News stories, features

news stories and features | commentary | papers and reports




Q&A: We need to produce ‘different food’, not more

(SciDev.Net, 11.12.17)

UNICEF tackling ‘disconnect’ with evidence tool

(SciDev.Net, 28.11.17)

Q&A: IFAD president on bringing evidence to policymaking

(Devex, 20.11.17)

Q&A: ‘It doesn’t matter of you improve your productivity ten-fold’

(SciDev.Net, 07.11.17)

Is cancer control in poor countries too high-tech?

(SciDev.Net, 12.10.17)

5,000 years of Indian science history on display

(SciDev.Net, 04.10.17)

UN science report to guide countries on the SDGs

(SciDev.Net, 06.09.17)

Robert Koch Institut: towards digital epidemiology

(The Lancet, 26.08.17)

Frontline: the vital need for information

(The Lancet, 15.06.17)

Fears of SDG clashes overblown, study finds

(SciDev.Net, 13.06.17)

Ocean plastics from Haiti’s beaches turned into laptop packaging

(New Scientist, 12.06.17)

Emergency mapping app finds vulnerable faster

People marooned in remote areas during an emergency are being found more easily thanks to a mapping initiative. (SciDev.Net, 26.05.17)

From extra-long carrots to a self-driven wheelchair: frugal tech from India

Award-winning inventions are getting support to scale up from India’s National Innovation Foundation (The Guardian, 12.04.17)

Climate change is already battering hundreds of animal species

(New Scientist, 13.02.17)

Cyprus reunification may harm unique wildlife thriving on border

(New Scientist, 11.01.17)

Bench talk boosts mental health in Zimbabwe

Clinical trial shows weekly ‘friendship bench’ meetings with trained health staff relieve depression and anxiety. (SciDev.Net, 30.12.16)

British aid to fund tech hub

UK aid agency identifies key technologies and calls companies to register for chance to get pilots funded. (SciDev.Net, 02.11.2016)

Q&A: Why we need a standard for fair partnerships

Evidence needs to replace experience to correct imbalances in North-South research, says Carel IJsselmuiden. (SciDev.Net, 12.10.2016)

Global study pins down engineering and development links

More engineering capacity promises to boost economies but focus on poverty, education and gender parity remain poor. (SciDev.Net, 14.09.2016)

Poor countries have the edge on climate innovation

Policy is sluggish after the Paris accord but developing nations could be pioneers, says former White House advisor. (SciDev.Net, 08.09.2016)

Development engineering journal launched

The open-access online publication covers technological solutions to extreme poverty. (SciDev.Net, 05.05.2016)

Q&A: Revamping PhD training in Africa

Peggy Oti-Boateng, who coordinates Africa’s main network of scientific institutions, says the continent needs more postgraduates. (SciDev.Net, 28.01.2015)

Q&A: Opening up the ‘black boxes’ of science for development

Read and listen to Francisco Sagasti discuss policy priorities in Latin America and other developing regions. (SciDev.Net, 29.10.2014)

Science and NGO practice: Facts and figures

What does science have to do with NGO practice? Anita Makri explores where they overlap and what stands in the way of fruitful collaboration. (SciDev.Net, 22.05.2013)


NOTE: The following news stories were written for the Emerging Health Threats Forum, which has since ceased operations. Some of the stories are available via a link to a PDF version (others to be added).

December 2010

UK data show recession suicide risk

An analysis of suicide incidence over the past 150 years in England and Wales shows that although rates have fallen dramatically, the risk tends to rise in periods of economic recession…full story (PDF) – published 03.12.10

Biodiversity loss link with disease ‘consistent’

A high diversity of plant and animal life could either enhance or limit the spread of infectious diseases, but scientists writing in Nature today weighed up the evidence to find that on…full story (PDF) – published 01.12.10

November 2010

Alkhurma virus spotted in Egypt

The first cases of Alkhurma haemorrhagic fever to be seen outside Saudi Arabia are reported online in the December edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Fabrizio Carletti and…full story (PDF) – published 26.11.10

Lassa fever prophylaxis proposed

Antiviral drugs against the Lassa fever virus should be prescribed as a preventative measure when people have certain high-risk exposures, such as getting pierced by a contaminated…full story (PDF) – published 25.11.10

Focus on ‘New Delhi’ superbug misplaced

A group of superbugs that resist treatment with drugs given to patients as a last resort was thrust into the spotlight in August this year, when researchers reported cases of infection in… full story (PDF) – published 19.11.10

Monkeypox risk mapped

Researchers probing risk factors for human cases of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a ‘hotspot’ of the disease, found that people living near dense forests…full story (PDF) – published 17.11.10

Healthy diet benefits uneven

Policies promoting a healthy diet to stave off chronic disease will bring a different balance of health benefits and economic consequences in developed and developing parts of the world… full story (PDF) – published 12.11.10

UN takes no action on BPA

Regulations to limit exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) are premature in light of current evidence of potential health risks, concluded a panel of international experts convened by the World…full story (PDF) – published 10.11.10

Pneumococcal vaccines cut flu deaths

Pneumococcal vaccines that offer protection against several serotypes of bacteria that cause pneumonia could be a cheap weapon in the fight against flu pandemics, suggest public health…full story (PDF) – published 05.11.10

Health cost of traffic jams counted

Traffic jams cost the US economy billions of dollars each year in wasted time and fuel. But premature deaths from pollutants emitted in congested areas can cost at least as much in… full story (PDF) – published 03.11.10

October 2010

Legionella lurking in wastewater

Three outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, which hit a Norwegian region in 2005 and 2008, were traced to a local wood-based chemicals factory where scientists detected Legionellafull story (PDF) – published 29.10.10

Flame retardants benefit challenged

A declaration signed by nearly 150 scientists from 22 countries, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, draws attention to growing concerns over the safety and… full story (PDF) – published 28.10.10

BPA linked with premature birth

A handful of human studies have linked exposure to the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) with miscarriage and other risks to reproductive health. Now, research in Mexico City…full story (PDF) – published 22.10.10

Climate-health uncertainties untangled

By the turn of the century, climate change could raise the risk of diarrhoea by about a third in countries where the condition is already common, according to research published online this…full story (PDF) – published 21.10.10

