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For The Record  

FTR #585 Update on Biological Warfare and Lyme Disease

Record­ed Feb­ru­ary 11, 2007
MP3 Side 1 | Side 2
REALAUDIO

Intro­duc­tion: Con­tin­u­ing the inquiry under­tak­en in FTR 480, this pro­gram explores the rela­tion­ship between Lyme dis­ease and bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. After review­ing Amer­i­can employ­ment of Nazi bio­log­i­cal war­fare chief Erich Traub in the after­math of World War II, the broad­cast notes that Traub may well have exper­i­ment­ed with dis­ease-infect­ed ticks on Plum Island. Cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests that Lyme dis­ease may have stemmed (acci­den­tal­ly or delib­er­ate­ly) from bio­log­i­cal war­fare research exper­i­ments on Plum Island. At every turn, Lyme dis­ease research is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. Divid­ed into the “Steere” and “ILADS” camps, the Lyme dis­ease research com­mu­ni­ty is split between the view that the dis­ease is “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure” and the dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed view that the dis­ease is very seri­ous and pro­duces long-term neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der. The Steere camp dimin­ish­es the sig­nif­i­cance of the dis­ease and is close­ly iden­ti­fied with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research. At the epi­cen­ter of Lyme dis­ease research (and the Steere camp) are mem­bers of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, or EIS. EIS per­son­nel are to be found at every bend in the road of Lyme dis­ease research.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The dis­cov­ery by Willy Burgdor­fer of the microbe that caus­es Lyme dis­ease; Burgdorfer’s work as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare (BW) researcher; Burgdorfer’s work on Lyme dis­ease con­duct­ed in con­cert with BW researchers Jorge Benach and Alan Bar­bour; the appoint­ment of BW researchers Edward McSwee­gan and Mark Klemp­n­er to head up offi­cial research into Lyme dis­ease; the “acci­den­tal” clas­si­fi­ca­tion of Lyme dis­ease as a poten­tial bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon by both the NIH and the CDC; the Pentagon’s use of a real-time satel­lite sys­tem that enables troops in the field to assess the threat of Lyme-infect­ed ticks in their area; the fact that Lyme dis­ease sheds its out­er coat in such a way as to be resis­tant to antibi­otics; the dif­fi­cul­ty in diag­nos­ing Lyme dis­ease; the des­ig­na­tion of Lyme dis­ease as a “sen­tinel” ail­ment to aid in the detec­tion of bio­log­i­cal war­fare agents.

1. Side “A” of the broad­cast con­sists of review of infor­ma­tion from FTR 480. High­light­ing an aspect of Project Paper­clip (the impor­ta­tion of Nazi sci­en­tists to work for the U.S. after World War II), the pro­gram details the work of Erich Traub. In charge of bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal and viro­log­i­cal war­fare research for the Third Reich, he went to work for the U.S. after the con­flict. Cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests he may have con­duct­ed bio­log­i­cal war­fare research on tick-borne dis­eases on, among oth­er places, Plum Island, off the coast of Long Island. FTR 480 presents infor­ma­tion sug­gest­ing that the spread of Lyme dis­ease in this coun­try may have orig­i­nat­ed from Plum Island BW tests.

2. The sec­ond half of the pro­gram sets forth a thought-pro­vok­ing paper about the ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence of bio­log­i­cal war­fare spe­cial­ists in the Lyme dis­ease research com­mu­ni­ty. By the same token, the his­to­ry of Lyme dis­ease research is asso­ci­at­ed with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research at vir­tu­al­ly every turn. Lyme research is con­trolled by the Steere Camp, whose mem­bers are inex­tri­ca­bly linked to the bio­log­i­cal war­fare research com­mu­ni­ty in this coun­try. The oppos­ing camp-the ILADS—contends that Lyme dis­ease is a seri­ous ail­ment that pro­duces pro­longed neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms. The Steere Camp main­tains that Lyme is “hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure.” “The world of Lyme dis­ease med­i­cine is split into two camps – the US gov­ern­ment-backed ‘Steere camp’, which main­tains the dis­ease is hard-to-catch, eas­i­ly cured, and rarely caus­es chron­ic neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age, and the ‘ILADS camp’, which main­tains the oppo­site. The Steere camp is intri­cate­ly bound up with the Amer­i­can biowar­fare estab­lish­ment, as well as with giant insur­ance and oth­er cor­po­rate inter­ests with a stake in the issue. The ILADS doc­tors lack such con­nec­tions, but are sup­port­ed instead by tens of thou­sands of patients ral­ly­ing behind them. Because the Steere camp has been mas­sive­ly fund­ed and pro­mot­ed by fed­er­al agen­cies, its view has dom­i­nat­ed Lyme med­i­cine not just in the US, but across much of the world. The result has been suf­fer­ing on a grand scale. Below is a con­cise his­to­ry of the mil­i­tary aspects of this cov­er-up.”
(“His­to­ry of Lyme dis­ease as a Bioweapon: Lyme is a Biowar­fare Issue” by Ele­na Cook.)

3. The Bor­re­lia genus has long been researched as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare vec­tor. Note that Unit 731 per­son­nel and their files were put to work for the Unit­ed States after World War II, much like the Project Paper­clip sci­en­tists from Ger­many. “ . . . The Bor­re­lia genus of bac­te­ria, which encom­pass­es the Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri species-group (to which Lyme dis­ease is attrib­uted), was stud­ied by the infa­mous WW2 Japan­ese biowar Unit 731, who car­ried out hor­rif­ic exper­i­ments on pris­on­ers in Manchuria, includ­ing dis­sec­tion of live human beings. [iii] Unit 731 also worked on a num­ber of oth­er tick-borne pathogens. After the war, the butch­ers of Unit 731 were shield­ed from pros­e­cu­tion by the US author­i­ties, who want­ed their exper­tise for the Cold War. [iv] The US gov­ern­ment also pro­tect­ed and recruit­ed Ger­man Nazi bioweaponeers under the aegis of the top-secret Oper­a­tion Paper­clip. . . .” (Idem.)

4. The extra­or­di­nary muta­bil­i­ty of bor­re­lia bac­te­ria makes that genus espe­cial­ly well-suit­ed for bio­log­i­cal war­fare pur­pos­es. “ . . . bor­re­lia were known for their abil­i­ty to adopt dif­fer­ent forms under con­di­tions of stress (such as expo­sure to antibi­otics). Shed­ding their out­er wall, (which is the tar­get of peni­cillin and relat­ed drugs), they could ward off attack and con­tin­ue to exist in the body. Lyme dis­ease is not usu­al­ly fatal, and it is some­times argued that, with rapid­ly lethal agents like small­pox and plague avail­able, an army would have no inter­est in it. How­ev­er, what is impor­tant to under­stand here is that inca­pac­i­tat­ing or ‘non-lethal’ bioweapons are a major part of biowar­fare R&D [vi], and have been for decades. . . . Mil­i­tary strate­gists under­stand that dis­abling an enemy’s sol­diers can some­times cause more dam­age than killing them, as large amount of resources are then tied up in car­ing for the casu­al­ties. An effi­cient inca­pac­i­tat­ing weapon dis­persed over a civil­ian pop­u­la­tion could destroy a country’s econ­o­my and infra­struc­ture with­out fir­ing a shot. Peo­ple would either be too sick to work, or too busy look­ing after those who were.” (Idem.)

5. Research into Lyme dis­ease has been dom­i­nat­ed by per­son­nel from the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, whose mem­bers are the pre­mier bio­log­i­cal war­fare experts in the coun­try. The EIS per­son­nel make up the Steere Camp. EIS per­son­nel admin­is­tered Lyme dis­ease research from the begin­ning: “ . . . When Pol­ly Mur­ray made her now-famous call to the Con­necti­cut health depart­ment to report the strange epi­dem­ic among chil­dren and adults in her town, her ini­tial recep­tion was luke­warm. How­ev­er, some weeks lat­er, she got an unex­pect­ed call from a Dr David Sny­d­man, of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice (EIS), who was very inter­est­ed. He arranged for fel­low EIS offi­cer Dr Allen Steere to get involved. By the time Mrs. Mur­ray turned up for her appoint­ment at Yale, the doc­tor she had expect­ed to see had been rel­e­gat­ed to the role of an onlook­er. Allen Steere had tak­en charge – and his views were to shape the course of Lyme med­i­cine for the next thir­ty years, up till today. [x]” (Idem.)

6. More about the EIS and its impor­tance to the inter­na­tion­al bio­log­i­cal war­fare research com­mu­ni­ty: “The EIS is an elite, qua­si-mil­i­tary unit of Infec­tious Dis­ease experts set up in the 1950’s to devel­op an offen­sive biowar­fare capa­bil­i­ty. Despite the ban­ning of offen­sive biowar in the 1970’s, the crack troops of the EIS con­tin­ue to exist, osten­si­bly for non-offen­sive research into ‘emerg­ing dis­ease’ threats, a blan­ket phrase cov­er­ing both bioweapon attacks and nat­ur­al epi­demics at the same time. Grad­u­ates of the EIS train­ing pro­gram are sent in to occu­py strate­gic posi­tions in the US health infra­struc­ture, tak­ing lead­er­ship at fed­er­al and state health agen­cies, in acad­e­mia, indus­try and the media. The orga­ni­za­tion also extends its influ­ence abroad, train­ing offi­cers for pub­lic health agen­cies in Britain, France, the Nether­lands etc. [xi] [xii]” (Idem.)

7. “In fact a high pro­por­tion of Steere camp Lyme experts are involved with the EIS. Giv­en that the EIS is a small, elite force, (in 2001 the CDC revealed there were less than 2500 EIS offi­cers in exis­tence since the unit was first cre­at­ed in 1951 [xiii]), it seems incred­i­ble that so many of America’s top Infec­tious Dis­ease experts would devote their careers to what they them­selves claim is a ‘hard-to-catch, eas­i­ly-cured’ dis­ease. . . .” (Idem.)

8. The dis­cov­er­er of the micro-organ­ism that caus­es Lyme was a bio­log­i­cal war­fare expert—Willy Burgdor­fer. Two of the peo­ple with whom Burgdor­fer worked in the ear­ly phas­es of Lyme research (Jorge Benach and Alan Bar­bour) were also BW [bio­log­i­cal war­fare] spe­cial­ists. “ . . . The microbe was acci­den­tal­ly found by biowar­fare sci­en­tist Willy Burgdor­fer and was sub­se­quent­ly named for him. [Empha­sis added.] Burgdor­fer has cham­pi­oned the Lyme patients’ move­ment and is not sus­pect­ed of any wrong­do­ing. How­ev­er it is not impos­si­ble that he was unwit­ting­ly caught up in a chain of events that were not as ran­dom as they might have seemed. [Burgdor­fer was a Swiss sci­en­tist who had been recruit­ed by the US Pub­lic Health Ser­vice in the 1950’s. He was high­ly expe­ri­enced with both ticks and bor­re­lia, but after being told that the gov­ern­ment was not inter­est­ed in fund­ing work with the lat­ter, he switched to work with Rick­ettsia and oth­er pathogens. [xiv] In 1981, Burgdor­fer was sent a batch of deer ticks by a team study­ing Rocky Moun­tain Spot­ted Fever on the East Coast. In charge of the team was one Dr Jorge Benach. [xv] Benach sub­se­quent­ly spent much of his career as a Steere camp Lyme researcher. In 2004 he was cho­sen as recip­i­ent for a $3 mil­lion biowar­fare research grant. [xvi] [Empha­sis added.] Cut­ting open some of Benach’ ticks, Burgdor­fer noticed micro­fi­lar­ia (micro­scop­ic worm young). This was a sub­ject he had been study­ing recent­ly, only these micro­fi­lar­ia were dif­fer­ent. They were excep­tion­al­ly large, large enough to be seen with the naked eye.[xvii] His curios­i­ty nat­u­ral­ly piqued, he opened up sev­er­al more ticks. There he was sur­prised to find the spi­ral-shaped germs of bor­re­lia. Cul­ti­va­tion is nec­es­sary in order to iso­late bac­te­ria for study, so that diag­nos­tic tests, vac­cines or cures can be devel­oped. Bor­re­lia are very dif­fi­cult to grow in cul­ture. How­ev­er, by ‘lucky coin­ci­dence’, anoth­er sci­en­tist had recent­ly joined the lab where he worked, and had appar­ent­ly been involved in an amaz­ing break­through in this area. So nat­u­ral­ly Burgdor­fer hand­ed the infect­ed ticks over to him. [xvi­ii] That sci­en­tist was Dr. Alan Bar­bour, an offi­cer, like Steere and Sny­d­man, of the Epi­dem­ic Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, with a back­ground in work on anthrax, one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing biowar­fare agents known. [xix] [Empha­sis added.]” (Idem.)

9. Set­ting the tem­plate for future Lyme research, EIS researcher Alan Barbour’s work on bor­re­lia deter­mined the nature of sub­se­quent Lyjme dis­ease test­ing. Bar­bour has gone on to the top posi­tion in a bio­log­i­cal war­fare research facil­i­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine, where he is work­ing with anoth­er “Steerite,” Jonas Bunikis. “. . . EIS man Bar­bour there­fore became the first to iso­late the pro­to­type organ­ism on which all sub­se­quent Lyme dis­ease blood tests would be based. [xx] This is very sig­nif­i­cant, as a huge body of evi­dence [xxi] indi­cates the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of these tests, which are rou­tine­ly used to rule out the dis­ease. Addi­tion­al­ly, all DNA detec­tion of the Lyme agent in ticks and ani­mals is ulti­mate­ly based, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, on the genet­ic pro­file of the strain first iso­lat­ed by Bar­bour. Short­ly after Barbour’s dis­cov­ery, oth­er species and strains of the Lyme-caus­ing bac­te­ria were iso­lat­ed, espe­cial­ly in Europe. They were all clas­si­fied based on their resem­blance to Barbour’s organ­ism, and have been grouped into a cat­e­go­ry called Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri sen­su lato or ‘Bbsl’ for short. . . . In 2005 Bar­bour, who spent much of his career study­ing the ‘hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure’ Lyme dis­ease, was placed in charge of the mul­ti-mil­lion new biowar­fare mega-com­plex based at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine (UCI). [xxiv] Bar­bour is joined there by his close col­league and fel­low Steerite Jonas Bunikis, author of recent papers call­ing for a restric­tive approach to Lyme diag­no­sis. [Empha­sis added.]” (Idem.)

10. Edward McSwee­gan and Mark Klemp­n­er are two of the oth­er BW experts to enter the Lyme dis­ease research field. “ . . . The Nation­al Insti­tute of Health (NIH) appoint­ed biowar­fare expert Edward McSwee­gan as Lyme Pro­gram offi­cer. [xxv] [Empha­sis added.] Under his lead­er­ship the diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria was skewed to exclude most suf­fer­ers, espe­cial­ly those with chron­ic neu­ro­log­i­cal ill­ness. McSweegan’s suc­ces­sor at NIH, Dr Phil Bak­er, is an anthrax expert [xxvi], and has con­tin­ued his poli­cies. . . . In 2001, respond­ing to the protest of thou­sands of patients that stan­dard two or three-week antibi­ot­ic cours­es were not suf­fi­cient, the NIH com­mis­sioned biowar­fare sci­en­tist Mark Klemp­n­er to study per­sis­tence of Lyme infec­tion. [Empha­sis added.] ILADS doc­tors had found that patients left untreat­ed in the ear­ly phase often need­ed long cours­es of antibi­otics, [xxix] some­times for years. Klemp­n­er, how­ev­er, con­clud­ed that per­sis­tent Lyme infec­tion did not exist. In 2003 Klemp­n­er was appoint­ed head of the new $1.6 bil­lion biowar­fare top-secu­ri­ty facil­i­ty being devel­oped at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. Short­ly after, the news emerged that there had been an escape of the dead­ly bug tularemia, which was not prop­er­ly report­ed to the author­i­ties. [xxx] . . .” (Idem.)

11. Both the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health and the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol “acci­den­tal­ly” list­ed Lyme as a poten­tial bioter­ror­ism vec­tor. “In 2005 the author dis­cov­ered a doc­u­ment on the NIH web­site list­ing Lyme as one of the poten­tial bioter­ror­ism agents stud­ied in BSL‑4 (top secu­ri­ty) labs. After this was pub­li­cized, the NIH announced they had made a ‘mis­take’, and removed the words ‘Lyme dis­ease’ from the page. (At the time of writ­ing, the orig­i­nal is still avail­able in cached Inter­net archives. [xxxi]) How­ev­er, at around the same time, a CDC source leaked the iden­ti­cal infor­ma­tion to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press. [xxxii] More­over, the Sci­ence Coali­tion, com­pris­ing enti­ties as pres­ti­gious as the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Amer­i­can Red Cross, main­tain a web­site which, at the time of writ­ing, also lists Lyme as a dis­ease stud­ied for its biowar­fare poten­tial. [xxxi­ii] Could these three major orga­ni­za­tions all have, co-inci­den­tal­ly, made the same ‘mis­take’? . . .” (Idem.)

12. Sup­ple­ment­ing infor­ma­tion in para­graph 4, the pro­gram notes that the Lyme dis­ease is dif­fi­cult to diag­nose, anoth­er fac­tor that makes it ide­al for BW use. “ . . . Lyme’s abil­i­ty to evade detec­tion on rou­tine med­ical tests, its myr­i­ad pre­sen­ta­tions which can baf­fle doc­tors by mim­ic­k­ing 100 dif­fer­ent dis­eases, its amaz­ing abil­i­ties to evade the immune sys­tem and antibi­ot­ic treat­ment, would make it an attrac­tive choice to bioweaponeers look­ing for an inca­pac­i­tat­ing agent. Lyme’s abil­i­ties as ‘the great imi­ta­tor’ might mean that an attack could be mis­in­ter­pret­ed as sim­ply a rise in the inci­dence of dif­fer­ent, nat­u­ral­ly-occur­ring dis­eases such as autism, MS, lupus and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome (M.E.). Borrelia’s inher­ent abil­i­ty to swap out­er sur­face pro­teins, which may also vary wide­ly from strain to strain, would make the pro­duc­tion of an effec­tive vac­cine extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. (A vac­cine devel­oped for the pub­lic by the Steere camp in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Glaxo Smithk­line was pulled from the mar­ket a few years ago amid class action law­suits [xxxvi].) Final­ly, the delay before the appear­ance of the most inca­pac­i­tat­ing symp­toms would allow plen­ty of time for an attack­er to move away from the scene, as well as pre­vent­ing peo­ple in a con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed zone from real­iz­ing they had been infect­ed and seek­ing treat­ment. Often in the ear­ly peri­od there is no rash, only vague flu-like or oth­er non-spe­cif­ic symp­toms which might be dis­missed by GP’s, or ignored by the patient. . . .” (Idem.)

13. Lyme dis­ease has been pro­posed as a “sen­tinel” germ for bio­log­i­cal war­fare detec­tion. A Depart­ment of Defense satel­lite sys­tem gives sol­diers real-time data on the pres­ence of Lyme-infect­ed ticks in their vicin­i­ty. “ . . . The 2003 pro­pos­al for a rapid-detec­tion method for biowar­fare by Dr JJ Dunn of Brookhaven Nation­al Lab seems to add fur­ther grounds for sus­pi­cion. It is based on the use of two ‘sen­tinel’ germs – plague and Lyme. [xxxvii] In 1999 Lyme patient advo­ca­cy leader Pat Smith was amazed to find, on vis­it­ing an Army base at an old biowar test­ing ground in Mary­land, that the US Dept. of Defense has devel­oped a satel­lite-linked sys­tem that enables sol­diers to read, in real-time, off a dis­play on their helmet’s visor, infor­ma­tion about the rate of Lyme-infect­ed ticks wher­ev­er they may be on earth. Unit com­man­ders could update the data­base using state-of-the-art portable PCR machines, which test for Lyme DNA in sol­diers bit­ten by ticks. [xxxvi­ii] The use of such cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy for a sup­pos­ed­ly ‘hard-to-catch, easy-to-cure’ ill­ness seems odd, to say the least! . . .”(Idem.)

14. The con­clu­sion to the essay encap­su­lates its work­ing hypoth­e­sis: “ . . . It’s pos­si­ble to see the mod­ern his­to­ry of Lyme as a string of events with an EIS mem­ber at every cru­cial node. . . .” (Idem.)

Discussion

18 comments for “FTR #585 Update on Biological Warfare and Lyme Disease”

  1. Where ‚and why cant i get a old,
    new pho­to of “erick traub”

    Posted by Dave H | October 5, 2010, 6:51 pm
  2. Just FYI, if you’re going to be work­ing any­where near Plum Island’s new replace­ment facil­i­ty in the heart of cat­tle coun­try you might want to become a germa­phobe:

    The New York Times
    Opi­o­nion­a­tor

    Breed­ing Bac­te­ria on Fac­to­ry Farms
    By MARK BITTMAN
    July 9, 2013, 7:58 pm

    The sto­ry of antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant bac­te­ria in farm ani­mals is not a sim­ple one. But here’s the pitch ver­sion: Yet anoth­er study has rein­forced the idea that keep­ing ani­mals in con­fine­ment and feed­ing them antibi­otics pro­phy­lac­ti­cal­ly breeds vari­eties of bac­te­ria that cause dis­ease in humans, dis­ease that may not read­i­ly be treat­ed by antibi­otics. Since some of these bac­te­ria can be fatal, that’s a scary com­bi­na­tion.

    Antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant bac­te­ria are bad enough, but now there are more kinds; they’re bet­ter at ward­ing off attack by antibi­otics; and they can be trans­ferred to humans by increas­ing­ly var­ied meth­ods. The sit­u­a­tion is demon­stra­bly dire.

    Two of the exam­ples high­light­ed in a Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion report are that about 10 per­cent of all chick­en breasts sold at retail are con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with a form of sal­mo­nel­la that’s resis­tant to at least one antibi­ot­ic, and near­ly half of all chick­en that’s sold is con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant campy­lobac­ter. Some of the antibi­otics in ques­tion are used to treat sick peo­ple but are also used dai­ly in rais­ing live­stock. And it seems that these live­stock, espe­cial­ly ones raised by con­tem­po­rary indus­tri­al means, are a breed­ing ground for mak­ing these and oth­er bac­te­ria more resis­tant [1] .

    Some of this resis­tance comes from overuse in humans, but there’s increas­ing evi­dence that resis­tance is being bred in ani­mals that are a) raised in con­fine­ment and b) giv­en antibi­otics rou­tine­ly. We want to know, of course, whether these bac­te­ria move from ani­mals to humans. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is one called MRSA ST398, or “live­stock-asso­ci­at­ed MRSA.” MRSA [2] is short­hand for Methi­cillin (a type of antibiotic)-resistant Staphy­lo­coc­cus aureus.

    MRSA is seri­ous [3] . Maryn McKen­na [4] , a jour­nal­ist who spe­cial­izes in these mat­ters and the author of “Super­bug,” says that “MRSA is an under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed epi­dem­ic in the U.S. — over all, that organ­ism caus­es more than 18,000 deaths and more than 365,000 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions a year — although we don’t know how much of that epi­dem­ic ‘live­stock-asso­ci­at­ed MRSA’ is respon­si­ble for.”

    The lat­est study con­cern­ing antibi­ot­ic resis­tance was pub­lished last week in the jour­nal PLoS One. It looked at live­stock work­ers in North Car­oli­na (the nation’s sec­ond biggest hog-pro­duc­ing state, after Iowa), includ­ing those in what the study’s authors called “indus­tri­al” live­stock pro­duc­tion and those on farms where the ani­mals were raised with­out antibi­otics and grown on pas­ture. In this study, the S. aureus bac­te­ria with genet­ic mark­ers most close­ly linked to live­stock were found in far greater num­bers in work­ers on the indus­tri­al farms.

    In fact, says Christo­pher Heaney, cor­re­spond­ing author of the study and assis­tant pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal health sci­ences and epi­demi­ol­o­gy at the Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health, “This study shows that these live­stock-asso­ci­at­ed strains are present among work­ers at indus­tri­al live­stock oper­a­tions and that these strains are resis­tant not just to methi­cillin, but to mul­ti­ple antibi­otics — includ­ing antibi­otics that are used to treat human infec­tions.”

    Because the study looked at work­ers and not ani­mals on the same farms, there are gaps to fill in, as Heaney freely admits. “But every­one in our study had direct or indi­rect con­tact with live­stock,” he says, “and one might expect to find sim­i­lar preva­lence of an oppor­tunis­tic pathogen like S. aureus that is linked with live­stock in both groups.

    “But we didn’t see that: we saw both a high­er preva­lence of drug resis­tance — for tetra­cy­cline and mul­tidrug resis­tance — in the indus­tri­al com­pared to the antibi­ot­ic-free group and, in the indus­tri­al group only, we saw drug-resis­tant strains with mul­ti­ple genet­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics linked to live­stock.

    “That’s remark­able; we nev­er expect­ed to see some­thing so clear at the out­set of the study.”

    A rea­son­able per­son could assume that these drug-resis­tant staph bac­te­ria are com­ing from ani­mals, since you gen­er­al­ly don’t find them in the non-live­stock-work­ing pop­u­la­tion in the Unit­ed States.

    This is anoth­er dot in a sketch that’s becom­ing clear­er. There’s evi­dence of MRSA mov­ing from pigs to humans in Iowa — where pio­neer­ing research has been done by Tara Smith at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa — and in Europe, where Jan Kluyt­mans, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist at VU Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter Ams­ter­dam, has found that “approx­i­mate­ly 40 per­cent of all new per­sons with MRSA car­ry the live­stock-asso­ci­at­ed strain, and most are relat­ed to con­tact with ani­mals. Our data on MRSA are con­vinc­ing that live­stock is now a huge reser­voir of MRSA for humans.”

