Wisconsin lab broke Ebola rules, watchdog group says

first_imgSep 25, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW-Madison) worked on Ebola virus genetic material in a lab that lacked the required security measures, and federal agencies responsible for monitoring compliance didn’t notice the problem, a watchdog group that monitors biodefense research safety reported recently.UW-Madison’s institutional biosafety committee (IBC) wrongly allowed well-known influenza researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka to work with Ebola genetic material in a biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) lab, though federal rules require use of a BSL-4 lab for such work, the Sunshine Project, based in Austin, Tex., reported on Sep 19. BSL-4 is the highest biosecurity rating.The university stopped the research in October 2006 after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said a BSL-4 lab was required, even though the university disagreed, according to UW-Madison officials. The NIH was funding the research.Ebola is a highly contagious virus that causes a hemorrhagic fever and is lethal in about 50% to 90% of cases. Because the Ebola virus is so dangerous, the US government lists it as a category A bioterrorism agent. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the disease.The Web site for Kawaoka’s lab says that in addition to work on influenza viruses, researchers are exploring the molecular pathogenesis of the Ebola virus and have established a reverse-genetics system for generating the virus, which they hope to use for vaccine production and the identification of antiviral medication targets.The Web site emphasizes that the lab has developed a novel complement system that allows researchers to study Ebola virus glycoproteins without having to do the work in a BSL-4 lab.Researcher sought lighter restrictionsThe Sunshine Project’s report makes it clear that Kawaoka and his colleagues weren’t working with live Ebola virus, but rather full-length copies of Ebola DNA (complementary DNA, or cDNA) that lacks two critical proteins that could trigger growth of an infectious virus. However, the group says that federal rules require use of a BSL-4 lab for handling Ebola virus genetic material “that has not been rendered irreversibly incapable of reproducing.”The rule violation came to light only after Kawaoka asked permission to do the work in a BSL-2 lab, which prompted Jan Klein, UW-Madison’s biological safety officer, to seek guidance from the NIH, according to e-mail messages posted on the Sunshine Project’s Web site. The NIH responded that studies with the Ebola material should be conducted in a BSL-4 lab, which UW-Madison does not have.Edward Hammond, Sunshine Project director, said in the press release that the NIH’s response amounts to disapproving its own project. “It is dismaying but not surprising that NIH’s biodefense program was funding work that violates NIH’s safety rules. The guidelines have been an unenforced afterthought for years,” he said.The violation apparently was not noted by staff from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Select Agent Program, which inspected Kawaoka’s lab, the Sunshine Project said.UW official sees inconsistent rulesIn an interview with CIDRAP News, James W. Tracy, associate dean of research in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UW-Madison, defended Kawaoka’s request to do the work in a BSL-2 lab as reasonable. “He made the request based on facts that his colleagues at the CDC are working with the same material under BSL-2 conditions,” he said. Kawaoka’s lab is part of the veterinary school.The main problem stems from differences in how research facilities interpret NIH guidelines for working with pathogens, Tracy said. Although UW-Madison disagreed with the NIH’s finding that Kawaoka’s work should be done in a BSL-4 lab, it quickly complied, he said. On Oct 28, 2006, the university halted work with the Ebola material, and Kawaoka sent the projects to a BSL-4 lab in Winnipeg, Man., where he has continued to be involved with the work.Federal officials are in a difficult position, Tracy said, because it appears that different federal agencies have different biosecurity standards.Hammond and his group are playing up inconsistencies among the government agencies to suggest that biological work is being done improperly, the public is at risk, and federal oversight is lax, Tracy said. “And I disagree,” he added.CDC official downplays riskThe National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, did not respond to a CIDRAP News request for comment on the Sunshine Project report. But Rob Weyant, director of the CDC’s Select Agent Program, told CIDRAP News that the CDC doesn’t regulate nucleic acids of the Ebola virus, which is apparently what Kawaoka’s lab was working with. “Ebola is one of the most dangerous microbes, but when you break it up and take out the nucleic acids, the nucleic acids themselves are much less hazardous,” he said.Changing cDNA from the Ebola virus into its infectious RNA form is possible, but not easy, Weyant said. When CDC inspectors toured Kawaoka’s lab they would have made sure good safety procedures were in place for work with cDNA material of the Ebola virus, he added.At the CDC, researchers do work with Ebola nucleic acids outside BSL-4 labs, Weyant said. “This is based on a risk assessment and a pretty good understanding of these viruses,” he said, adding that it was “unclear” if the agency’s researchers work with the material in BSL-2 labs.Congress to look into lab safetyThe apparent rule violations at the UW-Madison lab follow a string of other violations at four Texas universities that also were exposed recently by the Sunshine Project. In late June the CDC ordered a biodefense research laboratory at Texas A&M University to stop all work on select agents and toxins while the agency investigated reports of lab workers infected with the category B bioterrorism agents Brucella and Coxiella burnetti. A week ago the Sunshine Project revealed that three University of Texas facilities recently had lab accidents with dangerous pathogens, including the agents of anthrax, tularemia, and shigellosis.Concerns about safety at US biodefense labs come amid ongoing foot-and-outh (FMD) disease outbreaks in the United Kingdom that health officials say were linked to release of the virus from flooded drain pipes at a facility in Pirbright that houses an FMD vaccine producer and a government research institute.Safety breaches at US biodefense labs have also caught the attention of lawmakers. The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced it would hold a hearing on Oct 4 to explore the risks associated with the rising number of BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs in the United States, according to a Sep 21 news release from the committee.Rep John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, said construction of biodefense labs has surged over the past several years, funded in part by the federal government.”Yet, little information is available about the number of labs being operated in the US and whether they are safely run,” he said. “While the research conducted at these labs is certainly valuable, we must make sure that it does not pose a risk to the public health.”See also:Sep 19 CIDRAP News story “Biosafety lapses reported at 3 more Texas labs”Sep 5 CIDRAP News story “CDC details problems at Texas A&M biodefense lab”last_img read more