Congenital anomaly linked to paracetamol

Expectant mothers who take the painkiller paracetamol (acetaminophen) frequently during certain periods of pregnancy may face a small rise in the risk of giving birth to a boy with a…full story (PDF) – published 15.10.10

Disasters not one-time events

Efforts to protect people from natural hazards should begin to focus on disasters not as isolated incidents but events for which the threat is constant, heard delegates at a conference…full story (PDF) – published 15.10.10

Detecting new flu viruses faster

When two children caught the flu in California in March of 2009, standard diagnostic tests failed to match the virus with strains of human influenza known to circulate regularly in the…full story (PDF) – published 05.10.10

Dengue lands in Europe

This month health authorities in the city of Nice detected the first cases of locally acquired dengue fever to be reported anywhere in Europe. The emergence is linked to a surge of the…full story (PDF) – published 01.10.10

September 2010

Exposure to fluorochemicals higher by air

Most people are exposed to perfluoroalkyl chemicals through water and food, but air may be a more significant route for communities near facilities that produce the hazardous chemicals…full story (PDF) – published 29.09.10

Disparate laws hinder pandemic plans in Europe

Public health laws differ significantly between European countries, and this jeopardises how coherently the region can respond to disease pandemics, according to the results of a…full story (PDF) – published 23.09.10

Evidence mounts for IQ link to manganese

Evidence of a link between chronic exposure to low levels of manganese and cognitive deficits in children was strengthened this week with the results of a study published in…full story (PDF) – published 21.09.10

US security risk analysis flawed

Serious flaws in the way terrorism risks are analysed and presented by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were pointed out this week in a review penned by an expert… full story (PDF) – published 17.09.10

Call to boost ‘dual use’ science education

Governments and science organisations should play a more active role in supporting efforts to educate students about the risks of science misuse, said the National Research Council…full story (PDF) – published 15.09.10

Needle reuse ‘jump-started’ HIV pandemic

Changes in sexual behaviour at a time when cities were growing in sub-Saharan Africa are often cited as reasons behind the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after it… full story (PDF) – published 10.09.10

Chemicals linked with liver-disease markers

People exposed to ubiquitous pollutants at levels typically found in the environment could be at higher risk for developing liver disease, according to research published this month in…full story (PDF) – published 08.09.10

Plague in Asia linked to climate change

Climatic variations had a “significant” influence on the prevalence of plague in Kazakhstan and other regions of Central Asia in the early 20th century, and probably over the past 1500 years…full story (PDF) – published 03.09.10

August 2010

US study spots chronic fatigue virus

The first study to back a controversial claim that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be linked to a retrovirus in patients’ blood was published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USAfull story (PDF) – published 24.08.10

Wash hands to cut zoonosis risk

Research into the spread of zoonoses has reached a “pivotal point”, with human attitudes and behaviours emerging as a key piece of knowledge missing from efforts to prevent the…full story (PDF) – published 20.08.10

People power emergency response

Relief organisations struggling to reach victims quickly and prevent disease outbreaks after a disaster are beginning to turn to online media networks for help, according to experts working…full story (PDF) – published 19.08.10

Culture sways views of disaster risk

People from different parts of the world rate differently their risk of dying or getting injured in a disaster, and this has more to do with cultural factors than actual exposure to an event…full story (PDF) – published 13.08.10

Pregnant women to get anthrax jab

Pregnant women and mothers who breast feed will be advised to get vaccinated against anthrax if they become exposed to the aerosolised form of the bacteria in a bioterrorist attack…full story (PDF) – published 04.08.10

July 2010

Asian tiger mosquitoes breed indoors

Asian tiger mosquitoes that spread chikungunya and dengue fever normally breed in outdoor containers kept around the home. But they can also adapt to indoor environments, a change…full story (PDF) – published 30.07.10

USA on alert for legionellosis

Exposure to Legionella bacteria is one of the leading causes of water-borne illness outbreaks that occurred in the USA from 1971 to 2006, Gunther Craun and colleagues report this month… full story (PDF) – published 09.07.10

Standards set for food contaminants

A standard for maximum levels of the industrial chemical melamine allowed in foods and animal feed was adopted this week by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. In a meeting… full story (PDF) – published 07.07.10

Rickettsia felis detected in African countries

Doctors should consider infection with Rickettsia felis bacteria as a diagnosis for patients with fever who live or have a history of travel to rural Kenya and Senegal, suggest two research…full story (PDF) – published 02.07.10

June 2010

UK flags zoonotic Salmonella

A type of Salmonella enterica bacteria that emerged in the UK in 2008 has caused more than 230 cases of illness so far, a group of microbiologists led by Tansy Peters of the Health… more

Assessing the response to swine flu

Sylvie Briand, who heads the World Health Organization’s Global Influenza Programme, was the keynote speaker this week at a conference organised by UK Health Protection Agency…more

Experts still wary of swine flu

Influenza experts are looking back over the 2009 pandemic to draw lessons and bolster preparedness for future events. Although the next flu pandemic cannot be predicted, they said… more

Fluorochemicals may raise risk of ADHD

The chances of a teenager having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may rise significantly with an increase in the level of three fluorochemicals in their blood, report health… more

Malaria rises with forest loss in the Amazon

Clearing just 4% of forested land in parts of the Amazon can significantly raise the risk of contracting malaria in local communities, according to a study published today in Emergingmore

‘Emergency mode’ proposed for ethics review

Normal procedures followed by ethics review boards can slow down research that could help officials respond to a public health emergency. In a bid to fast-track the process in Canada, a…more

IQ lower in children exposed to manganese

Two separate investigations in rural and urban Mexico show that children exposed to manganese in their environment may be at risk for poor neurological development — and…more

South Africa travel health in sharper focus

Football fans gathering in South Africa this month for the World Cup have been advised to take precautions against a host of diseases ranging from traveller’s diarrhoea to rabies and…more

May 2010

Signs of serious illness for rare MRSA

A rare strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was thrust into the spotlight last year, when researchers at a US hospital suggested it could be more lethal than… more