    The F.D.A., which is under court order to do some­thing about the rou­tine use of antibi­otics, has come up with a lame vol­un­tary reduc­tion scheme — “Guid­ance 213,” it’s called — act­ing as if it will save its real reg­u­la­to­ry mus­cle for after this scheme flops. (Which it will — flop, that is.) Worse, despite repeat­ed promis­es that the vol­un­tary guide­lines were immi­nent, they haven’t issued even those. And now, “Guid­ance 213 is cur­rent­ly in the clear­ance process, but we can­not pre­dict a time­line on its release,” an agency spokes­woman wrote me in an e‑mail. Peri­od.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 9, 2013, 7:59 pm
  3. Any­one want to buy an island? It’s got a rare ecosys­tem. And if that does­n’t float your boat it’s also got a for­mer biowar­fare research facil­i­ty. There’s some­thing for every­one:

    No Good Rea­son To Sell Plum Island
    EDITORIAL
    The Van­ish­ing Ratio­nale for Sell­ing the Unde­vel­oped Island
    July 05, 2013|Editorial, The Hart­ford Courant

    While plans to trans­fer the ani­mal dis­ease lab­o­ra­to­ry on Plum Island to Kansas are mov­ing ahead, it’s less like­ly that sell­ing the island will help pay for the new lab­o­ra­to­ry, as Con­gress had hoped when it passed a law in 2008 call­ing for the sale.

    Con­gress prob­a­bly thought it could make a killing sell­ing the 843-acre prop­er­ty locat­ed off the North Fork of Long Island, 10 miles from the Con­necti­cut shore­line. But it now appears that much of the unde­vel­oped por­tion of the island might have to be set aside for con­ser­va­tion pur­pos­es, dimin­ish­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of off­set­ting the cost of the new lab­o­ra­to­ry, now esti­mat­ed at $1 bil­lion.

    The gov­ern­ments of Con­necti­cut and New York and envi­ron­men­tal groups in both states have opposed new devel­op­ment on the island, a rich and rare wildlife habi­tat pro­tect­ed from human intru­sion for years by the pres­ence of the secre­tive ani­mal dis­ease research that takes place there.

    The Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion, which is han­dling the sale, endors­es the sale in its envi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment. But the report states that large areas of the island might need to be con­served to pro­tect the habi­tat and scores of wildlife species, some fed­er­al­ly pro­tect­ed, that have found refuge from the heav­i­ly devel­oped shore­lines of Con­necti­cut and Long Island.

    Pro­tect­ing The Island

    How­ev­er, the final envi­ron­men­tal impact state­ment does­n’t deal with the tricky ques­tion of how such pro­tec­tion could occur. Nor does it wish to con­di­tion the sale on some legal method to pro­tect the rare ecosys­tem that has devel­oped over the 50 years that Plum Island has been sealed off from the pub­lic.

    The fed­er­al Fish & Wildlife Ser­vice, among oth­ers, has urged the GSA to estab­lish such con­di­tions ahead of the sale. The GSA has argued that it lacks the author­i­ty to set con­di­tions for the sale and devel­op­ment of the island. Those con­di­tions would have to be estab­lished and/or enforced after the sale by state and local land-use reg­u­la­tion and laws, the agency has insist­ed.

    Well, guess what? The town of Southold, N.Y., the munic­i­pal­i­ty that would assume juris­dic­tion over the island if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment sold it, has already giv­en a great deal of thought to this pend­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty.

    The town fash­ioned a zon­ing plan for Plum Island that would divide the island into two land-use dis­tricts: One, in which the cur­rent lab­o­ra­to­ry and its 50 build­ings are locat­ed, would be devot­ed to research and edu­ca­tion; the oth­er would be a con­ser­va­tion dis­trict off-lim­its to devel­op­ment.

    Don’t Sell It

    Had Con­gress not linked the trans­fer of the lab­o­ra­to­ry to the sale of Plum Island, the goals of the Southold plan could have been reached eas­i­ly and rea­son­ably.

    The town could be look­ing for­ward to recruit­ing a new employ­er, sim­i­lar in qual­i­ty to the fed­er­al lab­o­ra­to­ry with its 100 sci­en­tists.

    And the advo­cates that have been fight­ing against fur­ther devel­op­ment on east­ern Long Island would save Plum Island from the upscale real estate jug­ger­naut that has con­sumed much of the Con­necti­cut and New York shore­lines.

    In fact, there was already a suit­or in the wings will­ing to take over the unde­vel­oped por­tion and turn it into a refuge: the Fish & Wildlife Ser­vice.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2013, 2:37 pm
  4. I have no prob­lem with the gov­ern­ment encour­ag­ing a veg­e­tar­i­an diet, but I’m not sure this is the way to do it:

    Moth­er Jones
    USDA Ruf­fles Feath­ers With New Poul­try Inspec­tion Pol­i­cy

    —By Tom Philpott
    | Wed Apr. 24, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is on the verge of dra­mat­i­cal­ly scal­ing back the US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s over­sight of the nation’s largest chick­en and turkey slaughterhouses—while also allow­ing com­pa­nies to speed up their kill lines.

    Cur­rent­ly, each fac­to­ry-scale slaugh­ter­house has four USDA inspec­tors over­see­ing kill lines churn­ing out up to 140 birds every minute. Under the USDA’s new plan, a sin­gle fed­er­al inspec­tor would over­see lines killing as many as 175 birds per minute. That would mean there are three few­er inspec­tors for a pro­duc­tion line run­ning 25 per­cent faster. (The line rates at turkey slaugh­ter­hous­es are, for obvi­ous rea­sons, slow­er, but would also be sped up under the new rules).

    After the idea was float­ed last year, it was met by mas­sive push­back from food safe­ty and work­er advo­cates, who argued that the com­bi­na­tion of more speed and few­er inspec­tors would lead to dan­ger­ous con­di­tions for both con­sumers and work­ers.

    Since then, the pro­pos­al has been caught in the fed­er­al rule­mak­ing process. But on April 10, the admin­is­tra­tion released a prospec­tive USDA bud­get indi­cat­ing that the agency plans to imple­ment the new rules by Sep­tem­ber 2014. And in tes­ti­mo­ny before the House Appro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture on April 16, Vil­sack said the rules would be final­ized “very soon,” declar­ing that the plan “will allow the poul­try indus­try to con­tin­ue to be prof­itable, and allow us [the USDA] to save some mon­ey as well.”

    Indeed, accord­ing to a 2012 state­ment, the depart­ment expects to save $90 mil­lion over three years by fir­ing inspec­tors. Mean­while, the USDA cal­cu­lates that by increas­ing kill line speeds, the plan will save the poul­try indus­try more than eight times as much, or $256.6 mil­lion each year. That wind­fall would accrue main­ly to four large companies—Tyson, Pil­grim’s Pride (now most­ly owned by JBS), Pur­due, and Sander­son. Togeth­er, they slaugh­ter near­ly 60 per­cent of the chick­en con­sumed in the Unit­ed States. (Anoth­er four com­pa­nies, led by But­ter­ball, slaugh­ter 55 per­cent of turkeys.)

    The USDA insists that the new sys­tem will improve poul­try prod­uct safe­ty. In his recent tes­ti­mo­ny, Vil­sack said his depart­ment expects the new sys­tem will pre­vent “some­where between three and five thou­sand food­borne ill­ness­es” per year. Inter­est­ing­ly, Vil­sack­’s num­bers are less opti­mistic than oth­er recent claims from depart­ment offi­cials: Just a year ago, Alfred Alman­za, admin­is­tra­tor of the Food Safe­ty and Inspec­tion Ser­vice, wrote that the plan would “help pre­vent an esti­mat­ed 5,200” from get­ting sick.

    The USDA is right that poul­try prod­uct safe­ty could stand improv­ing. In an analy­sis of the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion’s lat­est tests of retail meat, Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group found that 81 per­cent of ground turkey and 39 per­cent of chick­en wings, breasts, and thighs test­ed con­tained antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant bac­te­ria.

    How would speed­ing up the kill line and remov­ing all but one inspec­tor improve this dread­ful sit­u­a­tion? Under cur­rent rules, mul­ti­ple USDA inspec­tors mon­i­tor the kill line for “vis­i­ble defects”—feces, bruis­es, blem­ish­es, blood, and the like. But the depart­ment insists that’s time poor­ly spent, focus­ing on the out­ward cos­met­ic appear­ance of the carcasses—quality con­trol issues that the USDA argues should be the slaugh­ter­house­’s respon­si­bil­i­ty. Under the new rules, com­pa­ny employ­ees would instead be in charge of visu­al­ly inspect­ing the line and remov­ing defec­tive birds. To con­trol pathogens, the poul­try plants would be allowed to con­duct “online reprocessing”—that is, dous­ing all the bird car­cass­es that pass through the line, “whether they are con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed or not,” with water laced with chlo­rine and oth­er antimi­cro­bial chem­i­cals. Beyond that, the lone USDA inspec­tor would ran­dom­ly select 20 to 80 birds per shift to test them for defects. That would rep­re­sent a tiny frac­tion of the birds processed over the course of an eight-hour shift; in a sin­gle hour, a kill line oper­at­ing at the new high speed would spit out more than 10,000 car­cass­es.

    Since the late ’90s, the USDA has been run­ning a pilot pro­gram test­ing the rules at 20 slaugh­ter­hous­es, and claims that the results have been ster­ling. But last year, Food & Water Watch used the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act to obtain six months’ worth of recent inspec­tion doc­u­ments from par­tic­i­pat­ing slaugh­ter­hous­es. The results, as I report­ed at the time, were alarm­ing, and don’t sug­gest that the fac­to­ries’ own employ­ees are effec­tive­ly inspect­ing the birds.

    Here’s Food & Water Watch:

    Com­pa­ny employ­ees miss many defects in poul­try car­cass­es. The inspec­tion cat­e­go­ry that had the high­est error rate was ‘Oth­er Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion 4’ for dress­ing defects such as feath­ers, lungs, oil glands, tra­chea and bile still on the car­cass. The aver­age error rate for this cat­e­go­ry in the chick­en slaugh­ter facil­i­ties was 64 per­cent and 87 per­cent in turkey slaugh­ter facil­i­ties. In one turkey slaugh­ter facil­i­ty, near­ly 100 per­cent of sam­ples found this cat­e­go­ry of defect.

    From March to August 2011, 90 per­cent of the defects found by the USDA inspec­tors involved “vis­i­ble fecal con­t­a­m­i­na­tion that was missed by com­pa­ny employ­ees.” Yuck.

    You don’t have to resort to FOIA to ques­tion the USDA’s claim that the new sys­tem will cut down on ill­ness­es from eat­ing poul­try: In its pub­licly avail­able 2011 eval­u­a­tion of the pilot pro­gram, the USDA found that fin­ished birds at pilot facil­i­ties were more like­ly to test pos­i­tive for sal­mo­nel­la. And 2 of the 20 pilot facilities—a Tyson fac­to­ry in Clarksville, Arkansas, and a Gold­en Rod Broil­ers one in Cull­man, Alabama—failed the USDA’s lat­est test for sal­mo­nel­la stan­dards. Accord­ing to Food & Water Watch, that 10 per­cent fail­ure rate—granted, drawn from a small sam­ple size—is high­er than the indus­try’s over­all rate.

    ...

    Mmmmmm....salmonella and feces. And chick­en. The only thing that could this dish bet­ter is some deli­cious beef pink-slime. Bet­ter yet, how about a side of feces-laden pork:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post
    USDA pilot pro­gram fails to stop con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat

    By Kim­ber­ly Kindy, Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 8

    A meat inspec­tion pro­gram that the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment plans to roll out in pork plants nation­wide has repeat­ed­ly failed to stop the pro­duc­tion of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat at Amer­i­can and for­eign plants that have already adopt­ed the approach, doc­u­ments and inter­views show.

    The pro­gram allows meat pro­duc­ers to increase the speed of pro­cess­ing lines by as much as 20 per­cent and cuts the num­ber of USDA safe­ty inspec­tors at each plant in half, replac­ing them with pri­vate inspec­tors employed by meat com­pa­nies. The approach has been used for more than a decade by five Amer­i­can hog plants under a pilot pro­gram.

    But three of these plants were among the 10 worst offend­ers in the coun­try for health and safe­ty vio­la­tions, with seri­ous laps­es that includ­ed fail­ing to remove fecal mat­ter from meat, accord­ing to a report this spring by the USDA inspec­tor gen­er­al. The plant with the worst record by far was one of the five in the pilot pro­gram.

    In these cas­es, the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat did not leave the plants because it was caught by gov­ern­ment inspec­tors once it reached the end of the pro­cess­ing line. But fed­er­al offi­cials con­sid­er this too late in the process and repeat­ed­ly cit­ed the plants for seri­ous safe­ty fail­ures.

    While the inspec­tion pro­ce­dures are still in the exper­i­men­tal stage, the USDA has allowed oth­er coun­tries to use a process deemed to be equiv­a­lent in plants pro­duc­ing red meat for export to the Unit­ed States.

    With­in the past two years, plants using the pro­ce­dures in Cana­da and Aus­tralia have expe­ri­enced a rash of prob­lems, accord­ing to inter­nal e‑mails, let­ters and oth­er doc­u­ments.

    Last fall, for exam­ple, a Cana­di­an beef-pro­cess­ing plant using the inspec­tion sys­tem had to recall 8.8 mil­lion pounds of beef and beef prod­ucts taint­ed with E. coli — about 2.5 mil­lion pounds of which went to the U.S. mar­ket. Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment safe­ty inspec­tors said the faster line speeds were part­ly respon­si­ble for the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

    And since the begin­ning of last year, 11 ship­ments of beef, mut­ton and goat meat from at least four Aus­tralian plants using the pro­ce­dures were stopped at U.S. ports because of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, which includ­ed fecal mat­ter and part­ly digest­ed food, records show. (Both fecal mat­ter and part­ly digest­ed food may con­tain con­cen­trat­ed and com­plex strains of bac­teri­um such as E. coli and lis­te­ria, which can be dead­ly.)

    Offi­cials in the Agri­cul­ture Department’s Food Safe­ty and Inspec­tion Ser­vice (FSIS) declined inter­view requests for this arti­cle. They also did not respond to writ­ten ques­tions.

    USDA offi­cials have told fed­er­al audi­tors that the agency plans to com­plete its eval­u­a­tion of the pilot pro­gram by the spring and that it hopes after that to pro­pose rules for expand­ing the inspec­tion sys­tem nation­wide.

    Dozens of chick­en plants have also been enrolled in a sim­i­lar pilot pro­gram. The USDA plans to final­ize reg­u­la­tions this year, allow­ing the pro­ce­dures to be used in all chick­en and turkey plants.

    Elis­a­beth Hagen, the USDA’s under­sec­re­tary for food safe­ty, has praised the new inspec­tion pro­ce­dures. One week before the USDA inspec­tor general’s office issued the crit­i­cal report this spring, Hagen told the Food Chem­i­cal News, a trade pub­li­ca­tion, that the pilot ini­tia­tive has pro­duced safe­ty results the depart­ment is “com­fort­able [with] and con­fi­dent in.”

    Oth­ers involved with fed­er­al inspec­tion poli­cies in pork plants are con­cerned.

    “There is a lot of con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing this pro­gram,” Patri­cia Buck, a mem­ber of the USDA’s Nation­al Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee on Meat and Poul­try Inspec­tion and co-founder of the Cen­ter for Food­borne Ill­ness Research and Pre­ven­tion, said. “We should not be putting it out there, say­ing it is okay for oth­er coun­tries to use, when it has so many flaws and when con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat is com­ing in.”

    Ori­gins of the pro­gram

    The new meat inspec­tion pro­gram dates to 1997, when the USDA announced it would allow five large hog plants to enroll in the Haz­ard Analy­sis and Crit­i­cal Con­trol Point-based Inspec­tion Mod­els Project, com­mon­ly referred to as HIMP. The plants would be able to accel­er­ate their pro­cess­ing lines and use com­pa­ny employ­ees, instead of some USDA inspec­tors, to check that the meat was safe.

    The kick­off of HIMP in the late 1990s was wel­comed as a vic­to­ry by the meat indus­try, which had pushed for decades for the changes. Meat com­pa­nies antic­i­pat­ed they would increase prof­its by mov­ing more car­cass­es through their slaugh­ter­hous­es each day while reduc­ing gov­ern­ment over­sight.

    The gov­ern­ment, for its part, expect­ed to save mil­lions of dol­lars annu­al­ly by reduc­ing its inspec­tion force, and pro­ject­ed that prices would fall for con­sumers.

    The USDA promised at the time to study the per­for­mance of the new inspec­tion pro­ce­dures adopt­ed by the hog plants in the pilot pro­gram.

    But the agency nev­er did so. The USDA inspec­tor gen­er­al report­ed this spring that, after 15 years, the depart­ment has yet to study whether the pro­gram was meet­ing its stat­ed goals of improv­ing both food safe­ty and effi­cien­cy in plants.

    In response to the crit­i­cism, the USDA said it would com­plete a study by March and then hopes to make the case for extend­ing the inspec­tion sys­tem across the nation’s 608 swine plants.

    Audi­tors from the inspec­tor general’s office found that three of the five plants in the pilot pro­gram had racked up scores of health and safe­ty vio­la­tions, many of them for prob­lems that were nev­er fixed. The report did not iden­ti­fy the five plants and said that, since no study had been done, it was dif­fi­cult to deter­mine if con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and oth­er defi­cien­cies could be attrib­uted direct­ly to the inspec­tion sys­tem.

    But the audi­tors point­ed out that the safe­ty records at the three most-trou­bled pilot plants were worse than those at hun­dreds of oth­er U.S. swine plants that con­tin­ued to oper­ate under the tra­di­tion­al sys­tem, which fea­tures slow­er pro­cess­ing speeds and about dou­ble the num­ber of gov­ern­ment inspec­tors.

    In a sep­a­rate report issued this month, the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office said it would be dif­fi­cult to rec­om­mend that the exper­i­men­tal pro­ce­dures be extend­ed across the coun­try based on the pilot pro­gram. The pilot pro­gram was too small to “pro­vide rea­son­able assur­ance that any con­clu­sions can apply more broad­ly to the uni­verse of 608 hog plants in the Unit­ed States,” the report found. More­over, it said, the USDA had not col­lect­ed com­pa­ra­ble data from pilot plants and tra­di­tion­al plants need­ed to eval­u­ate the pro­ce­dures.

    In inter­views, six USDA inspec­tors work­ing in the pilot plants raised health con­cerns. They spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they believed their jobs would be in jeop­ardy oth­er­wise.

    Sev­er­al said com­pa­ny and gov­ern­ment work­ers are yelled at, threat­ened and shunned if they try to slow down or stop the accel­er­at­ed pro­cess­ing lines or com­plain too aggres­sive­ly about inad­e­quate safe­ty checks. They also warned that the reduc­tion in the ranks of gov­ern­ment inspec­tors in the plants has com­pro­mised the safe­ty of the meat.

    “We are no longer in charge of safe­ty,” said an inspec­tor with more than 15 years of expe­ri­ence. “That’s what the pub­lic needs to know.”

    Prob­lems in for­eign plants

    In recent years, sev­er­al Amer­i­can trade part­ners have sought U.S. gov­ern­ment per­mis­sion to let their meat-pro­cess­ing plants use pro­ce­dures sim­i­lar to those in the HIMP pilot pro­gram.

    USDA audi­tors vis­it­ed plants in Cana­da, Aus­tralia and New Zealand to per­form “equiv­a­len­cy reviews” and deter­mined there were “no sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences between” the alter­na­tive inspec­tion sys­tem those three coun­tries were using and the one used in the pork pilot project, records show. Audi­tors com­pared, among oth­er things, how meat com­pa­ny inspec­tors were posi­tioned along the pro­cess­ing lines.

    In 2006, the USDA allowed three beef-pro­cess­ing plants in Cana­da that want­ed to export to the Unit­ed States to use a sys­tem that close­ly resem­bled the one used in the Amer­i­can pilot plants.k

    While there were occa­sion­al cas­es of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat being reject­ed at the U.S. bor­der, no seri­ous prob­lems sur­faced until Sep­tem­ber 2012, when both Cana­di­an and USDA offi­cials found E. coli in thou­sands of pounds of beef that were traced back to one of the three pro­cess­ing plants, which was owned by XL Foods Inc. (The plant is now owned by a sub­sidiary of JBS USA, the largest beef pro­duc­er in North Amer­i­ca. JBS did not return calls or respond to e‑mails seek­ing com­ment.)

    That con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed beef was destroyed. But more than 12,000 head of cat­tle had been slaugh­tered dur­ing the peri­od when the meat was con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, and not all the taint­ed meat was caught before it reached con­sumers.

    ...

    An omen in Aus­tralia

    Aus­tralian plants using the alter­na­tive inspec­tion pro­ce­dures began export­ing to the Unit­ed States with USDA per­mis­sion in 2008.

    Then, in the first part of last year, the USDA itself began rais­ing red flags about Aus­tralian meat after “mul­ti­ple” ship­ments of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat showed up at port-of-entry inspec­tions and were reject­ed by U.S. offi­cials, accord­ing to cor­re­spon­dence from Ronald K. Jones, assis­tant admin­is­tra­tor of the USDA’s Office of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs.

    In an ini­tial let­ter, the USDA asked Aus­tralian food-safe­ty offi­cials to pro­vide a detailed plan to improve inspec­tions in the plants, which the Aus­tralian offi­cials did in June. But in a sec­ond warn­ing let­ter from the USDA in Decem­ber, Jones said the new safe­ty mea­sures put in place over the sum­mer weren’t “effec­tive across the system”and that meat with both fecal mat­ter and part­ly digest­ed food, pro­duced at mul­ti­ple plants using the new inspec­tion sys­tem, con­tin­ued to show up at U.S. ports. Inter­nal doc­u­ments show that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ship­ments includ­ed beef, mut­ton and goat meat.

    Accord­ing to Aus­tralian e‑mail exchanges, the USDA labeled Aus­tralia “the worst per­former of all export­ing coun­tries.”

    ...

    New Zealand is the coun­try that was most recent­ly giv­en USDA approval to export meat to the Unit­ed States from plants using the alter­na­tive inspec­tion pro­ce­dures. Since per­mis­sion was grant­ed in 2011, no meat pro­duced by these plants has been reject­ed at U.S. ports because of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, accord­ing to New Zealand food-safe­ty offi­cials.

    But New Zealand gov­ern­ment inspec­tors warn that the plants are at times pro­duc­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed meat.

    Ian Baldick, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the inspec­tors union who also worked in one of the plants, said that the pro­cess­ing lines are mov­ing too quick­ly to catch taint­ed meant and that there is not prop­er over­sight by pri­vate com­pa­ny inspec­tors.

    “Tremen­dous amounts of fecal mat­ter remain on the car­cass­es,” he said. “Not small bits, but chunks.”

    The future is now. It’s just not the future you were hop­ing for.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 10, 2013, 8:58 am
  5. The USDA’s Go-Veg cam­paign is uti­liz­ing some sur­pris­ing­ly pow­er­ful and per­sua­sive mes­sag­ing:

    Feds shut Calif. chick­en plant infest­ed with cock­roach­es
    Michael Win­ter, USA TODAY 9:31 p.m. EST Jan­u­ary 8, 2014
    The Fos­ter Farms plant in Cal­i­for­nia is one of three inves­ti­gat­ed for a sal­mo­nel­la out­break nation­wide.

    Fed­er­al inspec­tors Wednes­day sus­pend­ed pro­cess­ing at a Fos­ter Farms poul­try plant in Cal­i­for­nia that is infest­ed with cock­roach­es.

    The plant is one of three in cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia being inves­ti­gat­ed for an out­break of antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant sal­mo­nel­la that has sick­ened more than 400 peo­ple nation­wide.

    In Octo­ber, the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture refused to close the plant, say­ing Fos­ter Farms had “sub­mit­ted and imple­ment­ed imme­di­ate sub­stan­tive changes to their slaugh­ter and pro­cess­ing to allow for con­tin­ued oper­a­tions.”

    Cit­ing “egre­gious insan­i­tary con­di­tions,” the USDA’s Food Safe­ty and Inspec­tion Ser­vice sus­pend­ed pro­cess­ing at the plant in Liv­ingston, near Fres­no, one of the com­pa­ny’s biggest facil­i­ties, The Ore­gon­ian news­pa­per report­ed.

    Cock­roach­es car­ry virus­es and bac­te­ria, includ­ing sal­mo­nel­la.

    USDA inspec­tors have cit­ed the Liv­ingston plant for roach­es sev­er­al times since Sep­tem­ber, the sus­pen­sion notice said.

    ...

    Hope­ful­ly that cock­roach infes­ta­tion was some­thing that just popped up last Sep­tem­ber although it prob­a­bly does­n’t mat­ter. Resis­tance is futile.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2014, 8:27 pm
  6. The FDA recent­ly increased the reg­u­la­tions on antibi­otics added to soap. Now man­u­fac­tur­ers need to prove that the antibi­ot­ic is actu­al­ly safe and more effec­tive than soap and water alone.

    This is some very good news because antibi­otics are, iron­i­cal­ly, both a vital tool in mod­ern med­i­cine and a gate­way to the unstop­pable plagues of tomor­row:

    The risk is real: ‘We have already run out of antibi­otics’ accord­ing to experts
    By Agence France-Presse
    Sun­day, Jan­u­ary 19, 2014 10:15 EST

    Humans face the very real risk of a future with­out antibi­otics, a world of plum­met­ing life expectan­cy where peo­ple die from dis­eases eas­i­ly treat­able today, sci­en­tists say.

    Experts track­ing the rise of drug resis­tance say years of health gains could be rolled back by mutat­ing microbes that make ill­ness­es more dif­fi­cult and expen­sive to cure and car­ry a high­er risk of death.