Unite trade union urges for Swansea lagoon go-ahead

first_imgBritain and Ireland’s largest trade union Unite has called the UK government to stop stalling on the creation of over 2,000 jobs and unleash an economic boost worth at least £500 million to the Welsh economy, by giving the green light to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.The union, whose members work in construction and manufacturing across the Welsh and wider UK economy, has grown increasingly frustrated over the UK government’s failure to give the go-ahead to the project, Unite said.The venture, which would be the first power project of its kind in the UK, was given planning consent two years ago and has the backing of the Welsh government in addition to cross party support in Westminster.An independent review, led by Charles Hendry, concluded that tidal lagoons can play a ‘cost-effective part in the UK’s energy mix’ and that moving ahead with the Swansea Bay project ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ is a ‘no regrets policy’.Unite believes the Swansea Bay lagoon project could open the door to similar larger projects around England and Wales and pave the way to the UK becoming a world leader in tidal power electricity generation as part of a wider industrial strategy.Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, said: “Theresa May and her government needs to stop the dithering and end the continued uncertainty over the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. This is a landmark project which would unleash an economic boost worth millions into the Welsh economy and create thousands of much needed decent jobs.“Not only would it be great news for Wales, but it would also see the birth of an industry that would have transformative impact across the whole of the UK.“It’s a no-brainer, if Theresa May is indeed in ‘listening mode’ then she needs to heed the chorus of support from industry, unions and politicians from all parties by giving a resounding ‘yes’ to Swansea.”Unite has around 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy.last_img read more

Chelsea’s top four bid in tatters as Huddersfield survive

first_imgLondon, United Kingdom | AFP | Chelsea’s bid to qualify for the Champions League suffered a hammer blow as Huddersfield secured their Premier League survival with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.Antonio Conte’s side fell behind to Laurent Depoitre’s second half strike and although Marcos Alonso bagged a fortuitous equaliser, the Blues couldn’t find a priceless winner.Fifth placed Chelsea’s attempt to salvage a troubled season by finishing in the top four is now out of their hands heading into the final game of the season at Newcastle on Sunday.Huddersfield’s reward for a tenacious display is another season among English football’s elite after a superb result that seals their safety with a game in spare. Share on: WhatsApplast_img

