A National Research Council expert panel is urging scientists to pursue new, reliable methods for distinguishing biological attacks from other outbreaks.
“In the event of a suspected biological attack, leaders would have questions about the identity and source of the biological threat,” says a report released on Friday by the influential federal advisory body. “Forensic science can help answer these questions, and it is essential that the answers be reliable.”
“Microbial forensics” is still a young field, though, and any effort to develop reliable analytical techniques may depend on new gene-sequencing technologies to assess vast numbers of microorganisms in advance, according to the authors.
“Until recently there have been few systematic efforts to collect and describe the microbes living in soil, seawater, freshwater lakes and streams, on plants, and even commensally in the guts or other surfaces of humans and other animals,” they wrote in the report.
The panel said that such “baseline” knowledge may prove crucial to determining whether viruses or bacteria in a disease outbreak are significantly different from what is normal for their environment. That information, in turn, could aid in assessing “whether the presence of that pathogen is natural or the result of a deliberate or inadvertent release,” according to the report.
The authors warned, though, that collecting such “metagenomic” data would require a major global effort.
“Formal international scientific collaborations will need to be created to ensure that technological resources are accessible to all nations, including developing countries that currently lack such resources, and that funding can be leveraged better,” the findings state. “This is a high-priority need for the research and funding agendas both inside and outside the United States that requires a coordinated effort on an international scale.”
The National Research Council expert panel prepared its findings in consultation with the British Royal Society, the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts and the International Union of Microbiological Societies.
What We're Following See More »
"Four Iranian ships made reckless maneuvers close to a U.S. warship this week, the Pentagon said Thursday, in an incident that officials said could have led to dangerous escalation." The four Iranian vessels engaged in a "high-speed intercept" of a U.S. destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz. A Navy spokesman said the Iranina actions "created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures" by the destroyer.
Amid public outcry and the threat of investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mylan has agreed to effectively drop the price of EpiPens. "The company, which did not lower the drug's list price, said it would reduce the patient cost of EpiPen through the use of a savings card, which will cover up to $300 of EpiPen 2-Pak."
Nigel Farage, who led the Brexit effort in the United Kingdom, appeared at a Trump rally in Mississippi yesterday. Farage told the 15,000-strong crowd: "Remember, anything is possible if enough decent people are prepared to stand up against the establishment."
Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”
Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.