During 1940s, penicillin, the first commercially available antibiotic, was hailed as a “wonder drug.” Penicillin helped make WWII the first American war where infection was not the major cause of death. But by the 1950s, antibiotic resistance became widespread. Scientists were engaged in a veritable arms race, constantly modifying and developing new classes of antibiotics [...]
The New York Times reported today on the emergence of Cassava Brown Streak Virus in regions of Africa where the tuber is a key food crop. Emphasizing the food’s importance, the Times notes:
“After rice and wheat, cassava is the world’s third-largest source of calories. Under many names, including manioc, tapioca and yuca, it is eaten by 800 million people in Africa, South America and Asia.”
The new virus, a recently characterized emerging variant in East Africa, renders the crop inedible. The estimated $50 million in research funding aimed at deterring the disease is a small fraction of the amounts spent on diseases that infect humans in the developing world.
Representatives from industry, NGO’s and the government gathered to discuss ways to manage biological threats at the second day of the 2010 Biosecurity convention. The session focused on the coordination that would be required to respond to biological incidents.
The final biosecurity panel of the day was an extended Q&A session with a panel of seven participants from the US government and industry. The panel discussed countermeasures to biological threats, and offered an interesting contrast between where the two sides agreed and differed on the issues.
The third session of the BIO biosecurity conference focused on agricultural biosecurity. If it sometimes seems difficult to defend major population centers against attack, that challenge is only magnified when considering the geographic scale, and economic importance, of the food supply.
In an era of increased globalization, public health and surveillance are playing an increased role in biosecurity. Whether novel pathogens are intentionally created bioweapons or naturally occurring emerging infectious diseases, recognizing the threat is a necessary prerequisite to countering it. This panel brings together representatives from Federal public health agencies, industry researchers, and representatives of NGO’s.
The BIO Biosecurity conference is underway, with an opening session featuring a number of senior Obama Administration officials. This event marks perhaps the highest profile Industry-sponsored look at biosecurity issues, and the Administration appears to be committed to making sure that the discussion gets off to a productive start.
A report in PLOS Pathogens last week has produced new details about an unusually virulent fungal infection caused by Cryptococcus gattii, which has emerged recently in the Northwest US and Canada.