NEWS SCAN: Ricin suspect released, 3-strain avian flu vaccine, drug-resistant malaria

Apr 23, 2013

Suspect in ricin mailings released as FBI searches another man's house
The Mississippi man who was charged with mailing ricin-laced letters to President Obama and other officials was released today without explanation, while FBI agents conducted a second search at the home of another man, the Associated Press (AP) reported from Tupelo, Miss. Authorities released Paul Kevin Curtis, Corinth, Miss., whose attorney has said he is innocent and might have been framed, according to the story. Meanwhile, Everett Dutschke told the AP that FBI agents were at his house for a search related to the ricin letters, which were sent to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and a Mississippi judge as well as Obama. The letters were found last week. Dutschke has asserted he is innocent and knows nothing about ricin, a potent poison derived from castor beans, the AP said. Christi McCoy, the defense attorney for Curtis, said a press conference to discuss the case was scheduled late this afternoon. Yesterday an FBI agent testified that searches of Curtis's house and vehicle on Apr 19 found no ricin or related materials. A report from the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call today said Dutchke, of Tupelo, is a former candidate for the Mississippi State House and knows Curtis.
In another development, the same Roll Call story said the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) detected "possible biological toxins" in incoming mail at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in the Washington, DC, area, where the agency is headquartered. A DIA official said the agency took precautions but continued normal operations and that it would not comment further on the event until an investigation is finished, the story said.
Apr 23 Roll Call story

Three-strain VLP vaccine protects ferrets against H5, H7, and H9 avian flu
A three-strain virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine protected ferrets against H5N1, H7N2, and H9N2 avian flu strains, according to a study yesterday in Virology. Researchers from Medigen, Inc., of Frederick, Md., and from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a recombinant VLP with a baculovirus vector containing hemagglutinin proteins from the three strains as an experimental vaccine. "The triple-subtype VLPs exhibited hemagglutination and neuraminidase activities and morphologically resembled influenza virions," the authors wrote. The team vaccinated ferrets intranasally and noted serum antibody responses and protection against experimental challenges with the H5N1, H7N2, and H9N2 avian flu viruses targeted by the vaccine.
Apr 22 Virology abstract

WHO to launch major effort to combat resistant malaria in SE Asia
The World Health Organization (WHO) will launch a response tomorrow to the emergence of resistance to the antimalarial drug artemisinin in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, the agency said today in a press release. Artemisinin is the primary drug to combat malaria, and the WHO says the emergence of resistance in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam poses a serious global health threat. "If resistance to artemisinin emerges elsewhere—particularly in Africa, which has the world's greatest number of malaria cases—the consequences for global health could be incalculable," said Shin Young-soo, MD, DrPH, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific. The initiative will launch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on World Malaria Day.
Apr 23 WHO press release

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