    Some say the threat to well­be­ing is on the scale of glob­al warm­ing or ter­ror­ism — yet resis­tance is being allowed to spread through an entire­ly pre­ventable means — improp­er use of antibi­otics.

    “It is a major pub­lic health prob­lem,” Patrice Cour­valin, who heads the Antibac­te­r­i­al Agents Unit of France’s Pas­teur Insti­tute, told AFP.

    “It is about more than not being able to treat a dis­ease. It will erase much progress made in the last 20–30 years.”

    With­out antibi­otics to tack­le oppor­tunis­tic bac­te­ria that pose a par­tic­u­lar risk for peo­ple who are very ill, major surgery, organ trans­plants or can­cer and leukaemia treat­ment may become impos­si­ble, he explained.

    “In some parts of the world, already we have run out of antibi­otics,” said Tim­o­thy Walsh, a pro­fes­sor of med­ical micro­bi­ol­o­gy at Cardiff Uni­ver­si­ty.

    “In places in India, Pak­istan, Bangladesh, pos­si­bly Rus­sia, South­east Asia, cen­tral South Amer­i­ca, we are at the end game. There’s noth­ing left. And unfor­tu­nate­ly there is noth­ing in the pipeline either.”

    Resis­tance to drugs emerges through changes in the bacterium’s genet­ic code — alter­ing the tar­get on its sur­face to which antibi­otics would nor­mal­ly bind, mak­ing the germ impen­e­tra­ble or allow­ing it to destroy or “spit out” the antibi­ot­ic.

    These super-germs tri­umph through Dar­win­ian pres­sure, helped by humans.

    The wrong antibi­otics, tak­en for too short a peri­od, in too low a dose or stopped to ear­ly, will fail to kill the altered microbes.

    Instead, the drugs will indis­crim­i­nate­ly dam­age oth­er bac­te­ria and give the resis­tant strain a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage — allow­ing it to dom­i­nate and spread.

    At the base of the prob­lem is doc­tors pre­scrib­ing antibi­otics wrong­ly or unnec­es­sar­i­ly, and the ease with which med­i­cines can be obtained with­out a script in some parts of the world, includ­ing Asia and Africa.

    As much as 70 per­cent of antibi­otics are giv­en for viral infec­tions, against which they are whol­ly inef­fec­tive, the experts say.

    Then there is the prob­lem of farm­ers in coun­tries like the Unit­ed States adding antibi­otics to ani­mal feed to help herds grow faster.

    Com­pound­ing all of this is the rise in glob­al trav­el — a boon for bac­te­r­i­al spread, and a sharp drop in antibi­otics devel­op­ment blamed on a lack of finan­cial incen­tives for the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try.

    A return to the pre-antibi­ot­ic era?

    The World Health Organ­i­sa­tion (WHO) says drug resis­tance “threat­ens a return to the pre-antibi­ot­ic era”.

    “Many infec­tious dis­eases risk becom­ing untreat­able or uncon­trol­lable,” it states in a fact­sheet on antimi­cro­bial resis­tance.

    A case in point: some 450 000 peo­ple devel­oped mul­ti-drug resis­tant (MDR) TB in 2012 and 170,000 died from it. MDR TB does not respond to the most potent TB drugs — iso­ni­azid and rifampin.

    Near­ly 10 per­cent of MDR cas­es are thought to be of the even dead­lier XDR (exten­sive­ly drug resis­tant) vari­ety which does not respond to a yet wider range of drugs.

    Like oth­er drug-resis­tant microbes, MDR and XDR TB can be trans­ferred direct­ly between peo­ple — you can get it even if you have nev­er tak­en antibi­otics in your life.

    “Antibi­ot­ic resis­tance is an emerg­ing dis­ease and a soci­etal prob­lem. The use you can make of an antibi­ot­ic depends on the use made by oth­ers,” said Cour­valin.

    Anoth­er wor­ry for health plan­ners today is the spread of a mul­ti-drug resis­tant strain of the bac­teri­um Kleb­siel­la pneu­mo­ni­ae — a com­mon cause of infec­tions of the uri­nary tract, res­pi­ra­to­ry tract and blood­stream, and a fre­quent source of hos­pi­tal out­breaks.

    In some parts of the world, only the car­bapen­em antibi­otics class remains effec­tive, but now signs are emerg­ing of resis­tance even to this last line of defence.

    Antibi­otics are thought to have saved hun­dreds of mil­lions of lives since Alexan­der Flem­ing first dis­cov­ered peni­cillin in 1928.

    But even Fleming’s own warn­ings of impend­ing drug resis­tance went unheed­ed, and now sci­en­tists say peo­ple may start dying from infec­tions like menin­gi­tis and sep­ti­caemia that are emi­nent­ly cur­able today.

    “If we keep going like this, the vast major­i­ty of human bac­te­r­i­al pathogens will be mul­ti-resis­tant to antibi­otics,” said Cour­valin.

    ...

    Well that’s some good news for a change. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s still an alarm­ing amount of room for addi­tion­al good news regard­ing human­i­ty’s life-threat­en­ing drug abuse prob­lems.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 19, 2014, 3:56 pm
  7. The USDA announced a new mas­sive beef recall from the Cen­tral Val­ley Meat Co. in Han­ford, CA, over unsan­i­tary con­di­tions. Han­ford is the same region that had a mad cow scare in April 2012, although the iden­ti­ty of the plant where the dis­eased cow was found has­n’t been dis­closed. Cen­tral Val­ley Meat Co. was also shut down in August 2012, after videos of ani­mals abuse were made pub­lic. This lat­est shut­down of Cen­tral Val­ley meat proces­sor is on the heals of the clos­ing of the Ran­cho Feed­ing Corp., anoth­er Cen­tral Val­ley meat pro­cess­ing plant. For­tu­nate­ly, there were no ani­mals found with mad cow from the Ran­cho Feed­ing Corp. plant. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it sounds like that’s because they were slaugh­ter­ing vis­i­bly dis­eased ani­mals with­out full inspec­tions:

    USDA clos­es school lunch sup­pli­er; some Hot Pock­ets recalled
    By Ed Payne and Chan­dler Fried­man, CNN
    updat­ed 11:08 AM EST, Wed Feb­ru­ary 19, 2014

    (CNN) — The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture has with­drawn its inspec­tors and sus­pend­ed oper­a­tions at a Cal­i­for­nia meat com­pa­ny because of “insan­i­tary con­di­tions at the estab­lish­ment,” the depart­men­t’s Food Safe­ty and Inspec­tion Ser­vice said Wednes­day.

    The Cen­tral Val­ley Meat Co. in Han­ford, Cal­i­for­nia, sup­plies beef for fed­er­al school nutri­tion pro­grams. In 2011, it pro­vid­ed near­ly 21 mil­lion pounds of beef, or near­ly 16% of the sup­ply.

    “The plan­t’s sus­pen­sion will be lift­ed once we receive ade­quate assur­ances of cor­rec­tive action,” a USDA state­ment said.

    Mean­while, Nestlé USA has issued a recall of two vari­eties of Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pock­ets because they may con­tain meat the depart­ment has already recalled.

    The two brands are Hot Pock­ets brand Philly Steak and Cheese in three dif­fer­ent pack sizes, and Hot Pock­ets brand Crois­sant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese in the two-pack box.

    For the exact batch code, please check this release.

    Ear­li­er, the USDA had recalled more than 8.7 mil­lion pounds of meat from the Ran­cho Feed­ing Corp. because it “processed dis­eased and unsound ani­mals and car­ried out these activ­i­ties with­out the ben­e­fit or full ben­e­fit of fed­er­al inspec­tion.”

    No ill­ness­es have been report­ed in rela­tion to the recall.

    Accord­ing to Nestlé, con­sumers should return the prod­ucts to the place of pur­chase for a full refund or con­tact Nestlé con­sumer ser­vices at 800–392-4057.

    In August 2012, Cen­tral Val­ley Meat was closed while the USDA inves­ti­gat­ed what it called “dis­turb­ing evi­dence of inhu­mane treat­ment of cat­tle” at the sup­pli­er fol­low­ing its receipt of a video from an ani­mal wel­fare group.

    How­ev­er, the USDA said at the time the video found noth­ing that would com­pro­mise food safe­ty.

    Cen­tral Val­ley Meat was cleared to reopen a few days lat­er after the USDA said the com­pa­ny “com­mit­ted to a num­ber of cor­rec­tive actions, includ­ing addi­tion­al humane han­dling train­ing for employ­ees and safe­guards

    Hmmm...beef seems to be going through a nat­ur­al and healthy cleans­ing process at the moment. What else is on the menu?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 19, 2014, 9:49 am
  8. Awwww...it turns out the 2011 sto­ry of the poop-steak researchers in Japan was just a hoax. Sor­ry meat-lovers, no poop steaks for you. If only you were a pig. Yep, pigs are increas­ing­ly being fed baby-big poop as a way to fend off the new porcine epi­dem­ic diar­rhea (PED) virus. Sounds mad? Well, that’s a less insane than feed­ing your bacon baby pigs:

    The New York Times
    Op-Ed
    Is That Sausage Worth This?
    Nicholas Kristoff

    FEB. 19, 2014

    Mod­ern fac­to­ry farms have so much wrong with them, but a start­ing point is the prac­tice of turn­ing pigs into can­ni­bals.

    A video, tak­en secret­ly by an under­cov­er work­er and sched­uled to be released on Thurs­day by the Humane Soci­ety of the Unit­ed States, pulls back the cur­tain on the banal bru­tal­i­ty of a huge hog oper­a­tion in Ken­tucky called Iron Maid­en Farms (which declined to com­ment). The video shows barns filled with hogs jammed so tight­ly into tiny indi­vid­ual pens that they can’t move, chew­ing for­lorn­ly on the bars that restrain them.

    It also shows work­ers gut­ting dead piglets and turn­ing their intestines into a purée that is then fed back to the moth­er pigs, or sows. This is meant to immu­nize the sows against a virus, porcine epi­dem­ic diar­rhea, or P.E.D., that has rav­aged the hog indus­try, killing mil­lions of piglets.

    Tom Burk­gren, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Swine Vet­eri­nar­i­ans, said that feed­ing the piglet intestines to sows is legal and safe but that hog farm­ers are increas­ing­ly find­ing that it’s more effec­tive sim­ply to use diar­rhea from an infect­ed ani­mal to expose sows to P.E.D.

    “From a pub­lic health stand­point, I don’t think there’s a risk there,” Burk­gren said, not­ing that P.E.D. affects only pigs. “There’s no mad pig dis­ease.”

    That’s a ref­er­ence to mad cow dis­ease, which was spread by feed­ing ground-up cows to oth­er cows. Like­wise, giant poul­try farms feed “spent hen meal,” con­sist­ing of ground-up old chick­ens, to egg-lay­ing hens.

    Whether or not there are pub­lic health risks to feed­ing pig parts to pigs, there are larg­er issues about the way we raise our food. Nine out of 10 sows in Amer­i­ca are kept in ges­ta­tion crates, accord­ing to the Nation­al Pork Pro­duc­ers Coun­cil. These are tiny stalls that are bare­ly big­ger than the pigs, who don’t even have enough room to turn around.

    They live out their adult lives with­out exer­cise or mean­ing­ful social inter­ac­tion; it’s like a life sen­tence of soli­tary con­fine­ment in a cof­fin, punc­tu­at­ed by arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion and birth. No won­der the ani­mals’ mus­cles atro­phy and they show signs of aggres­sion and stress.

    ...

    Yes, as a result of this new pig-poo feed­ing trend the US pork indus­try might actu­al­ly regain non-can­ni­bal sta­tus and all it took was a lit­tle baby pig poo (but don’t hold your breath). Still grossed out but can’t quite imag­ine giv­ing up pork? Well, don’t wor­ry. You’ll get over your pork pooara­noia even­tu­al­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 21, 2014, 9:46 am
  9. If Don­ald Trump’s grand schemes don’t nor­mal­ly leave you feel­ing a lit­tle ill this one might do the tick trick:

    News­day
    Dobie: Be wary of Don­ald Trump’s pro­pos­al to pur­chase Plum Island

    Wednes­day Octo­ber 9, 2013 10:16 AM By Michael Dobie

    So Don­ald Trump wants to buy the island where they research hoof and mouth dis­ease.

    Per­fect.

    On the face of it, his pro­pos­al to pur­chase Plum Island and build a golf course there is pre­pos­ter­ous, with eco­nom­ics that just don’t work. Which is why some observers — fig­ur­ing The Art of the Deal man must have some­thing up his impec­ca­bly tai­lored sleeve — are qui­et­ly wor­ried, and mon­i­tor­ing devel­op­ments care­ful­ly. That’s a good idea.

    Here’s the back­drop: The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is slat­ed to close its high-secu­ri­ty ani­mal test­ing lab on Plum Island and sell the island to help defray the costs of open­ing the lab’s replace­ment in Kansas in 2019. The Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion is expect­ed to put Plum Island up for sale via an online auc­tion with­in a few years.

    Trump’s plan, as pre­sent­ed to local elect­ed offi­cials, is to buy the island, take down the lab, do the required envi­ron­men­tal cleanup, and build the golf course. One of the local envi­ron­men­tal­ists (some of them also have been briefed by Trump’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives) said Trump described the course’s pro­posed club­house as “mod­est.” Trump? Since when does he do mod­est? But put that aside for a moment.

    If you’re The Don­ald, here’s what makes a pur­chase attrac­tive: It’s an island, an 840-acre island less than 2 miles off Ori­ent Point, much of it pris­tine, and how often does some­thing like that come on the mar­ket? And it most like­ly will be avail­able for a fire sale price — because of the expen­sive cleanup that will be need­ed and the con­straints of new zon­ing adopt­ed by the Town of Southold that makes build­ing almost any­thing almost impos­si­ble.

    Which brings us to the obsta­cles: The zon­ing adopt­ed recent­ly by Southold in antic­i­pa­tion of a sale does not allow for a golf course. It allows for lab­o­ra­to­ry research where the lab is and makes the rest of the island a con­ser­va­tion dis­trict. The zon­ing also bans res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment (in oth­er words, no con­dos on the no-can-do golf course). Cur­rent town offi­cials — who pre­fer that the exist­ing lab facil­i­ties be tak­en over by a biotech or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny — seem to have no inter­est in Trump’s pro­pos­al and no appetite for revis­it­ing the new zon­ing.

    And yet he is inter­est­ed. Why?

    Trump’s pitch in the face of seri­ous known obsta­cles is what’s caus­ing some of the anx­i­ety on the North Fork. Peo­ple know that town board mem­bers change, town super­vi­sors change, zon­ing board mem­bers change, cir­cum­stances change. Could his game be to buy and wait? Pur­chas­ing Plum Island would be a risk, but the buy-in could be small and the poten­tial pay­off very large.

    ...

    So what’s par for the course going to be? Oh yeah, Lyme Dis­ease.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 27, 2014, 10:04 pm
  10. When good bugs go bad:

    When harm­less bac­te­ria became flesh-eat­ing mon­sters
    New research indi­cates that one of the most vir­u­lent flesh-eat­ing bac­te­ria went rogue in 1983 after under­go­ing a series of genet­ic changes.
    By Haaretz | Apr. 21, 2014 | 1:44 PM

    Most of us have heard of flesh-eat­ing bac­te­ria, which attack healthy flesh at a fear­some rate. But few are aware that these bac­te­ria were once benign, before tak­ing a mur­der­ous turn.

    Now, sci­en­tists at the have Methodist Hos­pi­tal Research Insti­tute in Hous­ton, Texas, have tracked the evo­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry of one of the bac­te­ria and pin­point­ed pre­cise­ly when it became a mass mur­der­er, accord­ing to an arti­cle on The Con­ver­sa­tion web­site.

    The research, pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, focused on a flesh-eater called GAS, or Group A ß‑hemolytic strep­to­coc­cus, a high­ly infec­tive bac­te­ria. Apart from caus­ing flesh-eat­ing dis­ease, GAS is also respon­si­ble for a range of less harm­ful infec­tions.

    ...

    The GAS bac­te­ria first began to affect humans in the 1980s. To find out where it came from and why it turned dead­ly, Muss­er and his team ana­lyzed bac­te­r­i­al genet­ic data from across the world. A total of about 3,600 strep­to­coc­cus strains were col­lect­ed and their genomes record­ed.

    It revealed that a series of dis­tinct genet­ic events turned this bac­te­ria rogue.
    First, for­eign DNA moved into the orig­i­nal harm­less strep­to­coc­cus by hor­i­zon­tal gene trans­fer – a phe­nom­e­non that is com­mon among bac­te­ria. Such DNA is often pro­vid­ed by bac­te­rio­phages, virus­es that specif­i­cal­ly tar­get bac­te­ria.

    In the case of GAS, the for­eign DNA that was incor­po­rat­ed in the host’s genome allowed the strep­to­coc­cus cell to pro­duce two harm­ful tox­ins. A fur­ther muta­tion to one of these tox­in genes made it even more vir­u­lent.

    Then a sec­ond hor­i­zon­tal gene trans­fer pro­vid­ed an addi­tion­al set of genes, allow­ing the pathogen to pro­duce pro­teins that sup­press the immune sys­tem of those infect­ed, mak­ing the infec­tion worse. GAS became a ser­i­al killer.

    Using sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ing, Muss­er was able to date the last genet­ic change, which turned GAS into a high­ly vir­u­lent bac­te­ria, to 1983.

    “The date we deduced coin­cid­ed with numer­ous men­tions of strep­to­coc­cus epi­demics in the lit­er­a­ture,” Muss­er said.

    ...

    Lets hope GAS does­n’t start hang­ing out with MRSA. That could be one of those ‘there goes the neigh­bor­hood!’-expe­ri­ences.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 22, 2014, 2:45 pm
  11. Here’s one of those sto­ries that should have pret­ty much every­one deeply con­cerned: Ebo­la is back and stronger than ever:

    Ebo­la called ‘out of con­trol’ in West Africa
    Michael Win­ter, USA TODAY 6:30 p.m. EDT June 20, 2014

    The dead­liest-ever out­break of the Ebo­la virus has surged in West Africa after slow­ing briefly, and the pan­dem­ic is now “out of con­trol,” accord­ing to Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders.

    Near­ly 600 infec­tions and 340 Ebo­la-relat­ed deaths have been record­ed in Guinea, Sier­ra Leone and Liberia, the most since the virus was dis­cov­ered in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Con­go and Sudan almost 40 years ago, the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion said this week. There’s no cure or vac­cine for the high­ly con­ta­gious dis­ease, which has mor­tal­i­ty rate of up to 90%.

    “The real­i­ty is clear that the epi­dem­ic is now in a sec­ond wave,” Bart Janssens, the med­ical char­i­ty’s oper­a­tions direc­tor, told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press on Fri­day. “And, for me, it is total­ly out of con­trol.”

    He crit­i­cized the WHO and African gov­ern­ments for not doing more to con­tain the out­break and to thor­ough­ly trace every­one who has had con­tact with the sick or the dead.

    “There needs to be a real polit­i­cal com­mit­ment that this is a very big emer­gency,” he said. “Oth­er­wise, it will con­tin­ue to spread, and for sure it will spread to more coun­tries.”

    As of Fri­day, the WHO was not rec­om­mend­ing any trav­el or trade restric­tions to the three coun­tries.

    “We think that the sit­u­a­tion can be con­trolled with the mea­sures that are being vig­or­ous­ly imple­ment­ed,” Fran­cis Kaso­lo, the direc­tor for dis­ease pre­ven­tion and con­trol at the WHO’s region­al office in Repub­lic of Con­go, told the Ger­man broad­cast­er Deutsche Welle.

    The virus, one of the world’s most vir­u­lent, is trans­mit­ted by con­tact with the blood, flu­ids or tis­sues of infect­ed ani­mals or peo­ple. It caus­es high fever, vom­it­ing, mus­cle pain and diar­rhea, and can result in unstop­pable inter­nal bleed­ing and organ fail­ure.

    Trans­mis­sion risk is espe­cial­ly high among doc­tors, nurs­es and oth­er health care work­ers.

    ...

    “This is the high­est out­break on record and has the high­est num­ber of deaths, so this is unprece­dent­ed so far,” Armand Sprech­er, a pub­lic health spe­cial­ist with Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, told the AP.

    Sier­ra Leone has stepped up mea­sures to pre­vent and con­tain the dis­ease, the coun­try’s health min­is­ter said Thurs­day.

    In Liberia, nurs­es fear­ful over the Ebo­la death of a col­league aban­doned a hos­pi­tal in New Kru Town, forc­ing it to close. Dur­ing a sol­i­dar­i­ty vis­it to the hos­pi­tal Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Ellen John­son-Sir­leaf declared the out­break a nation­al emer­gency.

    Ok, there might be a few peo­ple that are delight­ed by this news. The usu­al sus­pects.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 20, 2014, 5:06 pm
  12. There’s news out of Kansas about a nev­er before seen tick-born virus that killed a man in 11 days in Bour­bon Coun­ty. So, in the spir­it of anti-alarmism, it’s worth point­ing out that the CDC’s new Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defense Facil­i­ty (NBAF) in near­by Man­hat­tan, Kansas (that’s due to replace the Plum Island biowar­fare research facil­i­ty) isn’t up and run­ning yet:

    Addi­tion­al $231 mil­lion approved for NBAF
    Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defense Facil­i­ty to be built near Man­hat­tan
    Post­ed: Jan­u­ary 7, 2015 — 6:32am

    By The Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    LAWRENCE — Leg­isla­tive lead­ers and Gov. Sam Brown­back have agreed to autho­rize an addi­tion­al $231 mil­lion in bonds to help finance the Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defense Facil­i­ty under con­struc­tion near Man­hat­tan, con­tin­gent on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment agree­ing the state won’t have to pay any more for the project.

    The addi­tion­al bonds will bring the state’s total invest­ment in the esti­mat­ed $1.15 bil­lion NABF project to $307 mil­lion, or 25 per­cent of the total cost, whichev­er is low­er, the Lawrence Jour­nal-World report­ed (http://bit.ly/1xPzYjF).

    Before the state pro­vides the funds, the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty must sign a let­ter agree­ing that Kansas won’t be asked to pay more and that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will fund any future cost increas­es, the State Finance Coun­cil said Tues­day.

    The new lab­o­ra­to­ry, expect­ed to be ful­ly oper­a­tional by 2022, will be used to research dan­ger­ous ani­mal-borne dis­eases. It will replace an aging research facil­i­ty at Plum Island, New York, which Home­land Secu­ri­ty intends to sell.

    ...

    The State Finance Coun­cil, which has the author­i­ty to make finan­cial deci­sions for Kansas when the Leg­is­la­ture is not in ses­sion, in Novem­ber balked at autho­riz­ing addi­tion­al bonds until Con­gress appro­pri­ates mon­ey fund­ing for its share of the project.

    Con­gress in Decem­ber approved a bill that funds the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty only through March, but it includ­ed $400 mil­lion to pay the remain­ing fed­er­al share of the cost of the facil­i­ty.

    “We’re going to put these extra funds in,” Brown­back said Tues­day. “We didn’t want to. We didn’t want the project to cost more, but we’re going to put the extra funds in. But we want to make sure this is it.”

    While $231 mil­lion isn’t exact­ly some­thing Kansas afford at the moment, at least it’s in the form of bonds and not imme­di­ate cuts from else­where in the state bud­get. That could have been alarm­ing (alarm­ing­ly typ­i­cal).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 20, 2015, 7:01 pm
  13. Just FYI, “all the key play­ers are now in place to make the post-antibi­ot­ic world a real­i­ty.”:

    BBC News
    Antibi­ot­ic resis­tance: World on cusp of ‘post-antibi­ot­ic era’

    By James Gal­lagher Health edi­tor, BBC News web­site

    19 Novem­ber 2015

    The world is on the cusp of a “post-antibi­ot­ic era”, sci­en­tists have warned after find­ing bac­te­ria resis­tant to drugs used when all oth­er treat­ments have failed.

    They iden­ti­fied bac­te­ria able to shrug off the drug of last resort — col­istin — in patients and live­stock in Chi­na.

    They said that resis­tance would spread around the world and raised the spec­tre of untreat­able infec­tions.

    It is like­ly resis­tance emerged after col­istin was overused in farm ani­mals.

    Bac­te­ria becom­ing com­plete­ly resis­tant to treat­ment — also known as the antibi­ot­ic apoc­a­lypse — could plunge med­i­cine back into the dark ages.

    Com­mon infec­tions would kill once again, while surgery and can­cer ther­a­pies, which are reliant on antibi­otics, would be under threat.

    Key play­ers

    Chi­nese sci­en­tists iden­ti­fied a new muta­tion, dubbed the MCR‑1 gene, that pre­vent­ed col­istin from killing bac­te­ria.

    The report in the Lancet Infec­tious Dis­eases showed resis­tance in a fifth of ani­mals test­ed, 15% of raw meat sam­ples and in 16 patients.

    And the resis­tance had spread between a range of bac­te­r­i­al strains and species, includ­ing E. coli, Kleb­siel­la pneu­mo­ni­ae and Pseudomonas aerug­i­nosa.

    There is also evi­dence that it has spread to Laos and Malaysia.

    Prof Tim­o­thy Walsh, who col­lab­o­rat­ed on the study, from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cardiff, told the BBC News web­site: “All the key play­ers are now in place to make the post-antibi­ot­ic world a real­i­ty.

    “If MCR‑1 becomes glob­al, which is a case of when not if, and the gene aligns itself with oth­er antibi­ot­ic resis­tance genes, which is inevitable, then we will have very like­ly reached the start of the post-antibi­ot­ic era.

    “At that point if a patient is seri­ous­ly ill, say with E. coli, then there is vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing you can do.”

    Resis­tance to col­istin has emerged before.