Europe looking out for Q fever

In light of the ongoing Dutch epidemic of Q fever European authorities have issued expert advice to help officials weigh up the threat. On request by the European Commission, a risk…more

Dengue breaks out in the USA

A recent outbreak of dengue fever in the state of Florida marks the first time in decades that US residents contracted the disease without picking up the virus abroad, said the Centers for…more

Emergency planning short-sighted

Humanitarian organisations are first on the scene when a natural disaster hits anywhere in the world, helping people to deal with the immediate aftermath and re-build their lives. But policy…more

US laws raise costs for ‘sensitive’ research

Laboratory studies of live anthrax bacteria and Ebola viruses have become more expensive after legal requirements were imposed on US facilities handling dangerous pathogens nine…more

Research held back in health emergencies

Officials called on to respond to emerging disease outbreaks may find themselves in unfamiliar territory, with little evidence-based information on which to base public health…more

April 2010

Climate not enough to explain disease emergence

Global climate change and the spread of viruses like dengue and chikungunya have fuelled warnings over the emergence of infectious diseases in new areas. With questions lingering…more

Where local policy matters

A statistical technique that teases apart local trends from regional trends in obesity prevalence over time could help public health scientists to identify areas where local interventions are…more

March 2010

Dengue resurfaces in Mauritius

For at least three decades dengue fever only troubled the tropical island of Mauritius on occasion, when a traveller would arrive while infected with the mosquito-borne virus. But in… more

E-waste export policy questioned

Within a decade developing countries could surpass the developed world in the volume of electronic waste (e-waste) produced domestically, according to modelling results published…more

Europe signs up to health policy revamp

European countries agreed last week to step up their commitment to tackle “key environment and health challenges of our time”, according to a declaration adopted at the Fifth…more

Vaccine tackles rise in pneumococcal disease

A pneumococcal vaccine licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration late last month promises to cut nearly two-thirds of the country’s incidence of septicaemia, pneumonia and…more

Questions loom over dengue control

Countries battling dengue fever epidemics have few weapons at their disposal to rein in the mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, and stop the disease from spreading. But vector control…more

February 2010

E-waste boom forecast

Some developing countries are facing growing “hazardous waste mountains” as the volume of discarded electronics generated globally continues to soar over the next decade, cautions a…more

European experts back shift in pandemic planning

Most European countries have a preparedness plan for pandemic flu which is separate from any plans to deal with a potential outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)…more

Flu pandemic: what lies ahead

The 2009 pandemic is waning in most parts of the world, but recently Senegal has reported the first 14 cases of ‘swine flu’ to be associated with community transmission of the virus in…more

Exposure limit reworked for dry-cleaning chemical

A review of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft risk assessment of perchloroethylene, published this week by the National Research Council (NRC), backs a…more

US hospitals not ready for emergencies

The US healthcare system is poorly set up to deal with the scores of casualties expected to flood hospitals after a major disaster, according to a two-year assessment of the country’s… more

Chronic effects of ultrasound unclear

There is no evidence of harm from low levels of exposure to ultrasound waves emitted during medical tests, according to a report released today by the UK Health Protection Agency… more

January 2010

Q-fever control debated, could take years

The Dutch government’s battle against an ongoing epidemic of Q or ‘Query’ fever hit a roadblock yesterday as plans to cull thousands of potentially infected animals were reportedly…more

Cadmium link to heart disease strengthens

Exposure to low levels of cadmium, a metal prevalent in the environment, has been a suspected risk factor for a greater risk of heart disease. Evidence from a large sample…more

‘W-Beijing’ TB raises disease control fears

A hardy strain of tuberculosis (TB) bacteria spreading in many parts of the world, called W-Beijing, is known for causing disease that is difficult to treat. Although some studies point to…more

Pet frogs pose risk for salmonellosis

Contact with turtles and other pet reptiles is a known risk factor for salmonellosis. But a recent outbreak of the disease across the USA has now been linked to contact with aquatic pet frogs…more

December 2009

Breast cancer linked to skin-care phthalate

Women exposed to a phthalate compound used widely in cosmetics may run a higher risk of having breast cancer, suggest environmental health scientists this month…more

Lead may harm mental health

Levels of blood lead typical of most adults in the USA raise few fears of toxicity. But a study published today in Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that even at these low…more

Lasting change eludes water and health campaign

A few months after a three-year water treatment and handwashing campaign ended in rural parts of eastern Guatemala, a team of public health scientists saw no health gains and few…more

WHO cautious over pandemic future

Eight months into the 2009 flu pandemic, the picture is different depending on where you look in the Northern Hemisphere, with health authorities reporting rising or falling levels of mostly…more

Insect repellents linked with birth defect

Signs of a link between exposure to insect repellents and a common congenital anomaly were reported today by a team of epidemiologists in Occupational and Environmental Medicinemore

November 2009

Seafood safety: best to test the waters

Shellfish tainted with hepatitis A virus make it past food safety checks at times, causing outbreaks of serious illness. These can be better prevented by monitoring levels of the virus…more

Fake drugs industry growing

The age-old problem of fake drugs has now developed into a multi-billion dollar “global criminal industry”, say experts in a report published this month by the Wellcome Trust and the…more

‘Common cold’ virus gets in the way of flu

Between late summer and early autumn this year, epidemiologists tracking influenza in Sweden noticed a drop in the number of samples that tested positive for the pandemic flu…more

Health crises, big cities: call to revamp response

For the first time in human history cities are home to more than half the world’s population. Crowded living conditions make urban areas more vulnerable to health emergencies including…more

Early warning maps proposed for chikungunya

In 2007 Italy faced the first outbreak of chikungunya fever to ever occur in Europe. Amid warnings that the virus could become established and spread further on the continent…more

Vaccines to protect, not ease pandemic

The ‘swine flu’ pandemic can be expected to peak between October and early November in the USA and many European countries, according to modelling studies published in recent… more

October 2009

Melting glaciers free up pollutants

Persistent pollutants stored up in glaciers over decades are making their way back into the environment, according to Christian Bogdal and colleagues. The authors found that chemicals…more

Blood mercury no different for autistic kids

Blood mercury levels in autistic children are similar to levels found in children without the developmental disorder in the US state of California, according to a study published online in…more

