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Blog posts tagged with 'bio-terrorism'

Sinking Teeth Into The Mysteries of Plague

Two plague victims in Aschheim-Bajuwarenring cemetery in Bavaria, Germany who died some 1500 years ago have been unearthed and are able to help provide an international team of scientists with a better understanding the type of virus that was responsible for their deaths sometime between 541 and 543. Thanks to the dental remains of these two unearthed plague victims, researchers using very sophisticated methods were able to extract DNA fragments of plague from the teeth from the skeletal remains and reconstruct the genome of what is now the oldest pathogen obtained to date. Yersinia Pestis or Y. Pestis is also known as plague. This bacterium was found to be responsible for the Justinian outbreak and the results showed that this was unique and distinct from various other strains that would later become the Black Death and other plague pandemics that would follow.

“This study raises intriguing questions about why a pathogen that was both so successful and so deadly suddenly died out. One testable possibility is that human populations evolved to become less susceptible,” says Edward Holmes, an NHMRC Australia Fellow at the University of Sydney.

Up until now little has been known about the exact cause of the Justinian epidemic’s origins or cause. The Justinian plague is thought to have been instrumental in bringing about the end of the Roman Empire and was, until the recent findings were too discover, responsible for the Black Death. The Justinian Plague is believed to have killed 30 to 50 million people, estimated to have been at least half of the world’s population at that time. Later the Black Death would emerge to ravage the medieval population killing 50 million Europeans between 1347 and 1351 some 800 years later. These recent findings now show that the Justinian plague was a unrelated strain from the plague that caused the Black Death.

The new results that are published in online edition of The Lancet Infectious Disease, show that the Justinian Plague was a distinct and separate genome of the same Pathogen know as Yersinia Pestis and not an evolutionary forefather or related to the same Yersinia Pestis strains responsible for the Black Death. Another pandemic that had taken hold in Hong Kong and spread across the globe is now more likely to be considered the precursor to the Black Death.

These findings would suggest that the Justinian pandemic strain also originated in Asia and not in Africa as some scientist originally thought. This would lead them to theorize that earlier epidemics, such as the Plague of Athens (430 BC) and the Antoine Plague (165 – 180 AD) may have also been unique and distinct emergence of related Yersinia Pestis strains.

“We know the bacterium Y. Pestis has jumped from rodents into humans throughout history and rodent reservoirs of plague still exist today in many parts of the world. If the Justinian plague could erupt in the human population, cause a massive pandemic, and then die out, it suggest it could happen again. Fortunately we now have antibiotics that could be used to effectively treat plague, which lessens the chances of another large scale human pandemic” says Dave Wagner, an associate professor in the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University.

These studies would suggest that the threat of an outbreak of Yersinia Pestis can occur at any time now, or in the future, is quite possible. Add to this, the possibility of some individual or person intent to using the pathogen as a weapon to wreck terror on an unsuspecting population raises the stakes even higher. New technologies are now available to health and safety teams in the early detection of such possible natural outbreaks and first responders now have the capabilities to be able to equip themselves with the latest tools required to easily and reliably detect not only Yersinia Pestis, but other possible pathogens that could be used as weapons against humanity. This ability to provide early detection is essential in containing and maintaining control of a terrorist planned outbreak and is crucial to preventing another full scale global population pandemic such as those seen in the past.

One of the biggest breakthroughs in rapid and reliable early detection of pathogens that can be utilized against terrorist is the BADD line of bio-warfare detection tests produced by AdVnt Biotechnologies LLC. Developed in response to the white powder incidents that occurred after 9/11, the tests were used in the detection of bio-warfare pathogens during the Iraq War. This line of tests gave first responders the ability to arrive at a possible bio-threat scene and test for powders and liquids left by suspected terrorist and ascertain within 15-minutes or less if the material held the potential of becoming a cause of wide spread contamination. This rapid testing with their on-the-scene detection capabilities helped to open windows of opportunities for immediate containment and control of a possible pandemic. AdVnt Biotechnologies was also the first to revolutionize the hand held assays when they were the first to develop a testing platform that allows for the collection of one suspicious sample of unknown origin to be tested against multiple targets on one detection test cassette. In the not too distant past, responders would have to collect up to 5 samples and run 5 tests one at a time to discover what active agent provided the danger of contamination. If there was very little or sparse material left behind, the residue would have to be sent off site to be examined while the clock was ticking. With the invention of AdVnt Biotechnologies ground breaking PS-5T Pro-Strip multi-agent rapid screening system, for the first time, responders have the ability to hit five different targets from one collected bio-threat sample. Saving time, saving resources, saving lives.