    How­ev­er, the cru­cial dif­fer­ence this time is the muta­tion has arisen in a way that is very eas­i­ly shared between bac­te­ria.

    “The trans­fer rate of this resis­tance gene is ridicu­lous­ly high, that does­n’t look good,” said Prof Mark Wilcox, from Leeds Teach­ing Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust.

    His hos­pi­tal is now deal­ing with mul­ti­ple cas­es “where we’re strug­gling to find an antibi­ot­ic” every month — an event he describes as being as “rare as hens’ teeth” five years ago.

    He said there was no sin­gle event that would mark the start of the antibi­ot­ic apoc­a­lypse, but it was clear “we’re los­ing the bat­tle”.

    The con­cern is that the new resis­tance gene will hook up with oth­ers plagu­ing hos­pi­tals, lead­ing to bac­te­ria resis­tant to all treat­ment — what is known as pan-resis­tance.

    Prof Wilcox told the BBC News web­site: “Do I fear we’ll get to an untreat­able organ­ism sit­u­a­tion? Ulti­mate­ly yes.

    “Whether that hap­pens this year, or next year, or the year after, it’s very hard to say.”

    Ear­ly indi­ca­tions sug­gest the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is mov­ing swift­ly to address the prob­lem.

    Prof Walsh is meet­ing both the agri­cul­tur­al and health min­istries this week­end to dis­cuss whether col­istin should be banned for agri­cul­tur­al use.

    Prof Lau­ra Pid­dock, from the cam­paign group Antibi­ot­ic Action, said the same antibi­otics “should not be used in vet­eri­nary and human med­i­cine”.

    She told the BBC News web­site: “Hope­ful­ly the post-antibi­ot­ic era is not upon us yet. How­ev­er, this is a wake-up call to the world.”

    She argued the dawn­ing of the post-antibi­ot­ic era “real­ly depends on the infec­tion, the patient and whether there are alter­na­tive treat­ment options avail­able” as com­bi­na­tions of antibi­otics may still be effec­tive.

    New drugs are in devel­op­ment, such as teixobactin, which might delay the apoc­a­lypse, but are not yet ready for med­ical use.

    ...

    So it’s look­ing like our upcom­ing bac­te­r­i­al apoc­a­lypse, which is clear­ly not going to be lim­it­ed to humans but could spread all over the ecosys­tem, was com­plete­ly pre­dictable and avoid­able:

    ...

    It is like­ly resis­tance emerged after col­istin was overused in farm ani­mals.

    ...

    Com­mon infec­tions would kill once again, while surgery and can­cer ther­a­pies, which are reliant on antibi­otics, would be under threat.

    ...

    The report in the Lancet Infec­tious Dis­eases showed resis­tance in a fifth of ani­mals test­ed, 15% of raw meat sam­ples and in 16 patients.

    ...

    Resis­tance to col­istin has emerged before.

    How­ev­er, the cru­cial dif­fer­ence this time is the muta­tion has arisen in a way that is very eas­i­ly shared between bac­te­ria.

    “The trans­fer rate of this resis­tance gene is ridicu­lous­ly high, that does­n’t look good,” said Prof Mark Wilcox, from Leeds Teach­ing Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust.

    ...

    You have to won­der how many future refugee crises of peo­ple with com­pro­mised immune sys­tems are going to be trig­gered by mass out­breaks of now-com­mon bac­te­ria mor­ph­ing into super-bugs. You also have to won­der which nations are the most like­ly to expe­ri­ence such crises giv­en the role indus­tri­al farm­ing prac­tices appears to have played in cre­at­ing this sit­u­a­tion.

    In oth­er news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 20, 2015, 9:25 am
  14. Accord­ing to a recent study out of the UK, if the world does­n’t find a way to effec­tive halt the spread of drug-resis­tant ‘super­bugs’, those crit­ters could end up killing 10 mil­lion peo­ple a year, more than killed by can­cer, by the year 2050. Hope­ful­ly that not the actu­al future we cre­ate, but as the arti­cle below makes clear, a super­bug-filled future is indeed the future we’re cur­rent­ly cre­at­ing:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    US reports first case of bac­te­ria resis­tant to antibi­ot­ic of last resort

    ‘It is the end of the road for antibi­otics unless we act urgent­ly,’ says Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion after super­bug infects Penn­syl­va­nia woman

    Thurs­day 26 May 2016 20.05 EDT

    For the first time, a US patient has been infect­ed with bac­te­ria resis­tant to an antibi­ot­ic used as a last resort, sci­en­tists said Thurs­day.

    The patient, a 49-year-old woman in Penn­syl­va­nia, has recov­ered but health offi­cials fear that if the resis­tance spreads to oth­er bac­te­ria, the coun­try may soon see superg­erms imper­vi­ous to all known antibi­otics.

    “It is the end of the road for antibi­otics unless we act urgent­ly,” Dr Tom Frieden, direc­tor of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), said in Wash­ing­ton.

    Oth­er coun­tries have already seen mul­tidrug-resis­tant super­bugs that no antibi­ot­ic can fight. So far, the US has not. But this sets the stage for that devel­op­ment, CDC offi­cials said.

    The woman had gone to a mil­i­tary clin­ic in Penn­syl­va­nia in April and was treat­ed for a uri­nary tract infec­tion. Ini­tial tests found she was infect­ed with E coli bac­te­ria, a com­mon vari­ety of germ seen in the gut that often makes its way to the blad­der.

    But the tests showed this E coli was resis­tant to antibi­otics com­mon­ly used first for such infec­tions. She was suc­cess­ful­ly treat­ed with anoth­er kind of antibi­ot­ic.

    But while she has recov­ered, fur­ther test­ing com­plet­ed in the last week con­firmed the E coli was car­ry­ing a gene for resis­tance against the drug col­istin.

    Col­istin is an old antibi­ot­ic. By the 1970s, doc­tors had most­ly stopped using it because of its harsh side effects. But it was brought back as oth­er antibi­otics began los­ing their effec­tive­ness.

    It is used against hard-to-treat bac­te­ria that resist one of the last lines of defence, antibi­otics called car­bapen­ems. If those germs pick up the col­istin-resis­tance gene, doc­tors may be out of treat­ment options, health offi­cials say.

    “This is anoth­er piece of a real­ly nasty puz­zle that we didn’t want to see here,” said Dr Beth Bell, who over­sees CDC’s emerg­ing infec­tious dis­eases pro­grams.

    The CDC is work­ing with Penn­syl­va­nia health offi­cials to inter­view the woman and her fam­i­ly to try to fig­ure out how she might have picked up the strain. The woman had not trav­elled out­side the coun­try recent­ly, offi­cials said.

    The col­istin-resis­tant gene has been seen in ani­mals and peo­ple in Chi­na, Europe and Cana­da. Fed­er­al offi­cials said on Thurs­day that col­istin-resis­tant E coli has also been found in a pig in the US, but there was noth­ing to link the find­ing to the Penn­syl­va­nia case.

    ...

    ““It is the end of the road for antibi­otics unless we act urgent­ly,” Dr Tom Frieden, direc­tor of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC), said in Wash­ing­ton.”
    Well, that cer­tain­ly does­n’t bode for the gen­er­al health in the Unit­ed States. And keep in mind that while the super­bugs them­selves might kill more peo­ple than can­cer, that could be due in part to the fact that the treat­ments for an array of dis­eases sim­ply will not be pos­si­ble with­out effec­tive antibi­otics, includ­ed can­cer treat­ments.

    Still, the sit­u­a­tion could be worse. For instance, there could mas­sive out­break of super­bugs that were lit­er­al­ly pol­lut­ing beach­es and heav­i­ly-used water­ways. And this could all be hap­pen­ing right before a huge inter­na­tion­al event sur­round­ed by those pol­lut­ed water­ways that end up simul­ta­ne­ous­ly spread­ing these bugs all over the world. And, on top of all that, there could be a mas­sive Zika virus out­break on top of all the oth­er health con­cerns. Yes, the super­bug sit­u­a­tion could be much, much worse:

    Reuters

    Exclu­sive: Stud­ies find ‘super bac­te­ria’ in Rio’s Olympic venues, top beach­es

    RIO DE JANEIRO | By Brad Brooks
    Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:57am EDT

    Sci­en­tists have found dan­ger­ous drug-resis­tant “super bac­te­ria” off beach­es in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swim­ming events and in a lagoon where row­ing and canoe ath­letes will com­pete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

    The find­ings from two unpub­lished aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies seen by Reuters con­cern Rio’s most pop­u­lar spots for tourists and great­ly increase the areas known to be infect­ed by the microbes nor­mal­ly found only in hos­pi­tals.

    They also height­en con­cerns that Rio’s sewage-infest­ed water­ways are unsafe.

    A study pub­lished in late 2014 had shown the pres­ence of the super bac­te­ria — clas­si­fied by the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) as an urgent pub­lic health threat — off one of the beach­es in Gua­n­abara Bay, where sail­ing and wind-surf­ing events will be held dur­ing the Games.

    The first of the two new stud­ies, reviewed in Sep­tem­ber by sci­en­tists at the Inter­science Con­fer­ence on Antimi­cro­bial Agents and Chemother­a­py in San Diego, showed the pres­ence of the microbes at five of Rio’s show­case beach­es, includ­ing the ocean-front Copaca­bana, where open-water and triathlon swim­ming will take place.

    The oth­er four were Ipane­ma, Leblon, Botafo­go and Fla­men­go.

    The super bac­te­ria can cause hard-to-treat uri­nary, gas­troin­testi­nal, pul­monary and blood­stream infec­tions, along with menin­gi­tis. The CDC says stud­ies show that these bac­te­ria con­tribute to death in up to half of patients infect­ed.

    The sec­ond new study, by the Brazil­ian fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s Oswal­do Cruz Foun­da­tion lab, which will be pub­lished next month by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Micro­bi­ol­o­gy, found the genes of super bac­te­ria in the Rodri­go de Fre­itas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a riv­er that emp­ties into Gua­n­abara Bay.

    Waste from count­less hos­pi­tals, in addi­tion to hun­dreds of thou­sands of house­holds, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams criss­cross­ing Rio, allow­ing the super bac­te­ria to spread out­side the city’s hos­pi­tals in recent years.

    Rena­ta Picao, a pro­fes­sor at Rio’s fed­er­al uni­ver­si­ty and lead researcher of the first study, said the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of Rio’s famous beach­es was the result of a lack of basic san­i­ta­tion in the met­ro­pol­i­tan area of 12 mil­lion peo­ple.

    “These bac­te­ria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” said Picao from her lab in north­ern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Gua­n­abara Bay.

    Clean­ing the city’s water­ways was meant to be one of the Games’ great­est lega­cies and a high-pro­file promise in the offi­cial 2009 bid doc­u­ment Rio used to win the right to host South Amer­i­ca’s first Olympics.

    That goal has instead trans­formed into an embar­rass­ing fail­ure, with ath­letes lament­ing the stench of sewage and com­plain­ing about debris that bangs into and clings to boats in Gua­n­abara Bay, poten­tial haz­ards for a fair com­pe­ti­tion.

    SITUATION GETTING WORSE

    Picao’s study, which has under­gone inter­nal reviews at Rio’s fed­er­al uni­ver­si­ty, ana­lyzed water sam­ples tak­en between Sep­tem­ber 2013 and Sep­tem­ber 2014. Using 10 sam­ples tak­en at five beach loca­tions, the study found super bac­te­ria were most present at Botafo­go beach, where all sam­ples were pos­i­tive.

    Fla­men­go beach, where spec­ta­tors will gath­er to watch Olympic sailors vie for medals, had the super bac­te­ria in 90 per­cent of sam­ples. Ten per­cent of Copaca­bana’s sam­ples had the microbes.

    Ipane­ma and Leblon beach­es, the most pop­u­lar with tourists, had sam­ples that test­ed pos­i­tive for super bac­te­ria 50 and 60 per­cent of the time, respec­tive­ly.

    The Oswal­do Cruz study of the Olympic lagoon, which was peer reviewed, is based on water sam­ples tak­en in 2013. It found that the lake is a poten­tial breed­ing ground for super bac­te­ria and their spread through the city.

    While the stud­ies both use water sam­ples that are from 2013 and 2014, Picao and oth­er experts said they had seen no advances in sew­er­age infra­struc­ture in Rio to improve the sit­u­a­tion.

    Valerie Har­wood, an expert in recre­ation­al water con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant bac­te­ria at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da who was not involved in the stud­ies, said that if any­thing, things were get­ting worse, as the super bac­te­ria nat­u­ral­ly spread by infect­ing oth­er microbes.

    The con­t­a­m­i­na­tion has prompt­ed fed­er­al police and pros­e­cu­tors to inves­ti­gate whether Rio’s water util­i­ty Cedae is com­mit­ting envi­ron­men­tal crimes by lying about how much sewage it treats. Inves­ti­ga­tors are also look­ing into where bil­lions of dol­lars in funds went since the ear­ly 1990s, mon­ey ear­marked to improve sewage ser­vices and clean Gua­n­abara Bay.

    Cedae has denied any wrong­do­ing. It said in an emailed state­ment that any super bac­te­ria found at the beach­es or the Olympic lagoon must be the result of ille­gal dump­ing into storm drains. Cedae said it car­ries out sewage treat­ment and col­lec­tion in the entire “south zone” of Rio, where the bod­ies of water are locat­ed and where the water sam­ples were tak­en.

    ‘LIKE CANDY’

    Five sci­en­tists con­sult­ed by Reuters said the imme­di­ate risk to peo­ple’s health when faced with super bac­te­ria infec­tion depends on the state of their immune sys­tems.

    These bac­te­ria are oppor­tunis­tic microbes that can enter the body, lie dor­mant, then attack at a lat­er date when a healthy per­son may fall ill for anoth­er rea­son.

    Super bac­te­ria infect not only humans but also oth­er­wise-harm­less bac­te­ria present in the waters, turn­ing them into antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant germs.

    Har­wood said the super bac­te­ria genes dis­cov­ered in the Olympic lagoon were prob­a­bly not harm­ful if swal­lowed by them­selves: they need to be cocooned inside of a bac­teri­um.

    “Those genes are like can­dy. They are organ­ic mol­e­cules and they’ll be eat­en up by oth­er bac­te­ria, oth­er organ­isms,” Har­wood said. “That’s where the dan­ger is — if a per­son then ingests that infect­ed organ­ism — because it will make it through their gas­troin­testi­nal tract and poten­tial­ly make some­one ill.”

    The pres­ence of the super bac­te­ria genes in the lagoon indi­cates the bac­te­ria them­selves had recent­ly died or sim­ply were not detect­ed by test­ing, Har­wood said.

    ...

    Rio state’s Inea envi­ron­men­tal agency said in an emailed state­ment it fol­lows the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tions for test­ing recre­ation­al water safe­ty, and that search­ing for super bac­te­ria is not includ­ed in that. It also said there was a lack of stud­ies about the bac­te­ria in water and health out­comes.

    “Fla­men­go beach, where spec­ta­tors will gath­er to watch Olympic sailors vie for medals, had the super bac­te­ria in 90 per­cent of sam­ples. Ten per­cent of Copaca­bana’s sam­ples had the microbes.”
    So it looks like the 2016 Olympics might be a major event in human­i­ty’s aggres­sive stum­ble into the post-Antibi­ot­ic era. Hope­ful­ly the 2020 games will have few­er envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion threats. Hopeful­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 14, 2016, 12:35 pm
  15. Just FYI, the post-antibi­otics era is still knock­ing on the door. Or, in the case of the US farm that was recent­ly dis­cov­ered to be infest­ed with a dread­ed super­bug, is now knock­ing on the bacon:

    NBC News

    Rare Super­bug Gene Dis­cov­ered on U.S. Pig Farm

    by Mag­gie Fox
    Dec 6 2016, 8:46 am ET

    Researchers have found a rare and fright­en­ing super­bug gene on a U.S. pig farm and say their dis­cov­ery sug­gests raw meat could car­ry the dan­ger­ous germs into the human pop­u­la­tion.

    No pigs sched­uled for slaugh­ter car­ried the mutant gene, the researchers stressed, and they haven’t found any threat to peo­ple yet. And none of the pigs were sick. But the mutant should not have been on the farm at all and they have no idea how it got there.

    “It is an extreme­ly rare gene. How it got on this farm, we don’t know,” said Thomas Wit­tum, chair of the vet­eri­nary med­i­cine team at The Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty, who led the study team.

    The gene is called bla IMP-27 and it gives bac­te­ria the abil­i­ty to resist the effects of a class of antibi­otics called car­bapen­ems.

    Car­bapen­ems are con­sid­ered an antibi­ot­ic of last resort, so germs that resist their effects are very dif­fi­cult to kill.

    Worse, this super­bug gene is car­ried on an eas­i­ly swapped bit of genet­ic mate­r­i­al called a plas­mid, and the researchers found it in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent species of bac­te­ria on the farm.

    That sug­gests the bac­te­ria have been pass­ing the gene around.

    The wor­ry is that the gene will get into bac­te­ria that infect peo­ple. A type of antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant germ called car­bapen­em-resis­tant Enter­obac­te­ri­aceae, or CRE, are espe­cial­ly dan­ger­ous. If they get into the blood­stream and cause an infec­tion, CRE germs kill half their vic­tims.

    Just this sum­mer researchers sound­ed the alarm about a drug-resis­tant E. coli sam­ple car­ry­ing a gene called mcr‑1. It was also car­ried on a plas­mid, and the fear is such an E. coli bac­te­ria with the mcr‑1 gene could pass it to anoth­er super­bug with oth­er muta­tions — cre­at­ing a tru­ly super super­bug that resists all known antibi­otics.

    Some­thing sim­i­lar could poten­tial­ly hap­pen with the bla IMP-27 gene found at the pig farm.

    Wit­tum and his team had been check­ing sam­ples sub­mit­ted to test­ing labs from pigs sus­pect­ed of car­ry­ing bad infec­tions, and from a few sam­ples sent from farms.

    The bla IMP-27 gene turned up in a sin­gle farm sam­ple, Wit­tum said. He turned his team loose to test the farm. They moved in with swabs and swif­fers.

    ...

    The farm was a mod­er­ate-sized, fam­i­ly-run oper­a­tion, Wit­tum said. He declined to iden­ti­fy it any fur­ther than that. It has 1,500 sows and rais­es the pigs from preg­nan­cy to sale for slaugh­ter.

    They made mul­ti­ple vis­its last year to the farm, where the sows give birth in tight pens and the piglets are tak­en to sep­a­rate pens of 25 each after they are weaned. They found sam­ples of the bla IMP-27 gene in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent sam­ples and in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent species of bac­te­ria, includ­ing E. coli and Enter­obac­te­ri­aceae.

    Sev­er­al of the bac­te­ria found resist­ed more than one type of antibi­ot­ic.

    They were also found in some of the sows and piglets, although the ani­mals appeared to have cleared the germs; none were found in pigs ready for slaugh­ter, although the team is watch­ing for them.

    But it’s bad news to find this rare super­bug gene in bac­te­ria infect­ing food ani­mals, Wit­tum said.

    “The impli­ca­tion of our find­ing is that there is a real risk that CRE may dis­sem­i­nate in food ani­mal pop­u­la­tions and even­tu­al­ly con­t­a­m­i­nate fresh retail meat prod­ucts,” the researchers wrote.

    Even if it does­n’t make peo­ple sick right away, it could col­o­nize peo­ple who han­dle the raw meat. Col­o­niza­tion means peo­ple (or ani­mals) car­ry a germ but don’t get sick from it — but if they do become ill with some­thing else, the bac­te­ria can mul­ti­ply. Plus, col­o­nized peo­ple can infect sick or frail peo­ple.

    “The emer­gence of car­bapen­em-resis­tant Enter­obac­te­ri­aceae (CRE) has been described as herald­ing the end of the antibi­ot­ic era with their glob­al expan­sion pre­sent­ing an urgent threat to pub­lic health,” the researchers wrote.

    “These poten­tial pathogens can har­bor high­ly mobile genes that con­fer resis­tance to the most crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant, live-sav­ing antimi­cro­bial drugs.”

    It’s also wor­ry­ing that the farmer has no idea where the germ came from. “This oper­a­tion has been man­aged as a closed herd since the 1960’s,” the researchers wrote.

    “We think it was car­ried in,” Wit­tum added. “We don’t know if it was on equip­ment or sup­plies or by peo­ple.”

    Wit­tum says the pigs nev­er were giv­en any car­bapen­em drugs and they were not dosed with antibi­otics to pro­mote their growth — a com­mon but increas­ing­ly con­demned prac­tice known to con­tribute to the rise of antibi­ot­ic resis­tance. But they do get antibi­otics.

    “As is com­mon in U.S. swine pro­duc­tion, piglets on this farm receive cef­tio­fur at birth, with males receiv­ing a sec­ond dose at cas­tra­tion,” the team not­ed.

    This rou­tine dos­ing may be help­ing dri­ve the devel­op­ment of mutant bac­te­ria, Wit­tum said.

    “We may need to exam­ine some of the prac­tices of farms, and eval­u­ate whether they are real­ly appro­pri­ate, and whether the ben­e­fits out­weigh the risks,” he added.

    “To save our mir­a­cle drugs, we have got to stop wast­ing them on ani­mals that aren’t sick,” said Dr. David Wallinga of the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil, which oppos­es the rou­tine agri­cul­tur­al use of antibi­otics.

    “The last ter­ri­ble shoe may have just dropped when it comes to drug-resis­tant infec­tions. This is just one more warn­ing that doc­tors may soon have noth­ing left in their toolk­it to save patients when these bugs strike.”

    “Worse, this super­bug gene is car­ried on an eas­i­ly swapped bit of genet­ic mate­r­i­al called a plas­mid, and the researchers found it in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent species of bac­te­ria on the farm.”

    Yeah, reports of plas­mids of doom are pret­ty dis­turb­ing. But note what is per­haps the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this sto­ry: They still have no idea how it got there which means the out­side source of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion is pre­sum­ably still run­ning around spread­ing it:

    ...

    It’s also wor­ry­ing that the farmer has no idea where the germ came from. “This oper­a­tion has been man­aged as a closed herd since the 1960’s,” the researchers wrote.

    “We think it was car­ried in,” Wit­tum added. “We don’t know if it was on equip­ment or sup­plies or by peo­ple.”

    ...

    So that’s hap­pen­ing. It’s one more com­pelling rea­son to swap out the bacon with facon. One of many.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 7, 2016, 9:20 pm
  16. Here’s a look at a par­tic­u­lar­ly cost-effec­tive form of bio­log­i­cal war­fare research and devel­op­ment that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion appears to be plan­ning on imple­ment­ing. Oh, and the tar­gets of this bio­log­i­cal war­fare is every­one. So what’s the new pro­gram? The gut­ting of glob­al infec­tious dis­ease mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams that were set up to detect the out­break of infec­tious dis­eases and pre­vent them from becom­ing epi­demics. That’s the new bio­log­i­cal war­fare pro­gram tar­get­ing every­one:

    As a par­tic­u­lar­ly nasty flu sea­son con­tin­ues to unfold across the US, the annu­al ques­tion of how to best avoid get­ting the flu is a much more top­i­cal ques­tion in 2018. And while get­ting an annu­al flu shot is one obvi­ous approach, it turns out Pres­i­dent Trump’s Evan­gel­i­cal spir­i­tu­al advi­sor has some very dif­fer­ent advice for peo­ple: avoid the flu shot and innoc­u­late your­self with the word of God by repeat­ing the worlds “I’ll nev­er have the flu. I’ll nev­er have the flu”:

    The Dai­ly Ban­ter

    Trump’s Spir­i­tu­al Advi­sor Rec­om­mends Jesus Instead Of Flu Shots
    Glo­ria Copeland, co-founder of the Ken­neth Copeland Min­istries in Texas and Don­ald Trump’s Evan­gel­i­cal advi­sor believes pray­ing to Jesus is a sub­sti­tute for the flu shot.

    Ben Cohen
    Feb 6, 2018

    There is cer­tain­ly a sci­en­tif­ic debate to be had over the effi­ca­cy of flu shots. But there is one thing for sure — a belief in Jesus as your Lord and Sav­ior does­n’t ward off the virus respon­si­ble for killing thou­sands each year and mak­ing every­one’s life a com­plete mis­ery.

    Not accord­ing to Trump’s Evan­gel­i­cal advi­sor Glo­ria Copeland, co-founder of the Ken­neth Copeland Min­istries in Texas, who believes pray­ing to Jesus is a sub­sti­tute for the flu shot.

    “Well, lis­ten, part­ners, we don’t have a flu sea­son,” Copeland told her fol­low­ers. “And don’t receive it when some­body threat­ens you with, ‘Everybody’s get­ting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sick­ness­es and car­ried our dis­eases. That’s what we stand on.”

    Instead, you must “inoc­u­late your­self with the word of God,” she said, and repeat the words “I’ll nev­er have the flu. I’ll nev­er have the flu.”

    “Jesus him­self gave us the flu shot,” Copeland claimed. “He redeemed us from the curse of flu, and we receive it and we take it, and we are healed by his stripes, amen.”

    While Copeland’s inten­tions might be good, it is worth not­ing that the flu shot has, accord­ing to the CDC, saved thou­sands and thou­sands of lives:

    The sea­son­al flu vac­cine pre­vent­ed more than 40,000 flu-asso­ci­at­ed deaths in the Unit­ed States dur­ing a nine year peri­od from 2005–2006 through 2013–2014 accord­ing to esti­mates in a new study pub­lished in the jour­nal Vac­cine. This esti­mate rep­re­sents a lit­tle less than a one-quar­ter (22%) reduc­tion in the deaths that would have occurred in the absence of flu vac­ci­na­tion dur­ing that time. CDC has esti­mat­ed pre­vi­ous­ly that sea­son­al flu-asso­ci­at­ed deaths in the Unit­ed States range between 3,000 and 49,000 peo­ple each year.