Europe eyes vaccine reactions

In recent years Europe has seen a “dramatic” rise in the number of diseases for which a vaccine is available, according to a report released this week by the European Centre for…more

Emerging retrovirus turns up in new patients

A retrovirus first seen in prostate cancer patients three years ago has now been discovered in the blood of people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), Vincent Lombardi and…more

September 2009

Mobile phone risk clearer, EU agency says

European Environment Agency (EEA) officials believe scientific evidence is now more strongly in favour of a link between long-term use of mobile phones and brain cancer risk. The Agency…more

Blood lead limit too high, study suggests

Children’s exposure to lead carries known risks for neurological development later in life. A study published today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood adds to a growing body of…more

Pandemic vaccine licence weeks away for Europe

The latest data from laboratory evaluations of pandemic vaccine made by three manufacturers in Europe are being reviewed today in a meeting of European Medicines Agency (EMEA)…more

Poisoning accidents rising

The vast majority of accidental poisonings occur among young children in the UK, and reports of these incidents look to be on the rise, said the Health Protection Agency (HPA) today…more

August 2009

South Africa shoulders quadruple burden

South Africa will need to set up an “extraordinary” response to deal with four different kinds of health threats, say Bongani Mayosi and colleagues this week in The Lancet. Running in…more

Adult video gamers risk ill health

Adults who play video games reported poorer physical and mental health than non-players in a survey among a sample of Washington, USA residents, report James Weaver and…more

Pandemic wave theory in doubt

The 2009 pandemic could recede without resurging with a sweeping wave of severe influenza, write David Morens and Jeffery Taubenberger this week in JAMA. Health authorities in Europe…more

Eye infection virus uncovered

A new type of human adenovirus first identified in 2000 is one of Japan’s leading causes of a highly contagious eye infection, say Hiroaki Ishiko and Koki Aoki this month in the Journal of… more

Flu drug benefit “debatable”

Treatment with Tamiflu and Relenza can give relief from seasonal flu symptoms up to a day earlier than would be expected without use of the antiviral drugs, according to a systematic…more

US plans to go public on hospital infections

Public reporting of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) could become mandatory in the USA if a proposed major health care legislation gets approved by the House of…more

July 2009

UK figures show pitfalls of Tamiflu handout

Several side effects and the possibility of low adherence to the full course of antiviral drugs need to be considered when countries weigh up the option of offering mass treatment against…more

Drug safety monitoring system set to hit snags

A new system for monitoring the safety of marketed drugs and other medical products is being developed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to medical scientists…more

Europe warns of major pandemic wave

Autumn will bring a strong pandemic wave which is likely to arrive earlier than the normal flu season in Europe, warn Angus Nichol and Denis Coulombier today. Writing in…more

Unfolding pandemic prompts mixed messages

The UK government has been accused of giving pregnant women conflicting advice over measures they should be taking to protect themselves from pandemic flu. But the debate…more

Future hazy for flu deaths

The release of a pandemic guidance document by the Department of Health in the UK this week suggests the country’s death toll could be as high as 65,000 by September, when the…more

Disease forecast made for China

In the next 10–25 years, Chinese people could face rising numbers of certain infections including those caused by drug-resistant bugs or picked up from contact with wildlife, write…more

Asbestos ‘emergency’ brewing

People exposed to asbestos may be at risk for more types of cancer than currently thought, according to a recent review of evidence by a group of 27 scientists convened at the…more

Puumala virus risk rising in Germany

A mild form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome has been rising steadily from 2001 to 2007 in southern Germany, according to a study published in this month’s issue of Emergingmore

June 2009

Stem cell tourism: regulating a risky business

Seriously ill patients are resorting to clinics that offer scientifically unproven stem cell-based therapies, Ollie Lindvall and Insoo Hyun write today in Science. The appeal of stem cell…more

WHO calls for greater efforts on road safety

Most parts of the world are in the midst of a road-traffic injury ‘epidemic’ expected to lead to 2.4 million deaths per year by 2030 if current trends continue, according to the first global…more

Swine flu monitoring to give ‘mutual benefit’

Cases of ‘swine flu’ continue to rise in countries of the southern hemisphere. Sub-Saharan Africa’s first case has been reported this week in South Africa, while Australia and Chile…more

Tracing in-flight infections

The decision to trace people that could be exposed to infectious bugs on board an airplane should be made on a case-by-case basis, according to a report commissioned by the…more

China’s mental health re-assessed

People in China may be carrying a higher burden of disease from mental disorders than currently estimated by the World Health Organization’s global burden of disease (GBD)…more

Mobile phones: operating under uncertainty

Debates over the safety of mobile phone technologies continue as evidence on health impacts remains inconclusive and experts have different opinions on the need for regulatory action to… more

Rotavirus vaccine goes global

Vaccination against rotavirus, a major cause of severe diarrhoea, should now become part of immunisation programmes around the world, said the World Health Organization (WHO)… more

Unique virus identified in Africa

The new virus that killed four people in South Africa last year is a unique species and a distant relative of known arenaviruses, reports a team of infectious-disease scientists. The genetic…more

May 2009

Flu pandemic: capturing severity

The factors that should be considered when assessing the severity of a pandemic were described in a report published online today by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the…more

When does a pandemic start?

