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Avian flu experiment raises bioterror concerns

Paul Tinder, Bio Prep Watch, December 20, 2011 Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist and an expert on the avian flu, has come under scrutiny due to concerns that his research may fall into the wrong hands.
Kawaoka is an eminent professor of virology at the School of Veterinary Medicine who has done research on the avian bird flu, also known as H5N1. The scrutiny on Kawaoka came after he created a contagion virus in his lab as part of his research, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports. The research on the virus was compared to the work done by Ron Fouchier, a Dutch scientist of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands ... Avian

Bioterror security at risk

Mike M. Ahlers, CNN, December 20, 2011 Recent and proposed budget cuts at all levels of government are threatening to reverse the significant post-9/11 improvements in the nation's ability to respond to natural diseases and bioterror attacks, according to a report released Tuesday. "We're seeing a decade's worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, which published the report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Budget cuts already have forced state and local health departments to cut thousands of health officials, the report says. ... Bioterror

The Erosion of US Emergency Preparedness

Jeffrey Levi, Huffington Post, December 20, 2011 Since September 11 and anthrax, we've released the "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism" in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Over the past ten years, the report has documented how preparedness had been on an upward trajectory. While there were serious ongoing gaps, the progress in upgrading the system has been dramatic, as noted in past issues of "Ready or Not?" Unfortunately, the economic crisis has changed the story. Now, we're seeing a decade's worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes. ... The

Do You Think The Boston University Biolab Is Safe For The South End?

A successful report from the National Institute Of Health has brought the University one step closer to studying Ebola and other highly lethal viruses at its center in the South End, but do South End neighbors support this? Kasey Hariman, South End Patch, December 20, 2011 Do you think the BU Biolab is safe for the South End? The lab, also called the The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, or NEIDL, intends to become a Level 4 Biolab ... Do

February public hearing set on Boston University’s South End bio lab

Kay Lazar, Boston Globe, December 19, 2011 Circle the calendar. Federal regulators have scheduled a February 16 hearing in Roxbury for the public to comment on the latest safety report, known as a risk assessment, on Boston University’s controversial high-security research laboratory. The meeting is slated for Hibernian Hall, on Dudley Street, but no time has yet been announced. The National Institutes of Health, which is conducting the hearing, said in a posting on its website today that it will provide further details soon. ... February

Small victory for the Biolab

Level 2 research approved for controversial laboratory. Kate Vander Wiede, South End News, December 8, 2011 On Friday, December 2, Boston University was granted permission to begin some research within the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL, or the Biolab). "I find that the Wavier Request for [biosafety level 2] laboratory use has merit," wrote Richard J. Sullivan Jr., Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (MEOEEA) secretary, in his decision. Sullivan is allowing BU to start what is called "level 2 research," (or BSL-2) in the building, noting that continuing to bar the research ... Small

Massachusetts gives BU biolab preliminary approval to operate

Chelsea Diana, Boston University Daily Free Press, December 5, 2011 After nine years shrouded by controversy and lawsuits, state officials have granted preliminary approval for Boston University to open its biosafety laboratory in Roxbury for lower-level research. The “utilization of BSL-2 laboratory research space would result in an undue hardship for the proponent and would not serve to avoid or minimize Danger to the Environment,” according to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs report, dated December 2. ... Massachusetts

BU biolab gains preliminary OK to open

Kay Lazar, Boston Globe December 5, 2011 Massachusetts environmental officials have granted preliminary approval to allow a controversial Boston University laboratory to open for biomedical research on substances less hazardous than those that sparked opposition to the project. In its decision, the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said that requiring the BU lab to wait until a pending final safety review is completed “would result in an undue hardship for the proponent and would not serve to avoid or minimize damage to the environment.” ... BU

