Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Public Health and Safety_Biotech Worker Made Ill from Unsafe Biotech Laboratories at Univ of Chicago

University of Chicago Microbiologist Infected From Possible Lab Accident

on 12 September 2011, 5:17 PM

Another laboratory-acquired infection may have occurred in a University of Chicago building where 2 years ago a researcher contracted plague and later died. Late last month, a researcher who worked in the same general lab area was hospitalized with a skin infection caused by a common bacterium being studied in her lab.

The researcher became infected with Bacillus cereus, which can cause food-borne infections, while working on a project headed by microbiologist Olaf Schneewind, according to the university. She was hospitalized on 27 August; after receiving surgery and antibiotics, she was released. In her lab, where B. cereus was studied in biosafety-level 2 conditions (on the lower end of four biosafety levels), the university suspended research to decontaminate the area as a precautionary measure (it was expected to open later this week).

The researcher was likely exposed through an open wound. The university is still investigating whether she acquired the infection in the lab, said University of Chicago Medical Center spokesperson Lorna Wong. B. cereus is not contagious as long as standard procedures such as good hand-washing hygiene are followed, but family members and co-workers were screened for infection risk and some were offered precautionary antibiotics.

Two years ago, a researcher who worked in the same area in the Cummings Life Science Center, geneticist Malcolm Casadaban, a co-principal investigator with Schneewind, died after becoming infected with a weakened strain of the Yersinia pestis bacterium that was not thought to infect healthy adults. According to a report in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, Casadaban may have become sick because he had hemochromatosis, or an overload of iron in the body. The Y. pestis strain had been weakened by making it less able to acquire iron, and the excess iron in Casadaban's body might have allowed it to be become more virulent, the MMWR report says.

That report said Casadaban, who was known to use gloves inconsistently, may have become infected through dermal exposure—possibly the same exposure route as the researcher infected with B. cereus. The university said that Chicago's public health department has visited the campus and reviewed the lab's safety procedures.

Neither case involved a select agent—a pathogen on CDC's list of potential agents in a biological attack. (Although Y. pestis is on the list, the strain Casadaban studied was excluded.) But Schneewind also directs the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, a consortium funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study select agents and natural threats. The center does some of its work at a major biosafety level-3 lab on the campus of Argonne National Laboratory, one of a dozen such regional biocontainment labs built partly with NIAID funding after the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Schneewind did not respond to an e-mail this morning seeking comment.

Not all infections are bacteria. Fungi and viruses can also infect wounds.

Transparancy Lacking on Human Clinical Trials in America

 Commission builds database of scientific trials

Written by John Donnelly on August 30, 2011 

 One basic issue in today’s federally funded research involving human subjects around the world: There’s no single database.

Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, noted the absence of a database during the second day of meetings, which are examining the current oversight of human subjects research.

Gutmann said that the Commission started a study of all federally funded research and found no central electronic collection of them. “We know about ClinicalTrials.gov, but it is not at all comprehensive,” she said.

The issue arose during a presentation by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., former chief of Clinical Center Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, who talked about current efforts under way by the federal government to consider revisions to U.S. regulations for human subjects protection. Emanuel agreed with Gutmann about the need for such a database.

“I’ve been saying for the last 15 years it is a scandal that neither the head of the FDA or NIH can report how many people are on clinical trials, or how many people have had an adverse event, or had died” in connection to a trial, Emanuel said.

Later in today’s meeting, Dr. Jeremy Sugarman, a Senior Advisor to the Commission and the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Bioethics and Medicine at Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, and Michelle Groman, a Senior Policy & Research Analyst at the Commission, reported that the Commission was getting closer to creating a single database of federally funded research.

Sugarman said the Commission had canvassed 18 federal agencies that conduct a scientific research and had received detailed responses from 17 of them, including the NIH and FDA. The 18th agency, the Department of Defense, has been able to give only “aggregate” information of its studies, saying that its method of collecting data did not allow for more specific information on research projects.

Sugarman said the Commission will hire a statistician to analyze the material.

Gutmann said the Commission will wait to see the outcome before deciding next steps. “It seems we have to see first how good a database we can get,” she said.

Vice Chair James W. Wagner, President of Emory University, said the database “has the potential to be an incredible contribution” in better understanding the scope of the research and spotlighting future trends.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Protests against Dangerous Biolab in Boston

WILPF Boston is active in the Stop the Bioterror Lab Coalition anchored by Safety Net Roxbury and composed of several groups and concerned individuals. The Boston University Level 4 Lab would be the 5th or 6th known level 4 lab in the US. These labs are intended to research the most deadly microorganisms known for which there are no cures. Unfortunately, most of the agents listed in the Request for Proposal are known to be of interest for Bioweapons purposes. They are not organisms that are on the public health agenda for Boston or the United States in general. This raises concern of research serving a dangerous purpose in that any supposed defensive research also serves possible offensive applications. For more information on the Bioweapons treaty of 1975, its shortcomings and efforts to strengthen it, see the WILPF UN Reaching Critical Will project page. The BU Biolab is to be housed in a building nearing completion on Albany Street but the lab cannot become operational until it receives a license from the State. Because of community opposition and legal challenges in State and Federal courts, this NIH funded initiative does not have the final go ahead. However, it has received powerful support from both Massachusetts Senators and several representatives. A number of nearby communities including Cambridge, Newton, Arlington, Brookline and Somerville have passed resolutions opposing the placing of this lab in a densely populated urban community because of safety concerns.For more information on the current opposition to the BU Biolab, visit the Stop the Bioterror Lab Coalition web site.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Enemy of EPA_Whistleblower Marsha Coleman

High Price Of Blowing The Whistle On EPA

Marsha Coleman blew the whistle on the U. S. government colluding and protecting corporate misdoings in South Africa where men were knowingly killed by an occupational disease caused by vanadium poisoning.


Laboratory Safety Lacking in California

One dead in chemical blast at Menlo Park firm

Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sept. 3, 2011

A body is brought out and another person injured after an explosion at 4:15pm atMenlo Science and Technology Park in Menlo Park, Ca., on Friday, September 2, 2011. Fire chief Harold Schapelhouman said that the explosion may have occured while transferring methane from one tank to another during an experiment.  (Photo by Liz Hafalia)

The explosion at Membrane Technology & Research Inc. at 1360 Willow Road was reported at 4:07 p.m. Firefighters evacuated 23 other employees from the company's building.  One other injured worker was sent by ambulance to the hospital with a shattered eardrum.