Emergency planners may find that the measure used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to decide when a pandemic has begun is not helpful in practice, suggest Sandra…more

Flu viruses mingling in markets

Visiting live-animal (‘wet’) food markets or living in a contaminated environment can raise a person’s risk of becoming infected with the H5N1 avian influenza virus, regardless of other risk… more

Swine flu: promoting readiness before vaccines

The number of confirmed cases of infection with the new swine flu virus has now surpassed 10,000 across 41 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Although 80…more

BPA levels rise after plastic bottle use

The amount of bisphenol A (BPA) excreted from the bodies of 77 university students increased by two thirds after a week’s use of polycarbonate plastic bottles, report health scientists this…more

Experts urge climate health preparedness

Governments around the world have reacted urgently to the global financial crisis, and more recently to a new pandemic flu threat. Response systems should also be developed to…more

Avoiding ‘warning fatigue’ over swine flu

More than a week after warning a swine flu pandemic was “imminent” by raising the alert level to Phase 5, an action taken days after the first signs of the epidemic appeared in North… more

Keeping tabs on swine flu

New cases of illness caused by the influenza virus A/H1N1 continue to be reported from around the world. A woman from the US state of Texas has become the second fatality as a…more

April 2009

Updated: WHO raises alert level

Evidence gathered by health scientists convened today by the World Health Organization (WHO) now more strongly suggests that the new pig flu virus is spreading from person to…more

Considering swine flu vaccination

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert as the number of people suspected of carrying the new pig virus continues to rise in Mexico and… more

Swine flu: questions remain as epidemic unfolds

Swine influenza has now been confirmed in 40 cases of influenza-like illness seen in the USA, double the number confirmed previously in the country, said the WHO today in a press…more (co-author: Holly Else)

Disease connectivity data on tap

The largest publicly available ‘network database’ of observable traits for more than 10,000 diseases was published online this month in PLoS Computational Biology. Looking at links…more

Health and the MDGs: add a measure of politics

Epidemiological research should examine the “political elements” getting in the way of social changes that hold back progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)… more

Post-Soviet states top MDR-TB rankings

The latest global assessment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) finds the highest rates of the disease in countries of the former Soviet Union, according to an article…more

Healthcare tools spread hepatitis B

Recent hospital outbreaks of hepatitis B erupted when the virus spread with use of non-disposable medical equipment currently considered safe, suggests a systematic review… more

Edging closer to monkey malaria

Forested parts of South-East Asia harbour a rare malaria parasite that circulates among monkeys but could become a more prominent cause of human disease, suggest researchers…more

China gets funds to fight TB

Novel TB-control tools will be pilot-tested and evaluated in six Chinese provinces over the next five years in a programme led by China’s health ministry and funded by the Bill and…more

March 2009

Crisis plan helps cities hand out drugs

A programme designed to help major US cities get medicines to millions in the event of a major disease outbreak or bioterrorist attack is showing early signs of success, according to…more

Hantavirus strain singled out in Brazil

A highly infectious strain of hantavirus, found in areas of Brazil that have been subject to environmental changes, may account for most of the country’s reported cases of hantavirus… more

Exotic pets pass around pathogens

Exotic animals imported into Japan bring with them species of Bartonella bacteria that could cause disease in people who keep them as pets, report Kai Inoue and colleagues in… more

US biosecurity plans at odds

Efforts to prevent the use of biological weapons in a terrorist attack should have a broader scope to include developing countries outside the former Soviet Union, according to a…more

Dengue 3 reaches West Africa

A dengue virus never seen before in West Africa may have found a home in Côte d’Ivoire, said the World Health Organization (WHO) today. Evidence gathered after a 2008 yellow… more

CDC plans for terrorist threats

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tailoring terrorism preparedness activities towards specific health threats, according to a recent report. These…more

January 2009

Reason to reassess BPA risk

Exposure sources other than food could be adding significantly to the body burden of bisphenol A (BPA), report Richard Stahlhut and colleagues this week. Their study also found…more

Catch the flu, get schizophrenia?

An historical account of mental illness after the Spanish Flu pandemic and more recent data suggest that schizophrenia could be a long-term outcome linked to the next major epidemic…more

Hepatitis A resurfaces in Europe

Europe’s successful fight against infections with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) has lowered levels of immunity, opening a new front that leaves people more vulnerable to the virus, Lara…more

Climate health warning: mind the vulnerable

Plans to protect people from the impact of global climate change should take into account population groups whose defences against health effects are weak for reasons that could be… more

MRSA concerns grow for US kids

US hospitals have seen an “alarming” increase in head-and-neck infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among children, Iman Naseri and…more

Signs of virus picked up at birth

A woman who became infected with La Crosse encephalitis virus (LACV) while pregnant probably passed on the virus to her newborn child, the US Centers of Disease Control and…more

Global bodies size up health strategies

Major health organisations can no longer handle global problems and are falling under added strain from the financial crisis, according to a report published today in The Lancetmore

Scale of healthcare hepatitis revealed

More than 30 outbreaks of hepatitis B and C linked with out-of-hospital health care have occurred in the USA in the past decade, report Nicola Thompson and colleagues this week… more

Streptococcus serotype 1 gains ground

Five primary-school children from north-east England became ill with pneumococcal pneumonia in 2006 in an outbreak not seen before in the UK, medics report this month in… more

December 2008

Tick-borne disease: a question of aggression

A dog tick that carries human pathogens could become more aggressive in a warmer world, Philippe Parola and colleagues suggest after probing two unusual tick-borne infections in…more

Syphilis profile changing

Syphilis has become increasingly common in Sweden in recent years, report epidemiologists today in Eurosurveillance. The disease is spreading mainly among men…more

Synthetic SARS sheds light on species ‘jump’

A man-made version of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus believed to have triggered the 2003 epidemic in Asia has been unveiled by molecular biologists online… more

Blood transfusions fuel rise in Babesiosis

Fatal cases of Babesiosis associated with blood transfusions have been on the rise over the past three years in the USA, report scientists online in Clinical Infectious Diseasesmore

November 2008

Birth defect linked to phthalates

Women exposed regularly to hair spray that contains phthalates may be more likely to have a baby boy with hypospadias, Gillian Ormond and colleagues suggest this month in… more

Children’s poor health legacy from Katrina

Children who remain displaced three years after hurricane Katrina are plagued by alarmingly high rates of medical problems, according to a report by the Children’s Health…more

Anaplasmosis turns up in Chinese hospital

The bacteria that cause anaplasmosis usually spread from animals to people by ticks, but China’s first infections were probably picked up in hospital through contact with infected… more

Gulf War illness given cause

The symptoms reported by veterans of the Gulf War make up a distinct condition that differs from stress-related syndromes, according to a report published this week by an advisory…more

Senility risk seen near power lines

People living less than 50 metres away from a power line in Switzerland were more likely to have died of Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia than people living further away, report…more

Web activity foretells disease

Tracking how often people search the internet for information on particular diseases could become an early-warning tool, according to research published online in Clinical Infectiousmore