Return of the Black Death

It may sound like a campy title to a old Hammer Film Horror Movie but unfortunately it’s real and it’s more common then you may think.

According to a article posted by Reuters on July 25, a Squirrel was found at the Angeles National Forest in California that was infected with the Plague. This has been the sixth squirrel located in Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains since 1995 to test positive for the disease.

Authorities have shut down the park for at least a week while they have a chance to dust the burrows for fleas, which carry the bacteria and test more squirrels in the area. The most recent squirrel was trapped on July 16 during a routine check in the park and was confirmed to be carrying the disease on July 23.

Called the “Black Death” in history books due to the disease ravaging the European continent during the Middle Ages. Yersina Pestis (aka Y. Pestis) also known as Plague was responsible for killing more the 25 million people.

There on on average 7 cases a year that are reported in the United States and if discovered within a timely manner can be treated with antibiotics. According to the Center Disease for Control, almost all cases have been found in the Western United States and fortunately at this time none of these cases have been fatal.

Y. Pestis, Anthrax, Botulinum, Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) and Tularemia along with Ricin Toxin among others are currently under the Dept. of Homeland Security radar since they are all good candidates for being developed into a weapon that can be used by terrorist. As a result several protocols have been put into place to rapidly detect and deter such a horrific act form happening and putting plans in to play to dramatically minimize the event should one occur.

AdVnt Biotechnologies has been helping First Responders throughout the globe by offering a reliable, rapid and portable solution to the early detection of a bio-terror event with our line of BADD Single Agent Detection Test and Pro-Strip Rapid Screening System. Thanks to advancements in the area of Immunoassay Bio-Technology, Safety Professionals responding to a Bio-Terror threat event will have the tools they need to rapidly and accurately detect if the suspected agent involved is real emergency or a badly planned hoax, allowing them to put into place all the necessary safeguards that will be needed in order to contain and control such an event.

 

After ten years anthrax is still a threat

Despite the passage of ten years, the threat of an anthrax, or similar attempt of bioterrorism still looms large over the United States. Stringent security measures are in place to scan the US mail systems. Since September 2001 when these bioterrorism attacks started, the postal authorities have responded to around 52,000 calls concerning suspicious mails. The US Postal Inspectors office has implemented the best detection technologies available in today’s marketplace. One of the threat detectors used by the US Postal Inspectors Office is Advnt’s Pro Strip Rapid Detection System.

The US authorities are making no compromise over such threats and anyone taking it light has to face imprisonment under the same charges. Likewise Jay Stuart DeVaughn, who wrote 26 letters to President Obama and others inscribed with “Take a whiff of this”, landed him in jail for six-year imprisonment. Again, Advnt’s Pro Strip is a product utilized by the US Secret Service, due to it’s unique operating capabilities, the ease of use, sensitivity and specificity make it a must have for “pointy-end-of-the-sword” assets that guard the most prized targets.

Though the white powder inside the letters later proved to be a coffee sweetener and no one was harmed, the event raised suspicions of being an Anthrax-like attack, of which now hundreds occur every year in this country. In 2001-02, the multiple attacks of anthrax delivered in letters killed fifteen people and injured many others and illuminated the inherent security weaknesses of the mail industry.
Most American’s have forgotten the entire issue. Perhaps incidents like that of DeVaughn may help bring the anthrax and bioterrorism case back into the news. I’ve found that the US media purposefully does not report about the hundreds of false threats that occur each year in America.