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump’s Spir­i­tu­al Advi­sor Rec­om­mends Jesus Instead Of Flu Shots” by Ben Cohen; The Dai­ly Ban­ter; 02/06/2018

    ““Well, lis­ten, part­ners, we don’t have a flu sea­son,” Copeland told her fol­low­ers. “And don’t receive it when some­body threat­ens you with, ‘Everybody’s get­ting the flu.’ We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sick­ness­es and car­ried our dis­eases. That’s what we stand on.””

    So that’s some free med­ical advice from Trump’s spir­i­tu­al advi­sor. If you accept­ed Jesus you’ve already had all the flu shots you’ll ever need.

    Thank­ful­ly, that advice has­n’t yet become offi­cial gov­ern­ment advice for how to avoid the flu. That said, you still might want to engage in some dis­ease-pre­ven­tion prayer. Why? Because, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle not­ed, there’s a loom­ing 80 per­cent cut in fund­ing for Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) efforts to com­bat glob­al dis­ease out­breaks, and no indi­ca­tion that extra fund­ing is going to emerge in time so the CDC is already plan­ning for major staffing cuts. Back in 2014, Con­gress passed a one-time bill that grants the CDC a one-time $600 mil­lion award ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing coun­tries stop infec­tious-dis­ease threats from becom­ing epi­demics. And that mon­ey has indeed gone towards com­bat­ing dis­eases like Ebo­la, the Zika virus, HIV, tuber­cu­lo­sis, malar­ia, polio erad­i­ca­tion, vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases, influen­za and emerg­ing infec­tious dis­eases. And that’s fund­ing is on track to run out in 2019 and there’s no indi­ca­tion Con­gress is going to renew the pro­gram. So all of those dis­eases — Ebo­la, the Zika virus, HIV, tuber­cu­lo­sis, malar­ia, polio erad­i­ca­tion, vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases, influen­za and emerg­ing infec­tious dis­eases — are slat­ed to get a major boost­er shot next year:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    CDC to cut by 80 per­cent efforts to pre­vent glob­al dis­ease out­break

    by Lena H. Sun
    Feb­ru­ary 1, 2018

    Four years after the Unit­ed States pledged to help the world fight infec­tious-dis­ease epi­demics such as Ebo­la, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion is dra­mat­i­cal­ly down­siz­ing its epi­dem­ic pre­ven­tion activ­i­ties in 39 out of 49 coun­tries because mon­ey is run­ning out, U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials said.

    The CDC pro­grams, part of a glob­al health secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tive, train front-line work­ers in out­break detec­tion and work to strength­en lab­o­ra­to­ry and emer­gency response sys­tems in coun­tries where dis­ease risks are great­est. The goal is to stop future out­breaks at their source.

    Most of the fund­ing comes from a one-time, five-year emer­gency pack­age that Con­gress approved to respond to the 2014 Ebo­la epi­dem­ic in West Africa. About $600 mil­lion was award­ed to the CDC to help coun­tries pre­vent infec­tious-dis­ease threats from becom­ing epi­demics. That mon­ey is slat­ed to run out by Sep­tem­ber 2019. Despite state­ments from Pres­i­dent Trump and senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials affirm­ing the impor­tance of con­trol­ling out­breaks, offi­cials and glob­al infec­tious-dis­ease experts are not antic­i­pat­ing that the admin­is­tra­tion will bud­get addi­tion­al resources.

    Two weeks ago, the CDC began noti­fy­ing staffers and offi­cials abroad about its plan to down­size these activ­i­ties, because offi­cials assume there will be “no new resources,” said a senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss bud­get mat­ters. Notice is being giv­en now to CDC coun­try direc­tors “as the very first phase of a tran­si­tion,” the offi­cial said. There is a need for “for­ward plan­ning,” the offi­cial said, to accom­mo­date longer advance notice for staffers and for leas­es and prop­er­ty agree­ments. The down­siz­ing deci­sion was first report­ed by the Wall Street Jour­nal..

    The CDC plans to nar­row its focus to 10 “pri­or­i­ty coun­tries,” start­ing in Octo­ber 2019, the offi­cial said. They are India, Thai­land and Viet­nam in Asia; Jor­dan in the Mid­dle East; Kenya, Ugan­da, Liberia, Nige­ria and Sene­gal in Africa; and Guatemala in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.

    Coun­tries where the CDC is plan­ning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerg­ing infec­tious dis­ease, such as Chi­na, Pak­istan, Haiti, Rwan­da and Con­go. Last year, when Con­go expe­ri­enced a poten­tial­ly dead­ly Ebo­la out­break in a remote, forest­ed area, CDC-trained dis­ease detec­tives and rapid respon­ders helped con­tain it quick­ly.

    In Con­go’s cap­i­tal of Kin­shasa, an emer­gency oper­a­tions cen­ter estab­lished last year with CDC fund­ing is oper­a­tional but still needs staffers to be trained and pro­to­cols and sys­tems to be put in place so data can be col­lect­ed accu­rate­ly from across the coun­try, said Car­olyn Reynolds, a vice pres­i­dent at PATH, a glob­al health tech­nol­o­gy non­prof­it group that helped the Con­golese set up the cen­ter.

    This next phase of work may be at risk if CDC cuts back its sup­port, she said. “It would be akin to build­ing the fire­house with­out pro­vid­ing the trained fire­men and infor­ma­tion and tools to fight the fire,” Reynolds said in an email.

    If more fund­ing becomes avail­able in the fis­cal year that starts Oct. 1, the CDC could resume work in Chi­na and Con­go, as well as Ethiopia, Indone­sia and Sier­ra Leone, anoth­er gov­ern­ment offi­cial said, also speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss bud­get mat­ters.

    In the mean­time, the CDC will con­tin­ue its work with dozens of coun­tries on oth­er pub­lic health issues, such as HIV, tuber­cu­lo­sis, malar­ia, polio erad­i­ca­tion, vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases, influen­za and emerg­ing infec­tious dis­eases.

    Glob­al health orga­ni­za­tions said crit­i­cal momen­tum will be lost if epi­dem­ic pre­ven­tion fund­ing is reduced, leav­ing the world unpre­pared for the next out­break. The risks of dead­ly and cost­ly pan­dem­ic threats are high­er than ever, espe­cial­ly in low- and mid­dle-income coun­tries with the weak­est pub­lic health sys­tems, experts say. A rapid response by a coun­try can mean the dif­fer­ence between an iso­lat­ed out­break and a glob­al cat­a­stro­phe. In less than 36 hours, infec­tious dis­ease and pathogens can trav­el from a remote vil­lage to major cities on any con­ti­nent to become a glob­al cri­sis.

    On Mon­day, a coali­tion of glob­al health orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ing more than 200 groups and com­pa­nies sent a let­ter to U.S. Health and Human Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar ask­ing the admin­is­tra­tion to recon­sid­er the planned reduc­tions to pro­grams they described as essen­tial to health and nation­al secu­ri­ty.

    “Not only will CDC be forced to nar­row its coun­tries of oper­a­tions, but the U.S. also stands to lose vital infor­ma­tion about epi­dem­ic threats gar­nered on the ground through trust­ed rela­tion­ships, real-time sur­veil­lance, and research,” wrote the coali­tion, which includ­ed the Glob­al Health Secu­ri­ty Agen­da Con­sor­tium and the Glob­al Health Coun­cil.

    The coali­tion also warned that com­pla­cen­cy after out­breaks have been con­tained leads to fund­ing cuts, fol­lowed by ever more cost­ly out­breaks. The Ebo­la out­break cost U.S. tax­pay­ers $5.4 bil­lion in emer­gency sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing, forced sev­er­al U.S. cities to spend mil­lions in con­tain­ment, dis­rupt­ed glob­al busi­ness and required the deploy­ment of the U.S. mil­i­tary to address the threat.

    “This is the front line against ter­ri­ble organ­isms,” said Tom Frieden, the for­mer CDC direc­tor who led the agency dur­ing the Ebo­la and Zika out­breaks. He now heads Resolve to Save Lives, a glob­al ini­tia­tive to pre­vent epi­demics. Refer­ring to dan­ger­ous pathogens, he said: “Like ter­ror­ism, you can’t fight it just with­in our bor­ders. You’ve got to fight epi­dem­ic dis­eases where they emerge.”

    With­out addi­tion­al help, low-income coun­tries are not going to be able to main­tain lab­o­ra­to­ry net­works to detect dan­ger­ous pathogens, Frieden said. “Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epi­dem­ic that trav­el­ers will catch or spread to our coun­try,” Frieden said.

    The U.S. down­siz­ing could also lead oth­er coun­tries to cut back or drop out from “the most seri­ous multi­na­tion­al effort in many years to stop epi­demics at their sources over­seas,” said Tom Ingles­by, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Health Secu­ri­ty at the Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health.

    ...

    The Unit­ed States helped launch an ini­tia­tive known as the Glob­al Health Secu­ri­ty Agen­da in 2014 to help coun­tries reduce their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to pub­lic health threats. More than 60 coun­tries now par­tic­i­pate in that effort. At a meet­ing in Ugan­da in the fall, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials led by Tim Ziemer, the White House senior direc­tor for glob­al health secu­ri­ty, affirmed U.S. sup­port to extend the ini­tia­tive to 2024.

    “The world remains under-pre­pared to pre­vent, detect, and respond to infec­tious dis­ease out­breaks, whether nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring, acci­den­tal, or delib­er­ate­ly released,” Ziemer wrote in a blog post before the meet­ing. “. . . We rec­og­nize that the cost of fail­ing to con­trol out­breaks and los­ing lives is far greater than the cost of pre­ven­tion.”

    The CDC has about $150 mil­lion remain­ing from the one-time Ebo­la emer­gency pack­age for these glob­al health secu­ri­ty pro­grams, the senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial said. That mon­ey will be used this year and in fis­cal 2019, but with­out sub­stan­tial new resources, that leaves only the agen­cy’s core annu­al bud­get, which has remained flat at about $50 mil­lion to $60 mil­lion.

    Offi­cials at the CDC, the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil pushed for more fund­ing in the pres­i­den­t’s fis­cal 2019 bud­get to be released this month. A senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial said Thurs­day that the pres­i­den­t’s bud­get “will include details on glob­al health secu­ri­ty fund­ing,” but declined to elab­o­rate.

    ———-

    “CDC to cut by 80 per­cent efforts to pre­vent glob­al dis­ease out­break” by Lena H. Sun; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/01/2018

    “The CDC pro­grams, part of a glob­al health secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tive, train front-line work­ers in out­break detec­tion and work to strength­en lab­o­ra­to­ry and emer­gency response sys­tems in coun­tries where dis­ease risks are great­est. The goal is to stop future out­breaks at their source.”

    Stop­ping future out­breaks at their source. That was the goal of the glob­al health secu­ri­ty ini­tia­tive helped launched back in 2014 with 60 par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries, with a recog­ni­tion that detec­tion and pre­ven­tion of dis­eases is a far cheap­er approach than wait­ing for them to spi­ral into epi­demics. And that glob­al ini­tia­tive is what’s at risk of col­laps­ing with more funds:

    ...
    The Unit­ed States helped launch an ini­tia­tive known as the Glob­al Health Secu­ri­ty Agen­da in 2014 to help coun­tries reduce their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to pub­lic health threats. More than 60 coun­tries now par­tic­i­pate in that effort. At a meet­ing in Ugan­da in the fall, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials led by Tim Ziemer, the White House senior direc­tor for glob­al health secu­ri­ty, affirmed U.S. sup­port to extend the ini­tia­tive to 2024.

    “The world remains under-pre­pared to pre­vent, detect, and respond to infec­tious dis­ease out­breaks, whether nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring, acci­den­tal, or delib­er­ate­ly released,” Ziemer wrote in a blog post before the meet­ing. “. . . We rec­og­nize that the cost of fail­ing to con­trol out­breaks and los­ing lives is far greater than the cost of pre­ven­tion.”

    ...

    “. . . We rec­og­nize that the cost of fail­ing to con­trol out­breaks and los­ing lives is far greater than the cost of pre­ven­tion.”

    Yes, glob­al health experts rec­og­nize that the cost of fail­ing to con­trol out­breaks and los­ing lives is far greater than the cost of pre­ven­tion. And Con­gress also seemed to rec­og­nize this back in 2014 when the ini­tial $600 mil­lion in fund­ing for the project was approved. But despite state­ments from senior Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials affirm­ing the impor­tance of pre­vent­ing out­breaks, CDC offi­cials and glob­al infec­tion-dis­ease experts are oper­at­ing on the assump­tion that new fund­ing isn’t going to hap­pen in time. Hence the plans now get­ting put in place for mas­sive­ly scal­ing back the pro­gram:

    ...
    Most of the fund­ing comes from a one-time, five-year emer­gency pack­age that Con­gress approved to respond to the 2014 Ebo­la epi­dem­ic in West Africa. About $600 mil­lion was award­ed to the CDC to help coun­tries pre­vent infec­tious-dis­ease threats from becom­ing epi­demics. That mon­ey is slat­ed to run out by Sep­tem­ber 2019. Despite state­ments from Pres­i­dent Trump and senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials affirm­ing the impor­tance of con­trol­ling out­breaks, offi­cials and glob­al infec­tious-dis­ease experts are not antic­i­pat­ing that the admin­is­tra­tion will bud­get addi­tion­al resources.

    Two weeks ago, the CDC began noti­fy­ing staffers and offi­cials abroad about its plan to down­size these activ­i­ties, because offi­cials assume there will be “no new resources,” said a senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss bud­get mat­ters. Notice is being giv­en now to CDC coun­try direc­tors “as the very first phase of a tran­si­tion,” the offi­cial said. There is a need for “for­ward plan­ning,” the offi­cial said, to accom­mo­date longer advance notice for staffers and for leas­es and prop­er­ty agree­ments. The down­siz­ing deci­sion was first report­ed by the Wall Street Jour­nal..

    The CDC plans to nar­row its focus to 10 “pri­or­i­ty coun­tries,” start­ing in Octo­ber 2019, the offi­cial said. They are India, Thai­land and Viet­nam in Asia; Jor­dan in the Mid­dle East; Kenya, Ugan­da, Liberia, Nige­ria and Sene­gal in Africa; and Guatemala in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.

    Coun­tries where the CDC is plan­ning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerg­ing infec­tious dis­ease, such as Chi­na, Pak­istan, Haiti, Rwan­da and Con­go. Last year, when Con­go expe­ri­enced a poten­tial­ly dead­ly Ebo­la out­break in a remote, forest­ed area, CDC-trained dis­ease detec­tives and rapid respon­ders helped con­tain it quick­ly.
    ...

    “Coun­tries where the CDC is plan­ning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerg­ing infec­tious dis­ease, such as Chi­na, Pak­istan, Haiti, Rwan­da and Con­go.”

    And at this point, it’s just $150 mil­lion remain­ing. And if it new funds aren’t found, the only oth­er option is to fund these pro­grams using the CDC’s core annu­al fund­ing, which remains flat at $50 to $60 mil­lion:

    ...
    The CDC has about $150 mil­lion remain­ing from the one-time Ebo­la emer­gency pack­age for these glob­al health secu­ri­ty pro­grams, the senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial said. That mon­ey will be used this year and in fis­cal 2019, but with­out sub­stan­tial new resources, that leaves only the agen­cy’s core annu­al bud­get, which has remained flat at about $50 mil­lion to $60 mil­lion.
    ...

    And this means that if Amer­i­cans want to see glob­al dis­ease pre­ven­tion pro­grams con­tin­ue, there’s going to have to be cuts to oth­er domes­tic-ori­ent­ed CDC pro­grams.

    And as for­mer CDC direc­tor Tom Frieden points out, even if Amer­i­cans ONLY care about the well-being of Amer­i­cans, it’s not like let­ting epi­demics erupt over­seas isn’t a threat to Amer­i­cans because there’s lit­tle stop­ping those dis­eases from the US:

    ...
    “This is the front line against ter­ri­ble organ­isms,” said Tom Frieden, the for­mer CDC direc­tor who led the agency dur­ing the Ebo­la and Zika out­breaks. He now heads Resolve to Save Lives, a glob­al ini­tia­tive to pre­vent epi­demics. Refer­ring to dan­ger­ous pathogens, he said: “Like ter­ror­ism, you can’t fight it just with­in our bor­ders. You’ve got to fight epi­dem­ic dis­eases where they emerge.”

    With­out addi­tion­al help, low-income coun­tries are not going to be able to main­tain lab­o­ra­to­ry net­works to detect dan­ger­ous pathogens, Frieden said. “Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epi­dem­ic that trav­el­ers will catch or spread to our coun­try,” Frieden said.
    ...

    ““Either we help or hope we get lucky it isn’t an epi­dem­ic that trav­el­ers will catch or spread to our coun­try.”

    So how is the US right-wing respond­ing to this ‘let them eat Ebo­la’ set of pri­or­i­ties? Well, accord­ing to Bet­sy McCaugh­ey, a far-right go-to shill for all things health-relat­ed and one of Trump’s eco­nom­ic advi­sors dur­ing teh 2016 cam­paign, these cuts are all just part of Don­ald Trump’s ‘Amer­i­ca First’ slo­gan. As McCaugh­ey sees it, all of that mon­ey spent on glob­al dis­ease pre­ven­tion is just wast­ed mon­ey that could be bet­ter spent on domes­tic prob­lems like com­bat­ing obe­si­ty and the opi­oid epi­dem­ic and encour­ag­ing Amer­i­cans to get a flu shot.

    She also called for­mer CDC direc­tor Tom Frieden a “glob­al­ist” for bash­ing Trump over these fund­ing cuts. And she sug­gests that “Trump will spend the mon­ey here instead” by point­ing to a $500 mil­lion “Fed­er­al Emer­gency Response Fund” block grant to US states that would be designed to “rapid­ly respond to pub­lic health out­breaks,” such as Zika. This fund was actu­al­ly part of Trump’s 2017 bud­get proposal...a bud­get that gut­ted sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical research severe­ly. And while such a Fed­er­al Emer­gency Response Fund would no doubt a great a idea and is some­thing experts have long been call­ing for, it’s not like these experts have been call­ing for an end to glob­al dis­ease pre­ven­tion pro­grams. After all, even if some­one ONLY cares about Amer­i­cans and ONLY wants to help Amer­i­cans, it’s still a wild­ly inef­fi­cient use of resources to let glob­al con­ta­gious dis­ease out­breaks to erupt and only then try to con­tain them in the US, which is the point Tom Frieden was try­ing to make. But accord­ing to Bet­sy McCaugh­ey, this is all part of mak­ing ‘Amer­i­ca First’:

    Cre­ators Syn­di­cate

    CDC Should Put Amer­i­ca First

    By Bet­sy McCaugh­ey
    Feb­ru­ary 7, 2018

    Under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion sent mon­ey and staff to dis­tant parts of the globe while neglect­ing life-threat­en­ing health crises under our noses. Dr. Thomas Frieden, who head­ed the CDC then, is join­ing a cho­rus of glob­al­ists bash­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s deci­sion to end fund­ing for the CDC’s over­seas projects in dozens of coun­tries. Frieden charges the cuts will “endan­ger lives in our coun­try.” Sounds scary, but the facts prove oth­er­wise. Trump will spend the mon­ey here instead, where it’s urgent­ly need­ed. As Trump search­es for a new CDC direc­tor, it’s time to put Amer­i­ca first — some­thing the agency has neglect­ed.

    On its core mis­sion — pro­tect­ing Amer­i­can health — the CDC is an abject fail­ure. It dithered while opi­oid over­dose deaths topped 42,000 and obe­si­ty deaths soared to 186,000, accord­ing to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences. Obe­si­ty and opi­oid over­dos­ing are large­ly to blame for the sud­den drop in Amer­i­can life expectan­cy.

    Year after year, the CDC also pays lip ser­vice to curb­ing hos­pi­tal infec­tions, but the com­mon infec­tion C. diff now kills 29,000 Amer­i­cans each year. No progress there.

    Add flu deaths to the toll from the CDC’s sub­par per­for­mance. Emer­gency rooms are over­whelmed dur­ing the cur­rent out­break, and 53 chil­dren have died. The vac­cine is less effec­tive than in some past years, but the big­ger prob­lem is how few Amer­i­cans get vac­ci­nat­ed — only 46 per­cent. Dr. Peter Hotez of Bay­lor Col­lege of Med­i­cine points to a “poor lev­el of vac­cine advo­ca­cy” from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. “This could haunt us for the cur­rent sea­son,” he adds. Near­ly all the chil­dren who died nev­er got the vac­cine. A new study shows get­ting it can pre­vent 65 per­cent of child flu deaths.

    While the CDC neglect­ed its mis­sion here, Oba­ma com­mit­ted bil­lions to build labs and train health per­son­nel in Africa dur­ing the Ebo­la scare. Bil­lions for a dis­ease that killed only one per­son in the U.S., and even he got infect­ed else­where.

    Oba­ma also allo­cat­ed $582 mil­lion for the CDC’s Glob­al Health Secu­ri­ty Agen­da serv­ing 49 coun­tries. That fund is run­ning out, and Trump refus­es to renew it. Alleluia.

    The help is need­ed right here. The CDC inten­sive­ly tracks polio, hepati­tis and influen­za in Pak­istan, in real time, and sends teams to find unvac­ci­nat­ed “under­served” chil­dren. But in the U.S., data on hos­pi­tal infec­tions and oth­er killers are years out-of-date and vac­ci­na­tion rates are abysmal.

    A new report by the non­prof­it Trust for Amer­i­ca’s Health, “Ready or Not? Pro­tect­ing the Pub­lic’s Health from Dis­eases, Dis­as­ters and Bioter­ror­ism, finds that pub­lic health readi­ness is a sham­bles in half the states, due part­ly to fed­er­al fund­ing cuts by Oba­ma. States lack mod­ern, equipped labs and trained per­son­nel.

    Trump’s bud­get pro­pos­al calls for a Fed­er­al Emer­gency Response Fund — $500 mil­lion in pub­lic health block grants to the states — almost the same amount being slashed from the CDC’s over­seas activ­i­ties.

    The Zika cri­sis shows the need for this state fund­ing. Ear­ly in 2016, Amer­i­cans heard about Zika, a mos­qui­to-borne virus that caus­es hor­ri­fy­ing birth defects. Flori­da’s Gov­er­nor Rick Scott and coun­ty health author­i­ties across the South begged the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for help erad­i­cat­ing the Zika-car­ry­ing Aedes Aegyp­ti mos­qui­toes as sum­mer neared. The CDC sat on its hands. Worse, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion stub­born­ly demand­ed that emer­gency Zika fund­ing include $355 mil­lion in for­eign aid for Latin Amer­i­ca. Months went by before mon­ey was cob­bled togeth­er to help states com­bat the dead­ly mos­qui­toes. Too late for some fam­i­lies.

    ...

    Trump needs to replace CDC Direc­tor Bren­da Fitzger­ald, who resigned last week. The new chief should focus on what’s killing large num­bers of Amer­i­cans — obe­si­ty, opi­oids and infec­tious dis­eases. Not cur­ing the world.

    ———-

    “CDC Should Put Amer­i­ca First” by Bet­sy McCaugh­ey; Cre­ators Syn­di­cate; 02/08/2018

    “Under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion sent mon­ey and staff to dis­tant parts of the globe while neglect­ing life-threat­en­ing health crises under our noses. Dr. Thomas Frieden, who head­ed the CDC then, is join­ing a cho­rus of glob­al­ists bash­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s deci­sion to end fund­ing for the CDC’s over­seas projects in dozens of coun­tries. Frieden charges the cuts will “endan­ger lives in our coun­try.” Sounds scary, but the facts prove oth­er­wise. Trump will spend the mon­ey here instead, where it’s urgent­ly need­ed. As Trump search­es for a new CDC direc­tor, it’s time to put Amer­i­ca first — some­thing the agency has neglect­ed.”

    It’s time to put Amer­i­ca first — some­thing the agency has appar­ent­ly been neglect­ing with all this work on glob­al con­ta­gious dis­ease pre­ven­tion. That’s appar­ent­ly what it means to put ‘Amer­i­ca First’.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, pulling back for glob­al epi­dem­ic pre­ven­tion and replac­ing those efforts with a “Fed­er­al Emer­gency Response Fund” for deal­ing only with the out­breaks of dis­eases with­in the US is also seen as ‘Amer­i­can First’. And that includes dis­eases with obvi­ous for­eign sources like Zika:

    ...
    Trump’s bud­get pro­pos­al calls for a Fed­er­al Emer­gency Response Fund — $500 mil­lion in pub­lic health block grants to the states — almost the same amount being slashed from the CDC’s over­seas activ­i­ties.

    The Zika cri­sis shows the need for this state fund­ing. Ear­ly in 2016, Amer­i­cans heard about Zika, a mos­qui­to-borne virus that caus­es hor­ri­fy­ing birth defects. Flori­da’s Gov­er­nor Rick Scott and coun­ty health author­i­ties across the South begged the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for help erad­i­cat­ing the Zika-car­ry­ing Aedes Aegyp­ti mos­qui­toes as sum­mer neared. The CDC sat on its hands. Worse, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion stub­born­ly demand­ed that emer­gency Zika fund­ing include $355 mil­lion in for­eign aid for Latin Amer­i­ca. Months went by before mon­ey was cob­bled togeth­er to help states com­bat the dead­ly mos­qui­toes. Too late for some fam­i­lies.
    ...

    “The Zika cri­sis shows the need for this state fund­ing.”