BPA safety verdict comes under fire

Public health agencies in the USA and Europe rely on a flawed ‘gold standard’ to weigh up the evidence on bisphenol A (BPA) safety, according to an international group of 36… more

October 2008

Tick bites spell hazard for donated blood

The case of a patient who contracted anaplasmosis after receiving donated blood highlights the potential role of transfusion in transmitting some tick-borne diseases, said the US… more

Global disease trends changing

The next two decades will see non-infectious diseases take the lead among global causes of death as the world makes progress in fighting infectious killers including HIV/AIDS and TB…more

Talking emerging threats: simple and clear

People faced with unusual health threats need the same kind of information regardless of the agent involved, according to research by Ricardo Wray and colleagues. Simple, practical… more

Vaccine refusal meets outbreak risk

Keeping vaccination rates high state-wide may not be enough to ensure a low risk of contracting pertussis, suggest Saad Omer and colleagues this month. Their geographic…more

Novel virus may cause respiratory illness

Two newly identified polyomaviruses appear linked with respiratory disease in otherwise healthy children, according to a study published ahead of print in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The viruses, named WU and KI, were… more

Melamine toxicity: a double act

Melamine may not have acted alone in causing the thousands of illnesses reported recently in China, according to research published this month in Toxicological Sciences. Tests done…more

Re-thinking how flu spreads best

Flu viruses could be travelling from person to person with the help of aerosols or through contact, suggest Thomas Weber and Nikolaos Stilianakis this month. Their review and…more

Phthalate exposure traced to pills

People taking some oral medicines could be increasing their exposure to phthalates, a potentially unsafe group of chemicals, epidemiologists report online this month in… more

Hazards for ‘green’ bulbs come to light

People who use certain compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) very close to their skin could develop health problems similar to those caused by exposure to direct sunlight, reports the… more

C. difficile: drugs sharing the blame

A recent history of antibiotic use may not always precede Clostridium difficile infections acquired out of hospital, Sandra Dial and colleagues suggest this week with data from…more

Wildlife tourism: a hint of risk

Many tourists travelling to wildlife sanctuaries are poorly immunised against infectious diseases shared by humans and animals, suggest Michael Muehlenbein and colleagues…more

Mobile phone risks hanging in the balance

Conflicting evidence has fuelled debates over the safety of using mobile phones and a review published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives finds the scale tipping… more

September 2008

Viruses cast net wider with new vector

Chikungunya and dengue viruses spread efficiently with the Aedes aegypti mosquito, yet this species may soon have a serious contender for the role. The Asian tiger mosquito… more

Spatial data on hand to control disease

Data from satellites can be captured and used cheaply to help to control vector-borne and other types of infectious diseases in poor parts of the world, write a group of scientists this…more

Antimicrobials: use wisely for the common good

Resistance to antimicrobial drugs jeopardises modern medical advances worldwide and should be tackled with action by individuals as well as institutions, according to experts… more

Bisphenol A linked to chronic disease

The first evidence to emerge from a large-scale human study of bisphenol A (BPA) health effects, published in JAMA this week, shows that exposure to relatively high levels of the…more

August 2008

Flu-fighting cells work decades on

People who lived through the 1918 flu pandemic as children built up immune cells that still exist in their bodies today, microbiologists report this week in Nature. The 90-year-old cells… more

Sharper focus on lead risk in days

It takes little effort to add a level of detail to geographical models to improve how accurately areas with high lead exposure are spotted, environmental scientists report this week. This… more

Call to stand against organ trade

The commercial exchange of human organs should be banned with the support of transplant professionals, national laws, and international guidelines, according to a declaration…more

Infectious bugs spread in forest ‘islands’

People who live and look after livestock near fragmented forest share bacteria with primates on the same land, Tony Goldberg and colleagues report online in Emergingmore

Europe on alert for C. difficile

A highly infectious strain of Clostridium difficile has surfaced in some European countries, adding to worries that a strain already known to cause outbreaks of severe disease is… more

Cataract risk at low radiation levels

The amount of ionising radiation needed to raise the risk of developing cataracts could be much lower than that currently considered safe, environmental health scientists report this…more

July 2008

Keeping a closer watch on dengue in three steps

The task of detecting dengue outbreaks in regions where the disease is endemic can be made easier if national health authorities take three steps to enhance their surveillance… more

Earlier measles jab protects kids at high risk

A second dose of measles vaccine given earlier than currently recommended could prevent outbreaks of the disease among children in developing countries, public health scientists… more

Pandemic plans: a place claimed for bacteria

A pandemic strain of bird flu virus may not be the main cause of fatal illness during a major outbreak of influenza, according to research by John Brundage and Dennis Shanks…more

Warming forecast sees more kidney disease

Higher temperatures resulting from global warming could add an extra 2.2 million cases of kidney stone disease in some parts of the USA by 2050, predict Tom Brikowski and…more

Enterovirus uncovered in Austria

Routine surveillance has revealed a group of patients infected with enterovirus 71 (EV71) in Austria, Hartwig Huemer and colleagues report today. The pathogen rivals poliovirus in its…more

Chemical cues for mosquito control

The mosquito vector for diseases like dengue and yellow fever chooses to lay eggs in water containers that have the right amount of certain ‘messenger’ compounds (kairomones)…more

Rare epidemic could have enteroviral origins

Initial results of an investigation into the cause of a nail-shedding epidemic among Spanish children point to hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), epidemiologists report in…more

Signs of fertility risk for molybdenum

Men with high levels of molybdenum in their blood could be at higher risk of having poor semen quality, John Meeker and colleagues report this week in Environmental Health… more

June 2008

Olympics visitors to face familiar risks

Sport fans travelling to Beijing for the forthcoming Olympic Games should watch out for breathing problems and dog bites, not tropical or parasitic disease, the US Centers for… more

Early data to gauge chemical disaster risk

Response teams should prepare a tool bag to begin measuring exposure as soon as a chemical disaster has occurred, environmental scientists suggest in the Journal of Exposure… more

Climate risk planners urged to guard city kids

Climate change response planning should take into account early on special concerns for city kids living in developing countries, according to a report due to be published in… more