As per revised security parameters, the postal system now depends on both manual checks as well as machine screenings. The postal inspectors receive multiple calls daily on postal security with the majority of them being false alarms. Regardless, such calls show that anthrax threats are still at the top of the preparedness chain requiring utilization of state-of-the-art, instantaneous bio-threat screening systems like Advnt’s Pro Strip Rapid Screening System.

Historically anthrax has been used as a deadly weapon for centuries. Biological and chemical agents have been used throughout history. Individuals, as well as organized groups, use these naturally occurring agents to attempt murder. Just 60 years ago a woman was arrested in 1952 after she mailed a box full of cyanide-laced Bon Caramels to her estranged husband who was doubtful of it and called the legal authorities.

Another horrid mail related crime involved Theodore Kaczynski who killed three people and injured 23 over 15 years by sending mail bombs. He was finally arrested in the mid 90’s. A few years ago, inspectors arrested a West Virginia man for mailing an improvised explosive device to a former neighbor in Minnesota. He’s serving 2½ years in prison.

Bottom line appears to be that living in an open and free society is fraught with many security leaks. Organized groups and sick individuals will always have ample opportunity to strike with deadly agents to attempt pre-meditated murder on an individual or communities of people who are un-suspecting of the threat.

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The World's Finest Five-Agent BioAgent Screening Device.

Universal Detection Technology (UNDT.OB), a developer of monitoring technologies, including bioterrorism detection devices, announced that the company is working with the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote its anthrax and other bioterrorism detection equipment in China. Universal Detection Technology is a reseller of handheld assays used for detection of five bioterrorism agents, radiation detection systems and antimicrobial products.

The company’s five-agent bioterrorism detection kits have been extensively used by first responders and private industries throughout the United States. In fact, testing by the U.S. Department of Defense shows that the kits demonstrate no cross-reactivity or false positives with commonly encountered “white powders.”

Universal Detection Technology is now listed as a featured U.S. exporter on Commercial Service’s China website. Jacques Tizabi, Universal Detection Technology’s chairman and chief executive officer, stated, “We were suppliers of both radiological and biological weapon detection equipment for the Beijing Olympics and the Department of Commerce listing gives us the opportunity to further penetrate the Chinese market.”

See the special hand-held devices sold by UDT to their valued customers at AdVnt‘s website.

Thanks to you UDT, one of Advnt’s valued resellers.

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Agra-Terror Could Be Just Around The Corner for US.

Terrorists may use insects in bio-attack

Published January 2009

A new book highlights the possibility of terrorist using insects to spread deadly diseases; the author says that “It would be a relatively easy and simple process … A few hundred dollars and a plane ticket and you could have a pretty good stab at it”

As if we did not have enough to worry about. Terrorists could easily contrive an “insect-based” weapon to import an exotic disease according to University of Wyoming Entomologist Jeffery lockwood. Wired‘s Nathan Hodge writes that Lockwood is now promoting his new book, Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War. He told BBC Radio 4′s Today’s program that planning a bio-terror attack using insects would “probably be much easier” than developing nuclear or chemical weapons. Today does not post the transcript, but the U.K. Daily Telegraph quotes: “It would be a relatively easy and simple process … A few hundred dollars and a plane ticket and you could have a pretty good stab at it.”

There are those who are skeptical of such claims. Military historian Max Hastings was less-than-enthusiastic about Lockwood’s book in his review of it in this weekend Sunday Times. He did note, though:

The last section of Lockwood’s book is the most plausible and interesting, because it addresses the risks of biological terrorism in our own times. In particular, the author speculates about the consequences if terrorists were to broadcast Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the yellow fever virus. The consequences of a yellow fever epidemic in America, where scarcely anyone is inoculated against the disease, could be devastating.

Hodge notes that U.S. biodefense labs have soaked up massive amounts of funding in recent years to deal with precisely this kind of theoretical threat. As New York Times‘s Eric Lipton and Scott Shane point out, though, the real question remains whether the boom in biodefense technology has made the US safer.

Let’s face the fact that if our enemies are experimenting with y. Pestis (Plague) then everything is in play!

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