    LOL, yes, the Zika cri­sis does indeed show the need for state fund­ing. But it appar­ent­ly does­n’t show a need for fund­ing a glob­al ini­tia­tive designed to com­bat Zika in the coun­tries its most like­ly to become an epi­dem­ic and spread to oth­er coun­tries. At least that’s how Bet­sy McCaugh­ey sees it. Along with the rest of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. As far as she’s con­cerned, let­ting that glob­al dis­ease ini­tia­tive die is as rea­son to yell “Alleluia!”:

    ...
    “Oba­ma also allo­cat­ed $582 mil­lion for the CDC’s Glob­al Health Secu­ri­ty Agen­da serv­ing 49 coun­tries. That fund is run­ning out, and Trump refus­es to renew it. Alleluia.”
    ...

    So, again, if you haven’t start­ed pray­ing that you won’t catch a hor­ri­ble pre­ventable infec­tious dis­ease, there’s no time like the present to start.

    “I’ll nev­er have the flu, or Zika, or Ebo­la, or tuberu­lo­sis, or any oth­er infec­tious dis­ease. I’ll nev­er have the flu, or Zika, or Ebo­la, or tuberu­lo­sis, or any oth­er infec­tious dis­ease. Alleluia!”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 7, 2018, 5:29 pm
  17. There was some poten­tial­ly big news for the com­mu­ni­ty of Lyme Dis­ease suf­fer­ers this week: An amend­ment was qui­et­ly added to the 2020 defense autho­riza­tion bill in the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives that would require the Pen­tagon’s inspec­tor gen­er­al to inves­ti­gate and tell Con­gress whether or not the Pen­ta­gon had ever exper­i­ment­ed with weaponiz­ing dis­ease-car­ry­ing insects and, if so, whether they were ever released into the pub­lic. If the answer is yes, a report on the exper­i­ments needs to be made to the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. Those com­mit­tees could still keep things secret, of course.

    The amend­ment was intro­duced by New Jer­sey Repub­li­can Christo­pher H. Smith and co-spon­sored by Min­neso­ta Demo­c­rat Collin C. Peter­son, who is the House caucus’s oth­er leader, and by Mary­land Repub­li­can Andy Har­ris. It remains to be seen if it will be includ­ed in the final bill that gets sent to Pres­i­dent Trump because the Sen­ate ver­sion of the bill did not con­tain this amend­ment.

    The impe­tus for the amend­ment was a new book called “Bit­ten,” that bases its case on a large num­ber of archival doc­u­ments and, cru­cial­ly, the often cryp­tic tes­ti­mo­ny of Willy Burgdor­fer, a for­mer US biowar­fare research sci­en­tist. Burgdor­fer is a Swiss-born retired NIH sci­en­tist who dis­cov­ered the bac­te­ria believed to be the cause of Lyme dis­ease. The bac­te­ria is named “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” after him.

    Burgdor­fer grew up in Switzer­land, got his PhD at the Swiss Trop­i­cal Insti­tute where he became fas­ci­nat­ed with ticks, and at the end of his train­ing, in 1951, took a posi­tion at the US gov­ern­men­t’s Rocky Moun­tain Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Mon­tana. Burgdor­fer was cov­ered exten­sive­ly in FTR #585.

    Burgdor­fer died in 2014, but before he died him­self to be inter­viewed by the author of “Bit­ten,” Kris New­by. New­by her­self is a Stan­ford edu­cat­ed engi­neer and sci­ence writer who con­tract­ed Lyme dis­ease her­self, send­ing her on this quest to find answers about the nature of this still-mys­te­ri­ous dis­ease. New­by co-cre­at­ed the 2008 award­ing-win­ning “Under our Skin” doc­u­men­tary on Lyme dis­ease. It was dur­ing the mak­ing of that film that they met Burgdor­fer. He allowed him­self to be inter­viewed and even seemed eager to talk, mak­ing him stand out among the Lyme dis­ease researchers they con­tact­ed for the film. Burgdor­fer was high­ly crit­i­cal of the Lyme research com­mu­ni­ty dur­ing that inter­view. Burgdor­fer told New­by about meet­ings he had that made it clear they were work­ing on weaponiz­ing ticks, includ­ing work­ing on infect­ing ticks with more than one pathogen. He admit­ted to brain­storm­ing with ento­mol­o­gist James Oliv­er, who was work­ing on a pro­gram to drop weaponized ticks out of air­planes. Burgdor­fer even trav­eled to Eng­land and Czecho­slo­va­kia and met with sci­en­tists doing sim­i­lar work. Oliv­er tied in 2018, two years after giv­ing an inter­view where he talked about his work at Fort Det­rick and admit­ted one of his goals was deliv­er­ing ticks to tar­get­ed geo­graph­i­cal areas.

    After they fin­ished film­ing the inter­view for the “Under our Skin” doc­u­men­tary, Burgdor­fer omi­nous­ly tells New­by, “I didn’t tell you every­thing.” He would­n’t say more, until he agreed to be inter­viewed again in 2013. His health was fail­ing at this point (he died the next year). It was dur­ing this sec­ond inter­view that Burgdor­fer con­firmed that he was work­ing on weaponiz­ing ticks and insin­u­at­ed there had been an acci­den­tal release. But he would­n’t give details about that alleged acci­den­tal release. He did, how­ev­er, leave a large archive of mate­ri­als at the Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­si­ty that he nev­er hand­ed over to gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists. That archive is now avail­able online. So dur­ing the final years of his life, Burgdor­fer appeared to be leav­ing clues and hints about a big rev­e­la­tion that he was­n’t quite will­ing to open­ly dis­close.

    New­by delved into those archives, and what she found point­ed to a poten­tial­ly huge find­ing that could fun­da­men­tal­ly change our under­stand­ing of the biol­o­gy of Lyme dis­ease: Burgdor­fer­’s archives referred to some he dubbed the “Swiss Agent.” It was some­thing nev­er men­tioned in any of his jour­nal arti­cles. This raised the ques­tion of whether or not there was a yet-to-be-dis­cov­ered/dis­close addi­tion­al bio­log­i­cal agent that is play­ing a role in the devel­op­ment of the dis­ease.

    So that’s the thrust of New­by’s new book, “Bit­ten,” which has prompt­ed this Con­gres­sion­al call for an inves­ti­ga­tion: the death bed cryp­to-con­fes­sions and archives of the biowar­fare sci­en­tist who admits to work­ing on weaponiz­ing ticks:

    Roll Call

    House orders Pen­ta­gon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them
    The order requires the agency to say if it exper­i­ment­ed with insects for use as a bio­log­i­cal weapon between 1950 and 1975

    John M. Don­nel­ly
    Post­ed Jul 15, 2019 2:46 PM

    The House qui­et­ly vot­ed last week to require the Pen­ta­gon inspec­tor gen­er­al to tell Con­gress whether the depart­ment exper­i­ment­ed with weaponiz­ing dis­ease-car­ry­ing insects and whether they were released into the pub­lic realm — either acci­den­tal­ly or on pur­pose.

    The unusu­al pro­pos­al took the form of an amend­ment that was adopt­ed by voice vote July 11 dur­ing House debate on the fis­cal 2020 defense autho­riza­tion bill, which law­mak­ers passed the fol­low­ing day.

    The amend­ment, by New Jer­sey Repub­li­can Christo­pher H. Smith, says the inspec­tor gen­er­al “shall con­duct a review of whether the Depart­ment of Defense exper­i­ment­ed with ticks and oth­er insects regard­ing use as a bio­log­i­cal weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975.”

    If the answer is yes, then the IG must pro­vide the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices com­mit­tees with a report on the exper­i­ments’ scope and “whether any ticks or insects used in such exper­i­ments were released out­side of any lab­o­ra­to­ry by acci­dent or exper­i­ment design.”

    The amend­ment is an attempt to con­firm or deny reports that Pen­ta­gon researchers — at places such as Fort Det­rick in Mary­land and Plum Island in New York — implant­ed dis­eases into insects to learn about the effects of bio­log­i­cal weapons and also looked into using such insects to dis­sem­i­nate bio­log­i­cal agents.

    Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon banned U.S. gov­ern­ment research into bio­log­i­cal weapons in 1969, but research into pro­tect­ing U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel from such agents may have con­tin­ued, Smith said in an inter­view Mon­day.

    A book called “Bit­ten,” pub­lished this year, makes the case that the Defense Depart­ment research occurred and hints at a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion between the exper­i­ments and the spread of mal­adies such as Lyme dis­ease, which is borne by ticks.

    ...

    It remains to be seen whether Con­gress will send Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump a defense autho­riza­tion bill with the weaponized ticks amend­ment. The Sen­ate has passed its ver­sion with­out any sim­i­lar pro­vi­sion, and now House and Sen­ate nego­tia­tors must rec­on­cile the two bills.

    ———-

    “House orders Pen­ta­gon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them” by John M. Don­nel­ly; Roll Call; 07/15/2019

    “It remains to be seen whether Con­gress will send Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump a defense autho­riza­tion bill with the weaponized ticks amend­ment. The Sen­ate has passed its ver­sion with­out any sim­i­lar pro­vi­sion, and now House and Sen­ate nego­tia­tors must rec­on­cile the two bills.”

    So if you want to see this inves­ti­ga­tion hap­pen, con­tact your Sen­a­tor.

    Now, here’s an overview of “Bit­ten” by an author at LymeDisease.org and the role Willy Burgdor­fer­’s cryp­tic tes­ti­mo­ny played in mak­ing . Part of what makes this sum­ma­ry so sig­nif­i­cant is that, when you read vir­tu­al­ly all of the main­stream news arti­cles dis­cussing the above amend­ment added to the Defense autho­riza­tion bill, almost none of them actu­al­ly dis­cuss the con­tent of “Bit­ten” and who Willy Burgdor­fer was. It’s a time­ly exam­ple of why the Lyme dis­ease com­mu­ni­ty tends to be para­noid about how this issue is gen­er­al­ly treat­ed. The arti­cle men­tions how James Oliv­er also did an inter­view in 2016 where he admit­ted to work­ing on weaponiz­ing ticks. It’s a key point in all this: it’s not just Willy Burgdor­fer who left cryp­tic clues about a tick biowar­fare pro­gram before he died. James Oliv­er did too:

    LymeDisease.org

    TOUCHED BY LYME: Is Lyme dis­ease a bioweapons exper­i­ment gone bad?

    Dorothy Kupcha Leland
    13 MAY 2019

    The main­stream “ori­gin sto­ry” of Lyme dis­ease in the Unit­ed States goes like this: In the 1970s, a mys­te­ri­ous ail­ment afflict­ed a group of peo­ple in and around Lyme, Con­necti­cut. Even­tu­al­ly, sci­en­tists deter­mined it was caused by a spiro­chete trans­mit­ted by the bite of an Ixodes tick. A short course of antibi­otics would resolve the issue. Mys­tery solved. Prob­lem fixed.

    Since then, that’s basi­cal­ly the script fol­lowed by health offi­cials, researchers who receive gov­ern­ment fund­ing to study Lyme dis­ease, and the med­ical estab­lish­ment.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, says sci­ence jour­nal­ist Kris New­by, “the chasm between what researchers say about Lyme dis­ease and what the chron­i­cal­ly ill patients say they are expe­ri­enc­ing has remained an open wound for decades.”

    And New­by knows what she’s talk­ing about.

    In 2002, while vaca­tion­ing on Martha’s Vine­yard in Mass­a­chu­setts, she and her hus­band Paul were bit­ten by unseen ticks.

    “These tick bites would rob us of our good health,” New­by writes, “and send me on an inves­ti­ga­tion into an almost unimag­in­able pos­si­bil­i­ty: that we were col­lat­er­al dam­age in a bio­log­i­cal weapons race that had start­ed dur­ing the Cold War.”

    Upon their return to Cal­i­for­nia, New­by and her hus­band got hor­ri­bly sick. A suc­ces­sion of med­ical experts couldn’t pin­point the prob­lem and even­tu­al­ly dis­missed them as patients.

    This hap­pened despite the fact that New­by had a pos­i­tive Lyme test, which her doc­tors reject­ed as a “false” pos­i­tive.

    In time, she found her way to a physi­cian who was famil­iar with tick-borne ill­ness­es. This doc­tor diag­nosed her with Lyme dis­ease and babesio­sis, both preva­lent in ticks on Martha’s Vine­yard. And New­by began years of treat­ment that slow­ly brought her back to health.

    Under Our Skin

    Dur­ing her recov­ery, New­by start­ed work­ing with film direc­tor Andy Abra­hams Wil­son, of Open Eye Pic­tures. They joint­ly researched what became the award-win­ning Lyme doc­u­men­tary “Under Our Skin,” delv­ing into the his­to­ry of the Lyme dis­ease con­tro­ver­sy.

    (For read­ers not famil­iar with the issue, here it is in a nut­shell: Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple get sick every year in the US with Lyme and oth­er tick-borne ill­ness­es. But for com­plex rea­sons, patients have a dev­il of a time get­ting prop­er­ly diag­nosed and treat­ed.

    Newby’s case was typ­i­cal. She saw 10 doc­tors before step­ping out of the med­ical main­stream and pay­ing out of pock­et for a physi­cian who could rec­og­nize what she had and knew how to treat it. A point of con­tention in the con­tro­ver­sy is whether the ill­ness can per­sist after the patient receives a short course of antibi­otics. Government/medical estab­lish­ment folks say no. The patient expe­ri­ence says yes.)

    In the course of film­ing “Under Our Skin,” New­by and Wil­son strug­gled to find a gov­ern­ment expert on Lyme dis­ease will­ing to be inter­viewed on cam­era. The CDC, the NIH, and oth­ers all declined.

    “The pol­i­tics of the dis­ease were too charged,” she writes, “and the gov­ern­ment researchers seemed to want to steer clear of the con­tro­ver­sy.”

    Then they met retired NIH researcher Willy Burgdor­fer, the dis­cov­er­er of the Lyme spirochete—Borrelia burgdorferi—for whom it is named. In con­trast to oth­ers they had sought out, Burgdor­fer seemed eager to talk.

    “Willy told us that the US gov­ern­ment knows that Lyme dis­ease can become chron­ic and that patients can relapse years after an ini­tial infec­tion,” New­by writes. “And that the dis­ease is par­tic­u­lar­ly dam­ag­ing to the neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tems of chil­dren.”

    “A shame­ful affair”

    Fur­ther­more, Burgdor­fer crit­i­cized the dozen or so researchers who have got­ten most of the gov­ern­ment fund­ing for Lyme dis­ease.

    “The con­tro­ver­sy in Lyme dis­ease research is a shame­ful affair,” he said on cam­era. He stat­ed that the work should instead be done by sci­en­tists “who don’t know before­hand the results of their research.”

    Then, New­by writes: “As soon as we turned off the cam­era and began pack­ing up our gear, Willy told us with a smile, ‘I didn’t tell you every­thing.’ But try as we might, we couldn’t get him to say more.”

    “Under Our Skin” was released in 2008. Now, fast-for­ward to the present day and Newby’s new book “Bit­ten: The Secret His­to­ry of Lyme Dis­ease and Bio­log­i­cal Weapons.”

    In it, she describes her years’ long effort to under­stand who Burgdor­fer was and to get to the bot­tom of what he hint­ed at that day.

    Fas­ci­nat­ed by ticks

    Burgdor­fer grew up in Basel, Switzer­land, and became fas­ci­nat­ed with ticks while a PhD stu­dent at the Swiss Trop­i­cal Insti­tute.

    At the end of his train­ing, in 1951, he took a posi­tion at the US government’s Rocky Moun­tain Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Mon­tana. It held the most exten­sive col­lec­tion of ticks in the coun­try.

    At first, it appeared that the job involved fig­ur­ing out how to pro­tect peo­ple and ani­mals from tick-borne dis­eases. How­ev­er, Burgdor­fer was appar­ent­ly soon dis­abused of that notion.

    Dur­ing that Cold War era, the US gov­ern­ment was heav­i­ly involved in bioweapons research. Sci­en­tists sought ways to turn infec­tious microbes—such as anthrax, plague, bru­cel­la, and tularemia—into potent mil­i­tary tools that could dis­able a huge pop­u­la­tion. (Per­haps the Rus­sians?)

    New­by writes about a par­tic­u­lar meet­ing Burgdor­fer attend­ed in Cana­da: “After hear­ing from a room­ful of ento­mo­log­i­cal war­fare experts…he now most cer­tain­ly knew that he was no longer pro­tect­ing humans from tiny eight-legged beasts. He was instead turn­ing those beasts into lethal weapons.”

    Burgdor­fer spent time at Fort Det­rick, Mary­land, where one of the build­ings was nick­named the “Anthrax Hotel.” Anoth­er struc­ture housed the “Eight Ball,” a mas­sive cloud cham­ber used for test­ing air­borne bioweapons on ani­mals and human vol­un­teers.

    He brain­stormed with ento­mol­o­gist James Oliv­er, who was work­ing on a pro­gram to drop weaponized ticks out of air­planes. He trav­eled to Eng­land and Czecho­slo­va­kia, to meet with sci­en­tists doing sim­i­lar work.

    Burgdor­fer also exper­i­ment­ed with ways to infect ticks with more than one pathogen at a time.

    Doc­u­men­ta­tion

    New­by metic­u­lous­ly doc­u­ments all this with mas­sive archival research, dis­cus­sions with many peo­ple knowl­edge­able about bioweapons research in the US, and anoth­er inter­view with Burgdor­fer him­self in 2013.

    By then, advanced Parkinson’s dis­ease was steal­ing his abil­i­ty to speak clear­ly, and his health was fail­ing. (In fact, he would die the fol­low­ing year.)

    In this final inter­view, Burgdor­fer con­firmed that he had been work­ing on tick-borne bioweapons research. And insin­u­at­ed there had been an acci­den­tal release of some sort.

    At this point in the book, the read­er is itch­ing to know: will he give specifics? Was the out­break of sick­ness in and around Lyme, Con­necti­cut, in the 70s con­nect­ed to bioweapons research? Was there an acci­den­tal release of pathogens? Or a delib­er­ate one?

    New­by writes: “It was frus­trat­ing that he still wouldn’t dis­close key details on the who, what, and where of the alleged bioweapons acci­dent. He offered me more pieces of the puz­zle, but for unknown rea­sons, he was hold­ing back on the whole sto­ry.”

    Even more puz­zle pieces would emerge in the months before his death. It turns out Burgdor­fer had a trove of Lyme-relat­ed research notes that he had nev­er relin­quished to gov­ern­ment archivists. He instead want­ed them pre­served for pos­ter­i­ty in a uni­ver­si­ty library. (They are now avail­able online at Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­si­ty.) More com­plex­i­ties would sur­face after Burgdorfer’s death, when his wid­ow pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al mate­ri­als for the aca­d­e­m­ic archive.

    The Swiss Agent

    New­by went through these records with a fine-tooth comb. Most intrigu­ing were Burgdorfer’s ref­er­ences to some­thing he dubbed the “Swiss Agent.” Was this anoth­er pathogen? Could it be what makes Lyme dis­ease so vir­u­lent? Why was it nev­er men­tioned in any of Burgdorfer’s jour­nal arti­cles? Why wouldn’t he talk about it?

    The author does a stel­lar job of sift­ing through a huge col­lec­tion of clues. But some answers remain tan­ta­liz­ing­ly out of reach. “If the out­break was caused by a US acci­dent, we need it exposed,” she writes. “If it was a hos­tile act by a for­eign actor, then it shows how woe­ful­ly unpre­pared we are for future attacks.”

    The Lyme com­mu­ni­ty cares pas­sion­ate­ly about the true ori­gin sto­ry of this bur­geon­ing epi­dem­ic. Indeed, the microbe has been around for eons. Lyme spiro­chetes have been found in ticks that were encased in amber 15 mil­lion years ago. Lyme DNA is in the bones of “The Ice­man,” who lay frozen in the Alps for over 5000 years.

    But did some­thing hap­pen in the last half of the 20th Cen­tu­ry to ramp up this pathogen’s vir­u­lence? And/or, to make it spread more eas­i­ly? Newby’s book cer­tain­ly sug­gests that.

    Burgdor­fer died in 2014, leav­ing behind sig­nif­i­cant “dots” with­out con­nect­ing them all. The afore­men­tioned James Oliv­er died in 2018, two years after giv­ing a mag­a­zine inter­view about his bioweapons research at Fort Det­rick. (He said one of his goals had been to fig­ure out ways to dis­trib­ute ticks to tar­get­ed geo­graph­ic areas.) But like Burgdor­fer, he stopped short of pro­vid­ing specifics.

    Were these two men seek­ing to clear their con­sciences for the roles they played in bioweapons research? Their gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists is dying off. Is any­one left who might offer clar­i­ty? Are there any still-clas­si­fied doc­u­ments that hold the secrets?

    ...

    ———-

    “TOUCHED BY LYME: Is Lyme dis­ease a bioweapons exper­i­ment gone bad?” by Dorothy Kupcha Leland; LymeDisease.org; 05/13/2019

    Then, New­by writes: “As soon as we turned off the cam­era and began pack­ing up our gear, Willy told us with a smile, ‘I didn’t tell you every­thing.’ But try as we might, we couldn’t get him to say more.””

    That was the omi­nous hint Burgdor­fer left for them after his inter­views for the 2008 “Under Our Skin” doc­u­men­tary. And a big part of what made it so omi­nous is that is was indis­putable that Burgdor­fer was some­one who was in a posi­tion to know whether or not such research took place. That was his job:

    ...
    Fas­ci­nat­ed by ticks

    Burgdor­fer grew up in Basel, Switzer­land, and became fas­ci­nat­ed with ticks while a PhD stu­dent at the Swiss Trop­i­cal Insti­tute.

    At the end of his train­ing, in 1951, he took a posi­tion at the US government’s Rocky Moun­tain Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Mon­tana. It held the most exten­sive col­lec­tion of ticks in the coun­try.

    At first, it appeared that the job involved fig­ur­ing out how to pro­tect peo­ple and ani­mals from tick-borne dis­eases. How­ev­er, Burgdor­fer was appar­ent­ly soon dis­abused of that notion.

    Dur­ing that Cold War era, the US gov­ern­ment was heav­i­ly involved in bioweapons research. Sci­en­tists sought ways to turn infec­tious microbes—such as anthrax, plague, bru­cel­la, and tularemia—into potent mil­i­tary tools that could dis­able a huge pop­u­la­tion. (Per­haps the Rus­sians?)

    New­by writes about a par­tic­u­lar meet­ing Burgdor­fer attend­ed in Cana­da: “After hear­ing from a room­ful of ento­mo­log­i­cal war­fare experts…he now most cer­tain­ly knew that he was no longer pro­tect­ing humans from tiny eight-legged beasts. He was instead turn­ing those beasts into lethal weapons.”

    Burgdor­fer spent time at Fort Det­rick, Mary­land, where one of the build­ings was nick­named the “Anthrax Hotel.” Anoth­er struc­ture housed the “Eight Ball,” a mas­sive cloud cham­ber used for test­ing air­borne bioweapons on ani­mals and human vol­un­teers.

    ...

    Burgdor­fer also exper­i­ment­ed with ways to infect ticks with more than one pathogen at a time.

    ...

    New­by metic­u­lous­ly doc­u­ments all this with mas­sive archival research, dis­cus­sions with many peo­ple knowl­edge­able about bioweapons research in the US, and anoth­er inter­view with Burgdor­fer him­self in 2013.

    By then, advanced Parkinson’s dis­ease was steal­ing his abil­i­ty to speak clear­ly, and his health was fail­ing. (In fact, he would die the fol­low­ing year.)

    In this final inter­view, Burgdor­fer con­firmed that he had been work­ing on tick-borne bioweapons research. And insin­u­at­ed there had been an acci­den­tal release of some sort.

    At this point in the book, the read­er is itch­ing to know: will he give specifics? Was the out­break of sick­ness in and around Lyme, Con­necti­cut, in the 70s con­nect­ed to bioweapons research? Was there an acci­den­tal release of pathogens? Or a delib­er­ate one?

    New­by writes: “It was frus­trat­ing that he still wouldn’t dis­close key details on the who, what, and where of the alleged bioweapons acci­dent. He offered me more pieces of the puz­zle, but for unknown rea­sons, he was hold­ing back on the whole sto­ry.”
    ...

    And, again, it’s not just the tes­ti­mo­ny of Burgdor­fer. James Oliv­er admit­ted to much of this too before his death in 2018. We have two death bed con­fes­sions from for­mer tick biowar­fare researchers:

    ...
    He brain­stormed with ento­mol­o­gist James Oliv­er, who was work­ing on a pro­gram to drop weaponized ticks out of air­planes. He trav­eled to Eng­land and Czecho­slo­va­kia, to meet with sci­en­tists doing sim­i­lar work.
    ...

    Burgdor­fer died in 2014, leav­ing behind sig­nif­i­cant “dots” with­out con­nect­ing them all. The afore­men­tioned James Oliv­er died in 2018, two years after giv­ing a mag­a­zine inter­view about his bioweapons research at Fort Det­rick. (He said one of his goals had been to fig­ure out ways to dis­trib­ute ticks to tar­get­ed geo­graph­ic areas.) But like Burgdor­fer, he stopped short of pro­vid­ing specifics.

    Were these two men seek­ing to clear their con­sciences for the roles they played in bioweapons research? Their gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tists is dying off. Is any­one left who might offer clar­i­ty? Are there any still-clas­si­fied doc­u­ments that hold the secrets?
    ...