Bird flu vaccine trial results promising

A vaccine designed to fight infection with the H5N1 virus has shown early signs of success in a clinical trial, Hartmut Ehrlich and colleagues report in the New England Journal of…more

Bird flu: more strains show pandemic potential

Viruses of the bird flu subtype H7 have increased their capacity to spread among people, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week. The statement…more

Travel-related TB control revisited

The WHO revised this month international guidelines for preventing infection with TB during air travel, spelling out what passengers, airlines, and national health authorities must do to… more

C. difficile: drugs driving disease

The effective use of antibiotics to treat infections with Clostridium difficile is coming under threat from increasingly drug-resistant strains found in hospitals across Europe, according to…more

Tap-water chemicals linked to birth defects

Disinfection of public water supplies is essential for preventing illness from waterborne pathogens. But chlorine leaves behind chemical by-products that could raise the risk of…more

May 2008

Fending off insect bites for longer

A search to discover alternatives to DEET, the standard active ingredient in insect repellants, has revealed a class of chemicals with properties that could give longer-lasting protection… more

Infectious link to cot death strengthens

Infections with microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli are emerging as a likely cause of some unexplained infant deaths, a study suggests today in The Lancetmore

Criminal record found for childhood lead

Childhood lead toxicity may be a risk factor for criminal behaviour among young adults, John Paul Wright and colleagues suggest today. Their study shows that for children growing up… more

Diabetes kept at bay for years

People at risk for type 2 diabetes could stay disease-free for up to two decades after joining lifestyle-change groups, medical scientists report today in a special issue of The Lancetmore

Pandemic plans: school closure meets with support

Most households with school-age children backed the closing of schools when flu broke out in a small rural US community in 2006, according to survey results published in Emerging… more

Bovine TB strain gains ground

A rare strain of tuberculosis-causing bacteria is becoming more prominent as a cause of TB in San Diego and other parts of the USA with a large Hispanic population, according to a… more

Air pollution linked to blood clots in veins

The risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) could be higher for people who experience long-lasting exposure to increased levels of air pollution, Andrea Baccarelli and… more

Child vaccinations fall short of US guidelines

About a fifth of young children missed one or more of the vaccine doses required under US immunisation guidelines in 2005, Elizabeth Luman and colleagues report this week. Their…more

Global trail found for novel virus

A group of human rhinoviruses (HRVs) linked with respiratory infections was discovered about four years ago in the state of New York, USA. Microbiologists now suggest that these… more

UK sees rise in drug-resistant TB

Cases of drug-resistant TB have increased in the UK since the late 1990s, Michelle Kruijshaar and colleagues report today. Poor disease-management measures and a… more

April 2008

Medical tool could go global with mobile phones

A novel medical-imaging system based on mobile (cellular) phones could boost access to cheap and effective health technologies in developing countries, Yair Granot and colleagues… more

Ground-level ozone can shorten lives

Respiratory problems are known health effects of inhaling ozone in smog, but now an expert committee finds that exposure to the gas could also shorten lives. Writing in a US National… more

Poor bear the brunt of heart disease in India

The profile of India’s heart-disease patients was revealed today with data from the most comprehensive registry to date. Writing in The Lancet, Denis Xavier and colleagues report… more

Pandemic plans lose sight of health gaps

Existing health disparities could worsen unless preparedness policies aim to reduce how vulnerable some social groups might be to a major flu outbreak, caution Philip Blumenshine…more

Deadly virus found in Bolivia

A small group of villagers in rural Bolivia developed haemorrhagic fever (HF) more than four years ago and today scientists report that tests on a patient who died from the disease have… more

Crisis response needs tailored health research

Two decades of experience from research conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) show that it takes innovation and concerted efforts to help field staff deal with public health…more

Chemical industry told to plan for EU rules

The six-month window for pre-registration of industrial chemicals is just around the corner, said the European Commission (EC) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in a…more

Staphylococcal disease escalating in England

Hospital admissions and drug prescriptions for staphylococcal disease imported from the community have been rising in England for more than 15 years, Andrew Hayward and…more

Vaccine policy queried after mumps comeback

A recent multi-state outbreak of mumps in the USA affected people who probably received two doses of vaccine in childhood, public health scientists report today in the New England… more

WHO: climate health risk a reality

Changes to the global climate are already giving the world a taste of greater health risks to come, the WHO said this week in a statement marking World Health Day. Announcing…more

Global vaccine supply needs local power

Capacity for widespread vaccination must be developed at the local scale to enable available or new vaccines to have a global reach, Dave Chokshi and Aaron Kesselheim…more

Indoor phthalates may boost allergy hazard

Breathing in phthalate chemicals indoors could raise the risk of developing asthma and allergies, Jouni Jaakkola and Trudy Knight suggest in Environmental Health Perspectives… more

Pot belly signals mental decay

Middle-aged people with a build-up of fat around the belly could be facing higher chances of developing dementia later in life, according to a study by Rachel Whitmer and colleagues…more

March 2008

Flame retardants inhaled in cars

Regular car users could be exposed to PBDE chemicals released into the air from materials used in armrests, fabrics, and other items in car interiors, environmental health scientists… more

Social contacts probed for disease control

Models built to test the effectiveness of outbreak control strategies for diseases like SARS and influenza need to consider one essential factor behind the spread of these infections…more

Travel raising UK’s enteric fever risk

Improved surveillance of enteric fever in the UK has revealed a higher risk of infection among people with ethnic origin in the Indian subcontinent who travel there for family…more

Flame retardant exposure higher by hand

Every-day activities like handling household furniture and nail biting could be transferring higher amounts of flame retardants into the body than diet, Heather Stapleton and colleagues report today. They reached their conclusion by…more

Chikungunya transmitted with childbirth

The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) needs a mosquito carrier to get to a human host, but Patrick Gérardin and colleagues now show that a mother with virus in her blood (viraemia) can…more

Tobacco and lead linked to behaviour disorder

The chances of having a diagnosis or symptoms of a persistent behavioural disorder were higher in US children exposed to tobacco smoke and environmental lead, Joseph Braun and… more

