Kansas officials break ground on new federal biodefense lab
Officials from the state of Kansas and Kansas State University (KSU) today broke ground on a $1.5 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility in Manhattan, Kan., the Associated Press (AP) reported. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated the lab to replace an aging Plum Island lab and include biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) capability to allow work on the world's most dangerous pathogens. Construction was originally set to being in 2011 but has been delayed by funding problems and issues with facility risk assessments. The lab will be located on the KSU campus adjacent to the Biosecurity Research Institute, according to DHS background information. It is scheduled to be operational by the end of the decade, the AP said. President Obama has included $714 million for the lab in his proposed budget, and Kansas Gov Sam Brownback has asked state lawmakers to clear an additional $202 million in bonding authority to finish the project.
May 28 AP story
Enterovirus 71 linked to paralysis in Australian children
Enterovirus 71 (EV71), which is usually associated with hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), has been identified in five Australian children who had acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), according to a report from Australia's National Enterovirus Reference Laboratory. The lab looks for AFP cases in children under age 15 as part of Australia's polio surveillance program, researcher Bruce Thorley, PhD, noted through the online disease reporting service ProMED. From January to early May of this year, EV71 was identified in stool specimens from 5 of 14 children who had AFP, as well as in samples from patients who had HFMD and nonparalytic neurologic illnesses, the report says. A phylogenetic analysis of part of the virus showed it was similar to the EV71 C4a sub-genogroup circulating in China and Southeast Asia, which has been associated with more severe neurologic manifestations than other EV71 strains in recent years. ProMED moderator Craig Pringle, PhD, commented that the association of an EV71 strain with AFP "is a warning that this virus may be evolving into a more dangerous pathogen."
May 26 ProMED report
Shooting of 2 polio vaccine workers stops campaign in Pakistan city
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suspended polio vaccination efforts in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar after two workers were shot there today as they administered vaccine, Reuters reported today. Police said both workers, ages 18 and 20, died, but medical sources said one died and one was seriously wounded. The attack is the latest in a series on polio vaccine workers in Pakistan by extremists who deem vaccine campaigns to be a Western plot to sterilize or spy on Muslims. No group has claimed responsibility for this latest attack, the story said. "Operations will remain suspended in Peshawar until the security situation returns to normal," said WHO spokesperson Maryam Younas.
May 28 Reuters story