    That evi­dence isn’t just their inter­views. Burgdor­fer left an archive. And in that archive we find ref­er­ences to a mys­te­ri­ous “Swiss Agent”. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant giv­en the obser­va­tion that signs of Lyme dis­ease has been found in human remains going back thou­sands of years. “The Ice­man”, who was found frozen in the Alps for 5,000 years, even had the DNA for the Lyme spiro­chete “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” found inside him. So if humans and Lyme dis­ease have co-exist­ed for mil­len­nia, what explains the sud­den explo­sion of cas­es in the 1970’s? Why was­n’t this an already-rec­og­nized dis­ease? That’s part of what makes the ref­er­ences to the “Swiss Agent” so intrigu­ing in the con­text of alle­ga­tions of the weaponiza­tion of ticks. Espe­cial­ly giv­en the research into infect­ing ticks with mul­ti­ple dis­eases. It points towards the pos­si­bil­i­ty that what we know of at mod­ern day Lyme dis­ease is cause by a com­bi­na­tion of “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” and a yet to be iden­ti­fied agent. A mys­tery agent that needs to be iden­ti­fied for effec­tive treat­ment:

    ...
    Even more puz­zle pieces would emerge in the months before his death. It turns out Burgdor­fer had a trove of Lyme-relat­ed research notes that he had nev­er relin­quished to gov­ern­ment archivists. He instead want­ed them pre­served for pos­ter­i­ty in a uni­ver­si­ty library. (They are now avail­able online at Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­si­ty.) More com­plex­i­ties would sur­face after Burgdorfer’s death, when his wid­ow pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al mate­ri­als for the aca­d­e­m­ic archive.
    The Swiss Agent

    New­by went through these records with a fine-tooth comb. Most intrigu­ing were Burgdorfer’s ref­er­ences to some­thing he dubbed the “Swiss Agent.” Was this anoth­er pathogen? Could it be what makes Lyme dis­ease so vir­u­lent? Why was it nev­er men­tioned in any of Burgdorfer’s jour­nal arti­cles? Why wouldn’t he talk about it?

    ...

    The Lyme com­mu­ni­ty cares pas­sion­ate­ly about the true ori­gin sto­ry of this bur­geon­ing epi­dem­ic. Indeed, the microbe has been around for eons. Lyme spiro­chetes have been found in ticks that were encased in amber 15 mil­lion years ago. Lyme DNA is in the bones of “The Ice­man,” who lay frozen in the Alps for over 5000 years.

    But did some­thing hap­pen in the last half of the 20th Cen­tu­ry to ramp up this pathogen’s vir­u­lence? And/or, to make it spread more eas­i­ly? Newby’s book cer­tain­ly sug­gests that.
    ...

    Keep in mind that the name “Swiss Agent” hints at some­thing that came from Swiss researchers which could obvi­ous­ly be a ref­er­ence to some­thing acquired as a result of Oper­a­tion Paper­clip. Might that explain Burgdor­fer­’s extreme secre­cy and hes­i­tan­cy at dis­cussing this top­ic with New­by? At this point we don’t know, hence the need for that inves­ti­ga­tion. Again, if you’re an Amer­i­can, con­tact your Sen­a­tor.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, as we’re going to see below, Kris New­by her­self describes the trail of clues and doc­u­men­ta­tion Burgdor­fer left behind as point­ing in the direc­tion of a genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered uniden­ti­fied agent that is caus­ing Lyme dis­ease. Now, mod­ern genet­ic engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy did­n’t exist when the the “Swiss Agent” would have been devel­oped or dis­cov­ered but that does­n’t pre­clude old­er and less pre­cise meth­ods for mutat­ing and effec­tive­ly selec­tive­ly breed­ing a bac­te­ria.

    Now, as an exam­ple of how this sto­ry is gen­er­al­ly being treat­ed in the press. It’s one ‘debunk­ing’ piece after anoth­er. And, sur­prise!, all the ‘debunk­ing’ is eas­i­ly debunked. For exam­ple, here’s a Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle that fea­tures an attempt­ed debunk­ing by Michael T. Oster­holm, the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Infec­tious Dis­ease Research and Pol­i­cy at Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta. Oster­hold knew and worked with Burgdor­fer. Accord­ing to Oster­holm, there’s sim­ply “just no cred­i­ble evi­dence,” for any of this and he calls it all sci­ence fic­tion. Oster­holm points to the fact that deer pop­u­la­tions in the North­east increased after the Great Depres­sion which cor­re­lat­ed with the increase in Lyme dis­ease cas­es. In oth­er words, accord­ing to Oster­holm, Lyme dis­ease has always exist­ed in its present form and the explo­sion of cas­es in the 1970’s was sim­ply the inevitable and nat­ur­al con­se­quence of a ris­ing num­ber of humans get­ting exposed to infect­ed ticks. Oster­holm goes on to assert that ticks would make for an inef­fec­tive vec­tor for spread­ing dis­ease.

    Now, while it’s true that there’s should be an expect­ed increase in Lyme dis­ease as a con­se­quence of ris­ing deer pop­u­la­tions, the idea that this expect­ed cor­re­la­tion explains away both the sud­den explo­sion of cas­es in the 70s and the tes­ti­monies of both Burgdor­fer and Oliv­er is absurd. Even more absurd is the dis­missal that such research could have hap­pened because ticks would­n’t make an effec­tive dis­ease vec­tor. Bur­dor­fer and Oliv­er were lit­er­al­ly work­ing on mak­ing them bet­ter vec­tors! They lit­er­al­ly dropped them from planes in an attempt to make them bet­ter vec­tors! But that’s how this sto­ry is being treat­ed. And as we’ll see below, Kris New­by actu­al­ly left a com­ment to this Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle where she express­es her dis­may at the cov­er­age:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    A GOP law­mak­er thinks rise in Lyme dis­ease is due to a secret tick exper­i­ment. A sci­en­tist squash­es that idea.

    By Mor­gan Krakow
    July 17, 2019 at 7:35 PM

    Ticks are swarm­ing, car­ry­ing myr­i­ad dis­eases such as Lyme and Rocky Moun­tain spot­ted fever and mak­ing peo­ple ill. And, as one con­gress­man believes, these ticks came from secret Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments to turn ticks into bio­log­i­cal weapons.

    Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith (R‑N.J.) is so con­cerned about an alleged tick-bioweapon project that he led an effort to pass an amend­ment order­ing the Defense Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate it. Specif­i­cal­ly, the amend­ment orders the department’s inspec­tor gen­er­al to deter­mine whether gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists exper­i­ment­ed with bioweapons — specif­i­cal­ly in ticks — and if those arach­nids end­ed up mak­ing their way out of the labs and into the pub­lic between the 1950s and the 1970s.

    ...

    Smith cit­ed a book, “Bit­ten: The Secret His­to­ry of Lyme Dis­ease and Bio­log­i­cal Weapons” by Kris New­by, to say gov­ern­ment research weaponized ticks in Mary­land and New York. The book includes inter­views with Willy Burgdor­fer, who is cred­it­ed with dis­cov­er­ing the bac­te­ria that caus­es Lyme dis­ease.

    Smith calls Burgdor­fer a bio­log­i­cal weapon researcher. But Michael T. Oster­holm, the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Infec­tious Dis­ease Research and Pol­i­cy at Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta, said “there’s just no cred­i­ble evi­dence,” behind the sto­ries about weaponiz­ing ticks or Burgdorfer’s involve­ment with such a project.

    Oster­holm, who knew and worked with Burgdor­fer, said the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries sur­round­ing the sci­en­tist have no basis in fact. The dis­ease wasn’t even tru­ly dis­cov­ered and named until 1977, when two women in Old Lyme, Conn., report­ed symp­toms of arthri­tis. Thus, the name of the dis­ease emerged. It was Burgdor­fer who was able to iden­ti­fy the bac­te­ria that caused it.

    “This is again anoth­er one of those unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions where the sci­ence fic­tion of these issues” over­whelms the truth, Oster­holm told The Post.

    As deer pop­u­la­tion in the North­east increased after the Great Depres­sion, Oster­holm said the instances of Lyme dis­ease also went up. He said it’s like­ly Lyme dis­ease had long exist­ed in deer and that as they increased in pop­u­la­tion, they spread more Lyme.

    Oster­holm said that ticks would be an inef­fec­tive bio­log­i­cal weapon and that there are much more effec­tive options.
    ...

    ———-

    “A GOP law­mak­er thinks rise in Lyme dis­ease is due to a secret tick exper­i­ment. A sci­en­tist squash­es that idea.” by Mor­gan Krakow; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 07/17/2019

    “Oster­holm said that ticks would be an inef­fec­tive bio­log­i­cal weapon and that there are much more effec­tive options.”

    That as Oster­holm’s rebuke to the idea that there was secret research into make ticks bet­ter bio­log­i­cal weapons: there would be more effec­tive options. It’s not exact­ly a com­pelling argu­ment.

    And now, here’s a com­ment to the arti­cle from some­one who claims to be Kris New­by her­self. New­by express­es a feel­ing of infi­nite sad­ness

    Kris New­by
    07/18/2019, 11:32:46 PM

    I’m the author of BITTEN, an engi­neer by train­ing, a Stan­ford sci­ence writer by pro­fes­sion, and a lover of get­ting the facts right. My first real job was as a Wash­ing­ton Post paper­girl dur­ing the unfold­ing of the Water­gate scan­dal. Every morn­ing around 5am, before I stuffed news­pa­pers into the wire bas­kets of my roy­al-blue-fat-tire Schwinn bike, I was thrilled to be the first in my neigh­bor­hood to read the lat­est rev­e­la­tions from the Water­gate reporters, Wood­ward and Bern­stein. They were my heroes, role mod­els who in some small way led me to this point in life, when I was able to reveal a major find­ing, the weaponiza­tion of ticks dur­ing the Cold War. In my book, I present ample evi­dence that acci­dents asso­ci­at­ed with this mas­sive bioweapons pro­gram may have con­tributed to the mys­te­ri­ous epi­dem­ic of tick-borne dis­eases that was first noticed around Long Island Sound in the late 1960s.

    I felt an infi­nite sad­ness when I read Megan Krakow’s cov­er­age of this sto­ry, which got many facts wrong and relied on an expert who had­n’t read the evi­dence in my book, or worse yet, ignored it for polit­i­cal rea­sons. The cit­ed expert may have per­son­al­ly known the dis­cov­er­er of the Lyme bac­teri­um, Willy Burgdor­fer, but this did­n’t mean that he knew what was inside of his heart.

    Over five years, I have an unearthed an exten­sive array of doc­u­ments that prove his role in the bioweapons pro­gram, and I have a video­taped inter­view of Willy where described some of his bug-borne biowar­fare exper­i­ments. He implied that the “Lyme out­break” was not caused by the Lyme bac­teri­um, but a genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered organ­ism that no one is look­ing for.

    Towards the end of his life, he felt remorse about this dark pur­suit, and it was obvi­ous that he want­ed to set the record straight before his death. His admis­sions aren’t some­thing that we want to believe, but now that the truth is out, we, as com­pas­sion­ate human beings, must put our Cold War past behind us and strive to stop the suf­fer­ing.

    Now, in the defense of Meghan Krakow, the author of the arti­cle, note that her bio-blurb at the end of the arti­cle says she’s an intern at the Wash­ing­ton Post who start­ed in June. So an intern who has been there for about month got this sto­ry.

    But note the cru­cial point New­by makes in her rebut­tal: Bur­gor­fer­’s clues and archives point towards the “Lyme out­break” being pri­mar­i­ly cause by some­thing oth­er than the “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” bac­te­ria that was dis­cov­ered in the 1970s and has co-exist­ed with human­i­ty for mil­len­nia. Instead, it was caused by some­thing man-made/­mod­i­fied that no one is look­ing for:

    ...
    Over five years, I have an unearthed an exten­sive array of doc­u­ments that prove his role in the bioweapons pro­gram, and I have a video­taped inter­view of Willy where described some of his bug-borne biowar­fare exper­i­ments. He implied that the “Lyme out­break” was not caused by the Lyme bac­teri­um, but a genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered organ­ism that no one is look­ing for.
    ...

    And that’s the key point of New­by’s work that is being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly left out of the news cov­er­age of her book and this Con­gres­sion­al inquiry.

    Next, here’s a Buz­zFeed arti­cle that includes the ‘debunk­ing’ by three dif­fer­ent experts. They are, again, all eas­i­ly ‘debunked’ debunk­ings. One expert, Maria Diuk-Wass­er, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of ecol­o­gy, evo­lu­tion, and envi­ron­men­tal biol­o­gy at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, lit­er­al­ly says the charges in “Bit­ten” are “an easy one to debunk” by point­ing out that the “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” bac­te­ria is found all across the US and not just in the North­east. Accord­ing to Diuk-Wass­er, “It could­n’t have spread from the ’50s or ’60s all over the coun­try. That’s impos­si­ble because ticks move very slow­ly. We know that the Bor­re­lia that is through­out the whole US has an old ori­gin genet­i­cal­ly.” So Diuk-Wass­er appears to be cit­ing the ancient ori­gins of “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” and the fact that it’s found across the US as an argu­ment against the idea that US researchers cre­at­ed and devel­oped the “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” and infect­ed ticks with it. But that’s not a refu­ta­tion the actu­al case made in “Bit­ten.” As we saw above, what New­by’s research points towards is the prospect that there’s some­thing in addi­tion to “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri”, the mys­te­ri­ous “Swiss Agent”, that made Lyme dis­ease so much more potent and eas­i­er to spread and might be the actu­al pri­ma­ry source of the dis­ease. Addi­tion­al­ly, whether or not the Lyme dis­ease bac­te­ria already exist­ed or was man-made/­mod­i­fied is beside the point when it comes to ques­tions of whether or not there was research on weaponiz­ing the ticks them­selves to make them bet­ter vec­tors for spread­ing dis­eases (like drop­ping them from planes).

    Anoth­er expert, Gary Wormser, chief of infec­tious dis­eases at New York Med­ical Col­lege and founder and direc­tor of the Lyme Dis­ease Diag­nos­tic Cen­ter, asserts that the the­o­ry pre­sent­ed in “Bit­ten” are “not log­i­cal, not rea­son­able, and not true.” Wormser then said the “the­o­ry” in New­by’s book includ­ed the myth that the bac­te­ria was cre­at­ed in a US gov­ern­ment lab. But, again, that’s not actu­al­ly what New­by’s book is assert­ing. No one dis­putes that the “Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri” bac­te­ria has long exist­ed. The ques­tions are whether there’s an addi­tion “Swiss Agent” and whether exper­i­ments in weaponiz­ing this dis­ease took place.

    Final­ly, Greg Ebel, pro­fes­sor and direc­tor of the Arthro­pod-Borne and Infec­tious Dis­eases Lab­o­ra­to­ry at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty, gives per­haps that most beside-the-point ‘debunk­ing’ attempt by observ­ing, “I don’t know that you could real­ly aerosolize it.” It’s lit­er­al­ly a book about weaponiz­ing ticks as vec­tors and he ‘debunked’ it by point­ing out you can’t aerosolize it eas­i­ly. *Face palm*:

    Buz­zFeed News

    Law­mak­ers Want The Pen­ta­gon To Inves­ti­gate A Bizarre Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry That The Gov­ern­ment Weaponized Ticks And Spread Lyme Dis­ease

    Experts say the the­o­ry is not sup­port­ed by sci­ence.
    Stephanie K. Baer Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on July 18, 2019, at 1:16 p.m. ET

    Law­mak­ers are demand­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into an old con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that the gov­ern­ment weaponized ticks and caused the spread of a debil­i­tat­ing dis­ease that infects an esti­mat­ed 300,000 Amer­i­cans each year.

    ...

    But experts say there’s no need to inves­ti­gate because there’s no evi­dence or sci­ence to back it up.

    “There’s def­i­nite­ly bet­ter things they should be doing rather than just fol­low­ing up on a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry,” said Maria Diuk-Wass­er, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of ecol­o­gy, evo­lu­tion, and envi­ron­men­tal biol­o­gy at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. “This is an easy one to debunk.”

    Lyme dis­ease is caused by the bac­teri­um Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri. The microbes infect black­legged ticks, which can trans­mit the infec­tion to peo­ple through a bite.

    It is the most com­mon vec­tor-borne dis­ease in the US and can cause a wide range of symp­toms, includ­ing fever, chills, fatigue, a rash, and mus­cle and joint aches. If left untreat­ed, the dis­ease can cause more severe joint pain, facial pal­sy, an irreg­u­lar heart­beat, and inflam­ma­tion of the brain and spinal cord, accord­ing to the CDC.

    Cas­es of the ill­ness have steadi­ly increased over the last 25 years. In 2017, the CDC received reports of more than 42,000 con­firmed or prob­a­ble cas­es of the dis­ease, though the agency esti­mates that around 300,000 peo­ple in the US are sick­ened by the bac­te­ria each year.

    The increase in cas­es, how­ev­er, is not linked to the release of infect­ed ticks from a lab, sci­en­tists told Buz­zFeed News.

    Gary Wormser, chief of infec­tious dis­eases at New York Med­ical Col­lege and founder and direc­tor of the Lyme Dis­ease Diag­nos­tic Cen­ter, said the the­o­ry is “not log­i­cal, not rea­son­able, and not true.”

    Wormser, who has been research­ing Lyme since the late 1980s, said the the­o­ry, which has also includ­ed the myth that the bac­te­ria was cre­at­ed in a US gov­ern­ment lab, is one of sev­er­al myths about Lyme dis­ease that have cir­cu­lat­ed for years.

    “It’s just part of the mythol­o­gy of Lyme dis­ease,” Wormser said. “Nobody seems to pay atten­tion to the actu­al facts.”

    Diuk-Wass­er said research shows the bac­te­ria has been around for tens of thou­sands of years, adding that if it were true that the gov­ern­ment caused wide­spread dis­ease by releas­ing infect­ed ticks in New York, then the bac­te­ria would­n’t be found across the US — which it is, by the way.

    “It could­n’t have spread from the ’50s or ’60s all over the coun­try. That’s impos­si­ble because ticks move very slow­ly,” she said. “We know that the Bor­re­lia that is through­out the whole US has an old ori­gin genet­i­cal­ly.”

    Experts also said ticks, in gen­er­al, would be poor can­di­dates for bio­log­i­cal weapons.

    “I don’t know that you could real­ly aerosolize it,” said Greg Ebel, pro­fes­sor and direc­tor of the Arthro­pod-Borne and Infec­tious Dis­eases Lab­o­ra­to­ry at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty. “I’ve nev­er seen any evi­dence that would make me think that that would be a good choice.”

    Rather, sci­en­tists say, the increase in preva­lence of the bac­te­ria and in cas­es of the dis­eases is like­ly due to a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, includ­ing refor­esta­tion, sub­ur­ban­iza­tion, and, pos­si­bly, cli­mate change.

    “Forests have regrown and there are now enor­mous deer pop­u­la­tions — deer pop­u­la­tions lead to larg­er pop­u­la­tions of ticks,” Ebel told Buz­zFeed News.

    The House spend­ing bill that the amend­ment was added to still has to be rec­on­ciled with the Sen­ate’s ver­sion before any inves­ti­ga­tion moves for­ward.

    But even if the inves­ti­ga­tion comes to fruition and finds no evi­dence of the the­o­ry, Diuk-Wass­er doubt­ed that would sat­is­fy the naysay­ers.

    “I don’t think they will believe it. Con­spir­a­cies are based on assum­ing the gov­ern­ment will deny these things,” she said. “I just find it very odd, hon­est­ly, that [law­mak­ers] would be doing this.”

    ———-

    “Law­mak­ers Want The Pen­ta­gon To Inves­ti­gate A Bizarre Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry That The Gov­ern­ment Weaponized Ticks And Spread Lyme Dis­ease” by Stephanie K. Baer; Buz­zFeed News; 07/18/2019

    “But experts say there’s no need to inves­ti­gate because there’s no evi­dence or sci­ence to back it up.”

    No need to even inves­ti­gate because there’s no evi­dence and no sci­ence to back it up. That was the con­sen­sus of these experts who were keen to ‘debunk’ New­by’s book and non­sen­si­cal­ly dis­miss the evi­dence of the tes­ti­mo­ny of these for­mer biowar­fare tick researchers.

    So as we can see, there is already immense resis­tance to even the idea that this kind of research might have tak­en place and notion that we should even inves­ti­gate this at all. This is why Kris New­by feels infi­nite sad­ness. Along with all the oth­er ail­ments she’s feel­ing as a result of her uncured Lyme dis­ease.

    And in relat­ed news, there’s a new inva­sive species of tick that feeds on cat­tle and is spread­ing across the US at an alarm­ing rate. It’s the Asian Long­horned tick. Unlike most ticks, this one can close itself. All it needs is a blood sup­ply. It’s so good at cloning itself that cat­tle has been found that was lit­er­al­ly sucked to death in the US by swarms of tick clones. It’s a reminder that, in addi­tion to learn­ing about tick weaponiza­tion research of the past, glob­al bans on future research are also vital. Get­ting sucked to death by a swarm of weaponized tick clones is a good recipe for more infi­nite sad­ness.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 20, 2019, 3:48 pm
  18. First, note that Kris New­by, the author of the book “Bit­ten” doc­u­ment­ing the claims of for­mer US biowar­fare researchers Willy Burgdor­fer and James Oliv­er about their work on weaponiz­ing ticks and Lyme dis­ease start­ing in the ear­ly 1950s, was inter­viewed on the lat­est episode of War Nerd Radio. You can hear a free pre­view of the first half hour here.

    Next, here’s a sto­ry from 2016 that’s direct­ly relat­ed to rev­e­la­tions in “Bit­ten”: Accord­ing to a book “Clouds of Secre­cy: The Army’s Germ War­fare Tests Over Pop­u­lat­ed Areas” by Dr. Leonard Cole, the direc­tor of the Ter­ror Med­i­cine and Secu­ri­ty Pro­gram at Rut­gers New Jer­sey Med­ical School, the first secret bioware exper­i­ments that exposed on the US pub­lic to start­ed in 1949 and con­tin­ued for the next 20 years. There are 239 known secret tests on the pub­lic in this germ war­fare test­ing pro­gram:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    Over and over again, the mil­i­tary has con­duct­ed dan­ger­ous biowar­fare exper­i­ments on Amer­i­cans

    Kevin Loria
    Sep. 25, 2016, 4:00 PM

    On Sep­tem­ber 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Fran­cis­co used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s famous fog. The mil­i­tary was test­ing how a bio­log­i­cal weapon attack would affect the 800,000 res­i­dents of the city.

    The peo­ple of San Fran­cis­co had no idea.

    The Navy con­tin­ued the tests for sev­en days, poten­tial­ly caus­ing at least one death. It was one of the first large-scale bio­log­i­cal weapon tri­als that would be con­duct­ed under a “germ war­fare test­ing pro­gram” that went on for 20 years, from 1949 to 1969. The goal “was to deter [the use of bio­log­i­cal weapons] against the Unit­ed States and its allies and to retal­i­ate if deter­rence failed,” the gov­ern­ment explained lat­er. “Fun­da­men­tal to the devel­op­ment of a deter­rent strat­e­gy was the need for a thor­ough study and analy­sis of our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to overt and covert attack.”

    Of the 239 known tests in that pro­gram, San Fran­cis­co was notable for two rea­sons, accord­ing to Dr. Leonard Cole, who doc­u­ment­ed the episode in his book ” Clouds of Secre­cy: The Army’s Germ War­fare Tests Over Pop­u­lat­ed Areas.”

    Cole, now the direc­tor of the Ter­ror Med­i­cine and Secu­ri­ty Pro­gram at Rut­gers New Jer­sey Med­ical School, tells Busi­ness Insid­er that this inci­dent was “notable: first, because it was real­ly ear­ly in the pro­gram ... but also because of the extra­or­di­nary coin­ci­dence that took place at Stan­ford Hos­pi­tal, begin­ning days after the Army’s tests had tak­en place.”

    Hos­pi­tal staff were so shocked at the appear­ance of a patient infect­ed with a bac­te­ria, Ser­ra­tia marcescens, that had nev­er been found in the hos­pi­tal and was rare in the area, that they pub­lished an arti­cle about it in a med­ical jour­nal. The patient, Edward Nevin, died after the infec­tion spread to his heart.

    S. marcescens was one of the two types of bac­te­ria the Navy ship had sprayed over the Bay Area.

    It was­n’t until the 1970s that Amer­i­cans, as Cole wrote in the book, “learned that for decades they had been serv­ing as exper­i­men­tal ani­mals for agen­cies of their gov­ern­ment.”

    San Fran­cis­co was­n’t the first or the last exper­i­ment on cit­i­zens who had­n’t giv­en informed con­sent.

    Oth­er exper­i­ments involved test­ing mind-alter­ing drugs on unsus­pect­ing cit­i­zens. In one shock­ing, well-known inci­dent, gov­ern­ment researchers stud­ied the effects of syphilis on black Amer­i­cans with­out inform­ing the men that they had the dis­ease — they were told they had “bad blood.” Researchers with­held treat­ment after it became avail­able so they could con­tin­ue study­ing the ill­ness, despite the dev­as­tat­ing and life-threat­en­ing impli­ca­tions of doing so for the men and their fam­i­lies.

    But it was the germ war­fare tests that Cole focused on.

    “All these oth­er tests, while ter­ri­ble, they affect­ed peo­ple count­ed in the hun­dreds at most,” he says. “But when you talk about expos­ing mil­lions of peo­ple to poten­tial harm, by spread­ing around cer­tain chem­i­cals or bio­log­i­cal agents, the quan­ti­ta­tive effect of that is just unbe­liev­able.

    “Every one of the [bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal] agents the Army used had been chal­lenged” by med­ical reports, he says, despite the Army’s con­tention in pub­lic hear­ings that they’d select­ed “harm­less sim­u­lants” of bio­log­i­cal weapons.

    “They’re all con­sid­ered pathogens now,” Cole says.

    ...

    From Min­neapo­lis to St. Louis

    The mil­i­tary test­ed how a bio­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal weapon would spread through­out the coun­try by spray­ing bac­te­ria as well as var­i­ous chem­i­cal pow­ders — includ­ing an espe­cial­ly con­tro­ver­sial one called zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide. Low fly­ing air­planes would take off, some­times near the Cana­di­an bor­der, “and they would fly down through the Mid­west,” drop­ping their pay­loads over cities, says Cole.

