differ on HHS select-agent proposal for H5N1″Dec 18, 2012, CIDRAP News story “Experts at NIH meeting say H5N1 research moratorium may end soon”
Feb 27, 2013 Firm starts trial of vaccine against staph toxin listed as bioterror agentA Maryland firm announced yesterday the launch of a phase 1 clinical trial of a vaccine to counter staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB), a potential bioterrorism agent. Integrated BioTherapeutics (IBT), based in Gaithersburg, Md., aims to enroll 28 volunteers to test the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, called STEBVax, which contains an attenuated form of SEB. The trial is sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is being conducted at the University of Maryland. SEB is one of several toxins that are released by Staphylococcus aureus and are listed as common causes of food poisoning. The company described the toxin as a “superantigen,” because it can trigger an intense inflammatory response leading to toxic shock. SEB is listed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a Category B biological agent, meaning it is moderately easy to disseminate and can cause moderate morbidity and low mortality. “SEB is a biowarfare threat to the US, and the superantigens can be critical factors affecting the outcome of Staphylococcus aureus infections,” said IBT President M. Javad Aman in a press release. He said the trial marks “the first time a vaccine for such a potent toxin is being tested in humans.”Feb 26 IBT press release Appeals court upholds Salmonella treatment for almondsA US appeals court on Feb 22 ruled that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the authority to require that California-grown almonds be treated to reduce Salmonella contamination, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The final version of the order went into effect in September 2007 after outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 sickened US and Canadian patients. The mitigation measures came from the Almond Board of California, which in 2006 recommended a mandatory treatment program that produces at least a 4-log reduction in Salmonella contamination prior to shipment, according to previous reports. However, a group of almond growers has argued that the USDA overstepped its bounds and that the chemical and heat treatments confuse consumers who want to buy unprocessed almonds. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower-court decision and said that the growers waived their claims by not raising them during rulemaking.Feb 22 US Court of Appeals decisionMar 30, 2007, Federal Register notice Study reports drug-resistant-bacteria carriage for more than 1 yearCarbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) remained in patients’ bodies more than a year after hospital discharge, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Israeli researchers analyzed follow-up cultures from the rectal swabs of 97 CRE-positive patients who had been discharged from a Jerusalem hospital in 2009 and 2010. The mean time for cultures to come back negative was 387 days (95% confidence interval, 312-463). At 3 months, 78% of patients remained culture positive. This number dropped to 65% at 6 months, 51% at 9 months, and 39% at 1 year. Those whose cultures remained positive could transmit CRE to others, according to a news release today from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), which publishes the journal. The authors note that those with multiple hospitalizations and those with clinical disease were more likely to carry CRE longer. They recommend that such patients “be admitted under conditions of isolation and cohorting until proven to be CRE-negative.”March Am J Infect Dis abstractFeb 27 APIC news release