Egypt pins Africa Cup of Nations hopes on Salah

first_imgSalah began attending Nagrig’s modest sports club when he was eight years old.“I coached Mohamed Salah when he was still a child and his talent was clear from the day he was born,” Ghamri Abdelhamid Al-Saadani, his coach then, recalled to AFP.He said Salah’s success was not built on talent alone: “He had an iron will and huge amounts of perseverance.”Encouraged by his football-mad father, Salah moved on to Tanta, the main town in his home region of Gharbeya, before moving to Cairo. Opportunities in Europe soon beckoned, starting with Swiss club Basel.In 2014, Salah moved to Chelsea but success did not come in that first stint in England. It was only when he moved to Roma that the goals began to flow and he earned his move to Liverpool.Salah make no secret of his religion, falling to his knees after he scores. His wife Maggie, wearing a headscarf, and his daughter appeared on the pitch at Liverpool’s Anfield home on the last day of the Premier League season.Compared to the excesses of Premier League footballers, Salah leads a modest life.Back home, his distinctive smile and curly hair features in TV adverts, on billboards and on wall murals.He has made a point of speaking up for women in the Muslim world.“I think we need to change the way we treat women in our culture. It’s not optional,” Salah said after he was chosen as one of Time magazine’s Top 100 most influential people in the world.He has also lent his highly visible support to anti-drug campaigns aimed at teenagers.With the idolisation comes the inevitable media attention and Salah has hit out at journalists who besiege his house in Nagrig where he still spends holidays.“I call that a lack of respect for my private life and a lack of professionalism,” he tweeted.Yet that outburst did not prevent him posting, a few days later, photographs of his toned stomach as he sunbathed.Share on: WhatsApp Mohamed Salah. PHOTO via @MoSalahCairo, Egypt | AFP | Egypt and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will carry the hopes of the Africa Cup of Nations hosts on his slender shoulders just weeks after winning the European crown with his club.Egyptians say that all 97 million of their compatriots will be rooting for Salah when the Pharaohs kick off the tournament against Zimbabwe on Friday.Salah, 27, will also be hoping to banish the nightmare of last year’s World Cup in Russia when he played with a barely healed shoulder injury, Egypt were eliminated in the first round and their hosts in Chechnya used the team for political purposes.He comes into the tournament on a high, having scored the second-minute penalty that put Liverpool on their way to winning the Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid.The Egyptian also won the Golden Boot for the top scorer in England for the second season in a row, although this time his 22 goals were equalled by Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who share the award with him, making it an all-African affair.Liverpool though were pipped to the Premier League title by Manchester City.“As soon as Salah touches the ball, he’s dangerous,” Tunisia player Naim Sliti told AFP after facing Egypt in a qualifier.“You just mustn’t let him get the ball, because something always happens when he has it.”Salah’s mood and fitness contrast to this time last year when his shoulder was injured as he was wrestled to the ground by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev. He had to go off and Liverpool lost 3-1.Although clearly not recovered, Salah arrived in Chechnya for the World Cup and was promptly paraded with the republic’s president Ramzan Kadyrov.He was only fit enough to be a substitute in the first two games but returned for the final match against Saudi Arabia and scored, but could not prevent Egypt slumping to a third defeat.The World Cup debacle also revealed that Salah’s supporting cast is nowhere near the level of their star man — everything revolves around him.“The Egypt coaches plan their tactics around Salah,” said Karim Said, chief editor of sports website Yalla Kora.– ‘Sacrifices’ –Leading his country to its eighth African title would be the crowning glory for the man who grew up in the Nile Delta village of Nagrig.After Liverpool beat Spurs in this year’s Champions League showdown, an emotional Salah said: “I made many sacrifices for my career. I came from a small village and went to Cairo. To be an Egyptian at this level (of the football world) is unbelievable.”last_img read more

Broward County School District Joins Lawsuit Against Vaping Companies

first_imgThe defendants in the case are JUUL Laboratories and Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company.Pettis says the lawsuit is not be funded with taxpayer money. If the complaint is successful, attorneys would be paid from the proceeds of the lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount.“There have been tons of studies that show e-cigarettes are addictive and that a large percentage of users go on to be smokers,” Pettis adds. “They create a societal movement that shows it’s cool to vape, but they don’t tell you about the damage that’s done in the long run.”In total, nearly a dozen Florida districts are involved, including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. More than 30 California school districts are also part of the suit.The “bellweather” districts are Broward and Escambia counties in Florida, the Three Village Central School District on Long Island in New York, the Central Bucks County School District in Pennsylvania, the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona and The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, east of San Francisco in California.JUUL announced last November that it would no longer be marketing its mint-flavored products, after the results of two national surveys on e-cigarette use among teenagers. Altria stopped making e-cigarettes two years ago, although it still owns a minority share of JUUL Labs. If you are concerned about vaping among children, you’re not alone.The Broward School Board has announced that it is joining more than 100 government entities nationwide in a federal lawsuit demanding compensation for resources that have to be spent on counselors, monitoring and programming to curb youth use of vaping products.Broward is one of six school districts taking the lead on the case as “bellweathers” to represent the rest, according to school district lawyer Eugene Pettis, of Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm in Fort Lauderdale.More than five million middle and high school students across the country use e-cigarettes, the lawsuit states. “Consistent with this national trend, youth in The School Board of Broward County, Florida … are using e-cigarettes at high rates — rates which continue to climb.”It explains that vaping flavors such as mint and mango are among the methods that companies use to lure teens into vaping.last_img read more