    These sprays were test­ed on the ground too, with machines that would release clouds from city rooftops or inter­sec­tions to see how they spread.

    In the book, Cole cites mil­i­tary reports that doc­u­ment­ed var­i­ous Min­neapo­lis tests, includ­ing one where chem­i­cals spread through a school. The clouds were clear­ly vis­i­ble.

    To pre­vent sus­pi­cion, the mil­i­tary pre­tend­ed that they were test­ing a way to mask the whole city in order to pro­tect it. They told city offi­cials that “the tests involved efforts to mea­sure abil­i­ty to lay smoke screens about the city” to “hide” it in case of nuclear attack, accord­ing to Cole’s account.

    The poten­tial tox­i­c­i­ty of that con­tro­ver­sial com­pound zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide is debat­ed. One com­po­nent, cad­mi­um, is high­ly tox­ic and can cause can­cer. Some reports sug­gest a pos­si­bil­i­ty that the zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide could per­haps degrade into cad­mi­um, but a 1997 report from the Nation­al Research Coun­cil con­clud­ed that the Army’s secret tests “did not expose res­i­dents of the Unit­ed States and Cana­da to chem­i­cal lev­els con­sid­ered harm­ful.” How­ev­er, the same report not­ed that research on the chem­i­cal used was sparse, most­ly based on very lim­it­ed ani­mal stud­ies.

    These air tests were con­duct­ed around the coun­try as part of Oper­a­tion Large Area Cov­er­age.

    “There was evi­dence that the pow­der after it was released would be then locat­ed a day or two lat­er as far away as 1,200 miles,” Cole says. “There was a sense that you could real­ly blan­ket the coun­try with a sim­i­lar agent.”

    City tests were con­duct­ed in St. Louis, too.

    In 2012, Lisa Mar­ti­no-Tay­lor, a soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at St. Louis Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege-Mer­amec, released a report the­o­riz­ing that the army’s exper­i­ments could be con­nect­ed to can­cer rates in a low-income, most­ly black neigh­bor­hood in the city where zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide had been test­ed. She said she was con­cerned that there could have been a radioac­tive com­po­nent to some test­ing, though she did not have direct evi­dence for that pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    Her report, how­ev­er, prompt­ed both sen­a­tors from Mis­souri to write to the Army sec­re­tary, “demand­ing answers,” the Asso­ci­at­ed Press not­ed at the time.

    While Mar­ti­no-Tay­lor’s sug­ges­tion remains pure­ly hypo­thet­i­cal, “the human dimen­sion is nev­er men­tioned” in most Army doc­u­ments, Cole writes in the book. Instead there’s just a dis­cus­sion of how well the par­tic­u­lates spread and what they learned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of bio­log­i­cal attacks from them.

    1966: “A Study of the Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Sub­way Pas­sen­gers in New York City to Covert Attack with Bio­log­i­cal Agents”

    The New York sub­way sys­tem exper­i­ments are among the most shock­ing in terms of the num­bers of peo­ple exposed, accord­ing to Cole.

    In a field test called “A Study of the Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Sub­way Pas­sen­gers in New York City to Covert Attack with Bio­log­i­cal Agents,” mil­i­tary offi­cials tried to see how easy it would be to unleash bio­log­i­cal weapons using the New York City sub­way. They would break light bulbs full of bac­te­ria on the tracks to see how they spread through the city.

    “If you can get tril­lions of bac­te­ria into a light bulb and throw it on the track as a train pulls into a sta­tion, they’ll get pulled through the air as the train leaves,” Cole says, trav­el­ling through the tun­nels and into dif­fer­ent sta­tions.

    Clouds would engulf peo­ple as trains pulled away, but doc­u­ments say that they “brushed their cloth­ing, looked up at the grat­ing apron and walked on.” No one was con­cerned.

    In a 1995 News­day sto­ry, reporter Den­nis Dug­gan con­tact­ed retired Army sci­en­tist Charles Senseney, who had tes­ti­fied about the exper­i­ments to a Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee in 1975. In his tes­ti­mo­ny, he explained that one light bulb full of bac­te­ria dropped at 14th Street eas­i­ly spread the bac­te­ria up to at least 58th Street.

    But he declined to reveal any­thing to the News­day reporter. “I don’t want to get near this,” Senseney said to Dug­gan. “I [tes­ti­fied], because I was told I had to by the peo­ple at the Depart­ment of Defense ... I bet­ter get off the phone.”

    Exper­i­ments con­tin­ued in New York for six days using Bacil­lus sub­tilis, then known as Bacil­lus glo­bigii, and S. marcescens.

    A paper from the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences ana­lyz­ing mil­i­tary exper­i­ments notes that B. glo­bigii is “now con­sid­ered a pathogen” and is often a cause of food poi­son­ing. “Infec­tions are rarely known to be fatal,” the report said — though fatal cas­es have occurred.

    Par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial tests

    Anoth­er con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ment described in Cole’s book involved a test at the Nor­folk Naval Sup­ply Cen­ter. The exper­i­menters packed crates with fun­gal spores to see how they would affect the peo­ple unpack­ing those crates.

    Cole’s book notes that “por­tions of a report about an army test in 1951 involv­ing Aspergillus fumi­ga­tus ... indi­cate that the army inten­tion­al­ly exposed a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of black peo­ple to the organ­ism.” Most of the employ­ees at the sup­ply cen­ter were black.

    In the mil­i­tary reports cit­ed by Cole, researchers claim they are prepar­ing for an attack that might tar­get black cit­i­zens. He quotes from a sec­tion that reads: “Since Negroes are more sus­cep­ti­ble to coc­cid­ioides than are whites, this fun­gus dis­ease was sim­u­lat­ed.”

    When these exper­i­ments were first revealed in 1980, the racial aspect of these tests engen­dered con­tro­ver­sy and skep­ti­cism about the “army’s inter­est in the pub­lic wel­fare,” accord­ing to Cole.

    Tests revealed by an unex­pect­ed source

    Many of these exper­i­ments on the Amer­i­can pub­lic were first inves­ti­gat­ed by what we would con­sid­er ques­tion­able sources.

    One 1979 Wash­ing­ton Post news sto­ry dis­cuss­es open air exper­i­ments in the Tam­pa Bay area involv­ing the release of per­tus­sis, or whoop­ing cough, in 1955. State records show that whoop­ing cough cas­es in Flori­da spiked from 339 (one death) in 1954 to 1,080 (12 deaths) in 1955, accord­ing to that sto­ry.

    But it’s hard to trace how accu­rate the infor­ma­tion about the whoop­ing cough release is: The only doc­u­men­ta­tion goes back to an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy.

    The Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy formed a group called Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens for Hon­esty in Gov­ern­ment that spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time inves­ti­gat­ing con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ments run by the Army and CIA, accord­ing to the Post. Through FOIA requests they uncov­ered a num­ber of doc­u­ments relat­ed to these exper­i­ments in the late 1970s.

    Cole under­stands why some peo­ple are skep­ti­cal of those reports. “I cer­tain­ly am not a mem­ber and I think a lot of what they do is quack­ery,” he says, but “in this case, I have no rea­son to believe any of this isn’t real.”

    Many of the doc­u­ments Sci­en­tol­o­gists made pub­lic were the same doc­u­ments he’d received doing his own research, redact­ed in the same places.

    Per­haps the hard­est ques­tion is how much infor­ma­tion is still miss­ing.

    As Cole writes in the book:

    Many details about the army’s tests over pop­u­lat­ed areas remain secret. Most of the test reports are still clas­si­fied or can­not be locat­ed, although a few of the ear­li­er ones have become avail­able in response to Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act requests and in con­junc­tion with the Nevin case. Among those avail­able, sec­tions have been blocked out and pages are miss­ing.

    What we learned

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials were called to tes­ti­fy before Con­gress in 1977 after infor­ma­tion about these bio­log­i­cal war­fare exper­i­ments was revealed.

    At the time, those offi­cials said that deter­min­ing just how vul­ner­a­ble the US was to a bio­log­i­cal attack “required exten­sive research and devel­op­ment to deter­mine pre­cise­ly our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, the effi­ca­cy of our pro­tec­tive mea­sures, and the tac­ti­cal and strate­gic capa­bil­i­ty of var­i­ous deliv­ery sys­tems and agents,” accord­ing to a record of that tes­ti­mo­ny quot­ed in “Clouds of Secre­cy.”

    Cole too says it’s hard to see these events now from the per­spec­tive that peo­ple had then.

    There was “a dif­fer­ent mind­set in the coun­try then ... [a] Cold War men­tal­i­ty,” he says. But, he argues, that does­n’t jus­ti­fy gloss­ing over the already known poten­tial dan­ger of the agents used.

    At the same time, part of what the mil­i­tary knows about how clouds of chem­i­cals spread comes from these exper­i­ments. Cole says that knowl­edge gleaned from these bio­log­i­cal war­fare test­ing pro­grams helped inform the US reac­tion when reports came in on the poten­tial use of chem­i­cal weapons in the first Gulf War.

    So what’s hap­pen­ing now?

    Cole says that the obvi­ous ques­tion that’s on peo­ple’s minds is what’s hap­pen­ing now. After all, if secret tests could occur then, what pre­vents them from con­tin­u­ing? Are they, in fact, still going on?

    He does­n’t think it’s like­ly.

    “I would nev­er swear on your life or my life that noth­ing ille­git­i­mate is hap­pen­ing, but based on what I do know, I don’t have any sense that there’s illic­it activ­i­ty now that would involve risk­ing expo­sure to tons of peo­ple, as hap­pened in the 50s and 60s,” he says.

    Bio­log­i­cal agents are still stud­ied and test­ed, but informed con­sent is more wide­ly appre­ci­at­ed now. There’s also less of a Cold War men­tal­i­ty that would be used to jus­ti­fy this research.

    Still, more recent reports show that exper­i­ments in this area went on longer than we thought.

    In 2001, a New York Times report revealed projects test­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons that began under the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and con­tin­ued under the sec­ond Bush admin­is­tra­tion. A 1972 treaty the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pro­hib­it­ed devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons, but this pro­gram jus­ti­fied it with the argu­ment that new weapons need­ed to be stud­ied in order to devel­op ade­quate defens­es.

    And the “War on Ter­ror” rais­es oth­er con­cerns, accord­ing to Cole.

    After the 2001 anthrax attacks, fund­ing for bioter­ror­ism research spiked by $1.5 bil­lion. Then in 2004, Con­gress approved anoth­er $5.6 bil­lion bioter­ror research project.

    These projects are meant to pro­tect soci­ety from the dan­gers of bio­log­i­cal agents, but they may have an unin­tend­ed con­se­quence, Cole says.

    “Thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple became famil­iar with pathogens that they were not famil­iar with before,” he says. “You now have many more peo­ple that could poten­tial­ly do bad with these organ­isms, and it only takes one per­son.”

    ———-

    “Over and over again, the mil­i­tary has con­duct­ed dan­ger­ous biowar­fare exper­i­ments on Amer­i­cans” by Kevin Loria, Busi­ness Insid­er, 09/25/2016

    “The Navy con­tin­ued the tests for sev­en days, poten­tial­ly caus­ing at least one death. It was one of the first large-scale bio­log­i­cal weapon tri­als that would be con­duct­ed under a “germ war­fare test­ing pro­gram” that went on for 20 years, from 1949 to 1969. The goal “was to deter [the use of bio­log­i­cal weapons] against the Unit­ed States and its allies and to retal­i­ate if deter­rence failed,” the gov­ern­ment explained lat­er. “Fun­da­men­tal to the devel­op­ment of a deter­rent strat­e­gy was the need for a thor­ough study and analy­sis of our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to overt and covert attack.””

    20 years of secret­ly expos­ing the pub­lic to all sorts of bio­log­i­cal agents. That was hap­pen­ing from 1949–69 under the “germ war­fare test­ing pro­gram”. And we aren’t talk­ing about small iso­lat­ed tests. It was on the scale of poten­tial­ly expos­ing mil­lions of peo­ple:

    ...
    San Fran­cis­co was­n’t the first or the last exper­i­ment on cit­i­zens who had­n’t giv­en informed con­sent.

    Oth­er exper­i­ments involved test­ing mind-alter­ing drugs on unsus­pect­ing cit­i­zens. In one shock­ing, well-known inci­dent, gov­ern­ment researchers stud­ied the effects of syphilis on black Amer­i­cans with­out inform­ing the men that they had the dis­ease — they were told they had “bad blood.” Researchers with­held treat­ment after it became avail­able so they could con­tin­ue study­ing the ill­ness, despite the dev­as­tat­ing and life-threat­en­ing impli­ca­tions of doing so for the men and their fam­i­lies.

    But it was the germ war­fare tests that Cole focused on.

    “All these oth­er tests, while ter­ri­ble, they affect­ed peo­ple count­ed in the hun­dreds at most,” he says. “But when you talk about expos­ing mil­lions of peo­ple to poten­tial harm, by spread­ing around cer­tain chem­i­cals or bio­log­i­cal agents, the quan­ti­ta­tive effect of that is just unbe­liev­able.

    “Every one of the [bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal] agents the Army used had been chal­lenged” by med­ical reports, he says, despite the Army’s con­tention in pub­lic hear­ings that they’d select­ed “harm­less sim­u­lants” of bio­log­i­cal weapons.

    “They’re all con­sid­ered pathogens now,” Cole says.
    ...

    Not all of the test­ing under this pro­gram involved bio­log­i­cal agents. Some­times it was chem­i­cal agents. And what they found after dump­ing these agents on entire towns was the chem­i­cals could rapid­ly spread over 1000 miles away with­in days. So some peo­ple were get­ting very heavy expo­sures to these agents while a much larg­er num­ber of oth­er peo­ple were get­ting lighter expo­sure as the released sub­stances dis­persed. What were the long-term con­se­quences of this expo­sure? We don’t real­ly know, but the fact that can­cer clus­ters have been found in the tar­get­ed areas gives us a hint:

    ...
    From Min­neapo­lis to St. Louis

    The mil­i­tary test­ed how a bio­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal weapon would spread through­out the coun­try by spray­ing bac­te­ria as well as var­i­ous chem­i­cal pow­ders — includ­ing an espe­cial­ly con­tro­ver­sial one called zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide. Low fly­ing air­planes would take off, some­times near the Cana­di­an bor­der, “and they would fly down through the Mid­west,” drop­ping their pay­loads over cities, says Cole.

    These sprays were test­ed on the ground too, with machines that would release clouds from city rooftops or inter­sec­tions to see how they spread.

    In the book, Cole cites mil­i­tary reports that doc­u­ment­ed var­i­ous Min­neapo­lis tests, includ­ing one where chem­i­cals spread through a school. The clouds were clear­ly vis­i­ble.

    To pre­vent sus­pi­cion, the mil­i­tary pre­tend­ed that they were test­ing a way to mask the whole city in order to pro­tect it. They told city offi­cials that “the tests involved efforts to mea­sure abil­i­ty to lay smoke screens about the city” to “hide” it in case of nuclear attack, accord­ing to Cole’s account.

    The poten­tial tox­i­c­i­ty of that con­tro­ver­sial com­pound zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide is debat­ed. One com­po­nent, cad­mi­um, is high­ly tox­ic and can cause can­cer. Some reports sug­gest a pos­si­bil­i­ty that the zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide could per­haps degrade into cad­mi­um, but a 1997 report from the Nation­al Research Coun­cil con­clud­ed that the Army’s secret tests “did not expose res­i­dents of the Unit­ed States and Cana­da to chem­i­cal lev­els con­sid­ered harm­ful.” How­ev­er, the same report not­ed that research on the chem­i­cal used was sparse, most­ly based on very lim­it­ed ani­mal stud­ies.

    These air tests were con­duct­ed around the coun­try as part of Oper­a­tion Large Area Cov­er­age.

    “There was evi­dence that the pow­der after it was released would be then locat­ed a day or two lat­er as far away as 1,200 miles,” Cole says. “There was a sense that you could real­ly blan­ket the coun­try with a sim­i­lar agent.”

    City tests were con­duct­ed in St. Louis, too.

    In 2012, Lisa Mar­ti­no-Tay­lor, a soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at St. Louis Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege-Mer­amec, released a report the­o­riz­ing that the army’s exper­i­ments could be con­nect­ed to can­cer rates in a low-income, most­ly black neigh­bor­hood in the city where zinc cad­mi­um sul­fide had been test­ed. She said she was con­cerned that there could have been a radioac­tive com­po­nent to some test­ing, though she did not have direct evi­dence for that pos­si­bil­i­ty.
    ...

    And note how the tar­get­ing of African Amer­i­cans in one test was jus­ti­fied by claim­ing it was in prepa­ra­tion for an attack tar­get­ing African Amer­i­cans because the germ used is one blacks are more sus­cep­ti­ble to than whites. While it’s pos­si­ble that was the case, giv­en that this was 1951 and giv­en the sub­hu­man treat­ment of blacks, it seems like a pret­ty good bet that this was a con­trived excuse. It’s an exam­ple of how his­tor­i­cal vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions were prob­a­bly extra vul­ner­a­ble for get­ting select­ed for these tests:

    ...
    Par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial tests

    Anoth­er con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ment described in Cole’s book involved a test at the Nor­folk Naval Sup­ply Cen­ter. The exper­i­menters packed crates with fun­gal spores to see how they would affect the peo­ple unpack­ing those crates.

    Cole’s book notes that “por­tions of a report about an army test in 1951 involv­ing Aspergillus fumi­ga­tus ... indi­cate that the army inten­tion­al­ly exposed a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of black peo­ple to the organ­ism.” Most of the employ­ees at the sup­ply cen­ter were black.

    In the mil­i­tary reports cit­ed by Cole, researchers claim they are prepar­ing for an attack that might tar­get black cit­i­zens. He quotes from a sec­tion that reads: “Since Negroes are more sus­cep­ti­ble to coc­cid­ioides than are whites, this fun­gus dis­ease was sim­u­lat­ed.”

    When these exper­i­ments were first revealed in 1980, the racial aspect of these tests engen­dered con­tro­ver­sy and skep­ti­cism about the “army’s inter­est in the pub­lic wel­fare,” accord­ing to Cole.
    ...

    But it was­n’t just vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions tar­get­ed by these tests. Even the New York City sub­ways were used for these tests with crowds get­ting exposed to clouds of bac­te­ria. Bac­te­ria now known to cause food poi­son­ing:

    ...
    1966: “A Study of the Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Sub­way Pas­sen­gers in New York City to Covert Attack with Bio­log­i­cal Agents”

    The New York sub­way sys­tem exper­i­ments are among the most shock­ing in terms of the num­bers of peo­ple exposed, accord­ing to Cole.

    In a field test called “A Study of the Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Sub­way Pas­sen­gers in New York City to Covert Attack with Bio­log­i­cal Agents,” mil­i­tary offi­cials tried to see how easy it would be to unleash bio­log­i­cal weapons using the New York City sub­way. They would break light bulbs full of bac­te­ria on the tracks to see how they spread through the city.

    “If you can get tril­lions of bac­te­ria into a light bulb and throw it on the track as a train pulls into a sta­tion, they’ll get pulled through the air as the train leaves,” Cole says, trav­el­ling through the tun­nels and into dif­fer­ent sta­tions.

    Clouds would engulf peo­ple as trains pulled away, but doc­u­ments say that they “brushed their cloth­ing, looked up at the grat­ing apron and walked on.” No one was con­cerned.

    In a 1995 News­day sto­ry, reporter Den­nis Dug­gan con­tact­ed retired Army sci­en­tist Charles Senseney, who had tes­ti­fied about the exper­i­ments to a Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee in 1975. In his tes­ti­mo­ny, he explained that one light bulb full of bac­te­ria dropped at 14th Street eas­i­ly spread the bac­te­ria up to at least 58th Street.

    But he declined to reveal any­thing to the News­day reporter. “I don’t want to get near this,” Senseney said to Dug­gan. “I [tes­ti­fied], because I was told I had to by the peo­ple at the Depart­ment of Defense ... I bet­ter get off the phone.”

    Exper­i­ments con­tin­ued in New York for six days using Bacil­lus sub­tilis, then known as Bacil­lus glo­bigii, and S. marcescens.

    A paper from the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences ana­lyz­ing mil­i­tary exper­i­ments notes that B. glo­bigii is “now con­sid­ered a pathogen” and is often a cause of food poi­son­ing. “Infec­tions are rarely known to be fatal,” the report said — though fatal cas­es have occurred.
    ...

    Keep in mind that a bac­te­ria known to cause food poi­son­ing but not gen­er­al­ly be fatal could have been seen as a good choice for these kinds of exper­i­ments if there was a way for the researchers to track the num­ber of food poi­son­ing cas­es in the sur­round­ing area after the expo­sure.

    Adding to this trou­bling his­to­ry is the fact that much of the evi­dence for these tests was uncov­ered by the Sci­en­tol­o­gists. So our his­toric evi­dence for these tests is now taint­ed by an asso­ci­a­tion with the Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy:

    ...
    Tests revealed by an unex­pect­ed source

    Many of these exper­i­ments on the Amer­i­can pub­lic were first inves­ti­gat­ed by what we would con­sid­er ques­tion­able sources.

    One 1979 Wash­ing­ton Post news sto­ry dis­cuss­es open air exper­i­ments in the Tam­pa Bay area involv­ing the release of per­tus­sis, or whoop­ing cough, in 1955. State records show that whoop­ing cough cas­es in Flori­da spiked from 339 (one death) in 1954 to 1,080 (12 deaths) in 1955, accord­ing to that sto­ry.

    But it’s hard to trace how accu­rate the infor­ma­tion about the whoop­ing cough release is: The only doc­u­men­ta­tion goes back to an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy.

    The Church of Sci­en­tol­ogy formed a group called Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens for Hon­esty in Gov­ern­ment that spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time inves­ti­gat­ing con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ments run by the Army and CIA, accord­ing to the Post. Through FOIA requests they uncov­ered a num­ber of doc­u­ments relat­ed to these exper­i­ments in the late 1970s.

    Cole under­stands why some peo­ple are skep­ti­cal of those reports. “I cer­tain­ly am not a mem­ber and I think a lot of what they do is quack­ery,” he says, but “in this case, I have no rea­son to believe any of this isn’t real.”

    Many of the doc­u­ments Sci­en­tol­o­gists made pub­lic were the same doc­u­ments he’d received doing his own research, redact­ed in the same places.
    ...

    And when mil­i­tary offi­cials were called to tes­ti­fy before Con­gress in 1977 after evi­dence of these exper­i­ments, they explained that these tests were nec­es­sary for the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic. It’s anoth­er exam­ple of how rel­a­tive­ly easy it is to jus­ti­fy secret test­ing in the con­text of a war men­tal­i­ty. Or in this case, a Cold War men­tal­i­ty. That’s a key les­son to take from all this: secret test­ing on the pub­lic might seem unthink­able to today, but whether or not some­thing is unthink­able depends a lot of the broad­er con­text of that deci­sion. War, or a sense of loom­ing war, can make a lot of unthink­able acts much more think­able. It’s an espe­cial­ly impor­tant point to keep in mind when ask­ing the ques­tion what exper­i­ments might be going on today or could hap­pen in the future:

    ...
    What we learned

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials were called to tes­ti­fy before Con­gress in 1977 after infor­ma­tion about these bio­log­i­cal war­fare exper­i­ments was revealed.

    At the time, those offi­cials said that deter­min­ing just how vul­ner­a­ble the US was to a bio­log­i­cal attack “required exten­sive research and devel­op­ment to deter­mine pre­cise­ly our vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, the effi­ca­cy of our pro­tec­tive mea­sures, and the tac­ti­cal and strate­gic capa­bil­i­ty of var­i­ous deliv­ery sys­tems and agents,” accord­ing to a record of that tes­ti­mo­ny quot­ed in “Clouds of Secre­cy.”

    Cole too says it’s hard to see these events now from the per­spec­tive that peo­ple had then.

    There was “a dif­fer­ent mind­set in the coun­try then ... [a] Cold War men­tal­i­ty,” he says. But, he argues, that does­n’t jus­ti­fy gloss­ing over the already known poten­tial dan­ger of the agents used.

    ...

    Still, more recent reports show that exper­i­ments in this area went on longer than we thought.

    In 2001, a New York Times report revealed projects test­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons that began under the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and con­tin­ued under the sec­ond Bush admin­is­tra­tion. A 1972 treaty the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pro­hib­it­ed devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons, but this pro­gram jus­ti­fied it with the argu­ment that new weapons need­ed to be stud­ied in order to devel­op ade­quate defens­es.

    And the “War on Ter­ror” rais­es oth­er con­cerns, accord­ing to Cole.

    After the 2001 anthrax attacks, fund­ing for bioter­ror­ism research spiked by $1.5 bil­lion. Then in 2004, Con­gress approved anoth­er $5.6 bil­lion bioter­ror research project.

    These projects are meant to pro­tect soci­ety from the dan­gers of bio­log­i­cal agents, but they may have an unin­tend­ed con­se­quence, Cole says.

    “Thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple became famil­iar with pathogens that they were not famil­iar with before,” he says. “You now have many more peo­ple that could poten­tial­ly do bad with these organ­isms, and it only takes one per­son.”
    ...

    Were unthink­able exper­i­ments sud­den­ly think­able fol­low­ing the 9/11 attacks and the onset the War on Ter­ror? Hope­ful­ly not, but we obvi­ous­ly can’t rul­ing it out giv­en the prece­dent. That’s all part of the con­text of Kris New­by’s book “Bit­ten” and the ongo­ing ques­tions about the poten­tial weaponiza­tion of Lyme dis­ease. Con­text that makes the con­tent of “Bit­ten” far from unthink­able.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 23, 2019, 2:34 pm

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