Dangerous Acquaintances

Edward J. Sylvester & Lynn C. Klotz, Huffington Post, November 27, 2011 Experiments to make some of the world's deadliest viruses more contagious to humans or to learn the secrets of those that already are contagious surge to the top of the news and slip downward with regularity. Now they are up again. This time it is work with the H5N1 avian flu virus, in particular a strain that is among the deadliest we face - it kills close to 60% of its victims. To put this in context, the notorious 1918 flu pandemic killed 40 million to 50 million people worldwide with a different flu virus called H1N1, lethal to only about 2% of those infected. ... Dangerous

Scientists Brace for Media Storm Around Controversial Flu Studies

Martin Enserink, Science, November 23, 2011 Rotterdam - Locked up in the bowels of the medical faculty building here and accessible to only a handful of scientists lies a man-made flu virus that could change world history if it were ever set free. The virus is an H5N1 avian influenza strain that has been genetically altered and is now easily transmissible between ferrets, the animals that most closely mimic the human response to flu. Scientists believe it's likely that the pathogen, if it emerged in nature or were released, would trigger an influenza pandemic, quite possibly with many millions of deaths. ... Scientists

‘American Anthrax’ by Jeanne Guillemin

Anthrax attacks rehash favors chronology over complexities. Suzanne Koven, Boston Globe, September 12, 2011 In the days after 9/11 Americans suffered from a collective post-traumatic stress disorder. Every loud noise, stray backpack and tense-appearing stranger made us uneasy. Who knew when or how the next threatened strike would hit? Within a month, it seemed that even our most nightmarish fears would be realized. Bacillus anthracis or anthrax, a bacteria occurring naturally in livestock and used in biological warfare, including by the Japanese against the Chinese in World War II, began killing and injuring citizens ... AmericaAnthrax attacks rehash favors chronology over complexities.
Suzanne Koven, Boston Globe, September 12, 2011

How US Learned the Wrong Health Lessons From 9/11

Brandon Keim, Wired, September 9, 2011 In the fall of 2001, the United States was confronted by two major public health challenges: the anthrax mailings and threat of a biological attack, and the subtler but ultimately more harmful plume of toxic dust that that rose from Ground Zero. The country was prepared for neither. In the months and years that followed, bioterror proved to be the easier threat to confront, or at least to spend money on. The plume’s damage was harder to address, not least because government officials prematurely insisted on its safety. In both cases, one theme is universal: The wrong decisions were made, and lessons have been incompletely learned. ... How

The Science of Contagion

Why You Should Be Scared of Hollywood's Latest Pandemic Thriller. Bryan Walsh, Time, September 8, 2011 The virus begins in a bat, before spreading to domesticated pigs in an industrial pork farm built on recently cleared forestland. After a few invisible mutations, the virus jumps to a chef in the Chinese city of Macau, who was probably infected when blood from a sick pig he was preparing slipped into a cut on his fingers. From there it spreads to a group of unlucky victims who come into contact with the chef: an American woman on business in Macau, a Hong Kong waiter, a Japanese salaryman. They sicken and die, but not before seeding new outbreaks ... The

Plaintiffs outraged to learn that BU’s waiver request seeks to bypass State’s MEPA review

Roxbury Safety Net & STOP the BU Bio-Terror Lab Coalition, August 25, 2011

At BU’s invitation, plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the BU Bio-Terror Lab and their counsel met yesterday with representatives of BU and their attorneys to hear details of BU's proposed waiver request. In their August 12 press release, BU stated that, if granted, the waiver would enable them to operate the level 1 and 2 labs and to begin the permitting process for the Level 3 lab. Though BU claims the Risk Assessment will be “reviewed and considered” for the level 3 labs, what we learned yesterday is that BU intends to circumvent the requirement that the state review the Risk Assessment of the level 3 labs.

Research deciphers Ebola’s methods

Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe, August 25, 2011 Two teams of local scientists revealed new insights yesterday into how Ebola, the deadly virus that riveted readers in “The Hot Zone,’’ infects cells - and how to potentially stop the virus altogether. Using different techniques, one group led by scientists from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge and another led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers found that a protein that ordinarily is involved in the transport of cholesterol is essential for infection to occur. Researchers took cells from patients with a rare, genetic disease ... Research

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