Mix of measures could curb pandemic flu

Closing schools and moving quickly to implement a mix of intervention strategies will be crucial to an effective response should a flu pandemic occur, three research teams report… more

Vaccine slashes meningitis burden in Uganda

A five-year routine immunisation programme has eradicated nearly all cases of meningitis and pneumonia caused by Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) bacteria among young… more

Severe leptospirosis lurking in slums

A serious form of leptospirosis surfaced in the Brazilian city of Salvador in 2003, and a follow-up investigation found this previously unrecognised condition was causing… more

Radiation risk could hit the heart

Exposure to ionising radiation is a known cause of cancer, but epidemiologists now report that men working with radiation at UK nuclear plants may also be at higher risk of dying from… more

Human vCJD protein stands apart

Variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) causes similar brain damage to kuru, a fatal disease that was transmitted by ritual cannibalism in parts of Papua New Guinea during the late 1950s. But the abnormal prion proteins that…more

February 2008

Looking back to control future pandemics

Scientists probing flu epidemics since 1918 are finding clues to what might create stronger strains of the virus. Writing in PLoS Pathogens today, Martha Nelson and colleagues report… more

Schistosomiasis predicted to expand in China

Warmer temperatures in coming decades could take schistosomiasis to new parts of China, suggest Xiao-Nong Zhou and colleagues with a map that forecasts where transmission might occur in the future. Their study underlines… more

USA detects drug-resistant meningitis

A single dose of ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic of the fluoroquinolone class, has typically protected people at high risk of contracting meningococcal disease. But the US Centers for… more

US spots radioactivity threat

Radioactive caesium chloride is ubiquitous in health and research facilities but can disperse easily to pose a health threat, and should be replaced with less hazardous alternatives, the US National Research Council… more

USA and Europe tackle nanotechnology risks

A code of conduct adopted this month by the European Commission puts forth seven general principles and guidelines that those involved in nanosciences and… more

E. coli strains taking after MRSA

Certain strains of E. coli that cause urinary tract infections are extending their range by invading patients’ bloodstreams, Johann Pitout and Kevin Laupland report today in Lancet Infectious Diseases. This trend rings… more

Tobacco deaths soar in India

Tobacco smoking could cost India a million lives each year during the 2010s, Prabhat Jha and colleagues report this week. Their study is the first to put a number on… more

Deprivation may drive disease emergence

Social deprivation is the most important among several factors that could raise the risk of contracting American Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (ACL) in Costa Rica, a team… more

Tracking vulnerability to avert disasters

A one-size-fits-all approach to preparedness and response will probably fall short of protecting people from the effects of natural hazards, Susan Cutter and Christina Finch… more

Signs of phthalate risk from baby toiletries

Infants could be soaking up phthalate chemicals through baby skincare products, health scientists report this week. They showed that using lotion and other care items… more

Cancer challenging Europe

Europeans will develop cancer and die from the disease at increasing rates in the next 15 years, and European Union (EU) Member States must work in step to counter the trend, experts report on the eve of a… more

Available interventions thwart malaria

Extensive use of two interventions could swiftly cut the number of people hospitalised with malaria by more than half in some African countries, the WHO reports this month… more

January 2008

Hot plastic bottles release bisphenol A

Heating up plastic containers helps bisphenol A (BPA) to ‘migrate’ into the food or drink they contain, scientists report today. The finding fuels concern over the toxic effects on children fed with milk formula… more

Europe urged to target cleaner air

Setting lower limits for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Europe could add years to the lives of adult city-dwellers across the continent, Ferran Ballester and colleagues report in a study that compares the… more

Dietary perchlorate is highest in kids

Many common foods and drinks contain the toxic chemical perchlorate, food-safety researchers report this month after analysing data collected for more than 35 years by the US FDA’s Total Diet Study (DTS)… more

Global changes pose new health threat

Global environmental changes are set to create a new class of health risks, adding to those already produced by local hazards, Anthony McMichael and colleagues caution today. Health professionals can do a… more

Infections might raise schizophrenia risk

In US military recruits, the likelihood of having schizophrenia rose with increasing T. gondii antibodies in their blood, epidemiologists report in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The parasite is one of a few infectious… more

WHO to track bird flu online

A database launched by the WHO this week will keep tabs on bird flu viruses isolated from samples provided by member countries… more

Ebola tamed for the lab

Deleting just one gene from Ebolavirus (EBOV) stops the virus from making a protein it needs to reproduce inside normal cells, Peter Halfmann and colleagues report today… more

Skin cancer virus discovered

Suspecting that an infection could set off Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), molecular virologists uncovered a new polyomavirus, named MCV, in cells affected by the… more

Decades-old wood flooring leaks PCBs

People living in homes with wood floors ‘finished’ decades ago using products that contained PCBs could still be inhaling air and dust with large amounts of the… more

No sign of risk from dental amalgams

The limited amount that scientists know about the hazards of dental amalgams suggests that the mercury they contain does little to raise the chances of developing neurological or psychological conditions… more

Gay men at risk from MRSA strain

Infections with a highly drug-resistant variant of MRSA strain ‘USA300? are more common among sexually active gay men than the wider community in San Francisco, Binh An Diep and colleagues report this week… more

Cancer linked to acrylamide levels in blood

The risk of breast cancer developing in postmenopausal women rises with higher blood levels of acrylamide, Pelle Thonning Olesen and colleagues report this week in the… more

Thimerosal cuts fail to curb autism

Autism among young children has become more frequent in recent years, despite the phase-out of the mercury-based preservative thimerosal from vaccines, an analysis of Californian data concludes this week… more

Detecting viruses made easier

A single swab taken from patients suspected of having respiratory tract infections can now reveal quickly whether any one of 12 different viruses is the culprit using a test approved for marketing by the FDA this… more

MRSA detection speeds up

A test that reduces the time it takes to single out MRSA from other S. aureus bacteria can be marketed, the FDA announced this week. The assay promises to help make treatment of the potentially fatal infection more… more

December 2007

Getting back to hygiene basics

Knowing how to wash hands effectively could do a lot of the work to stop the spread of influenza viruses and other pathogens that threaten to become more prominent in the future… more

Strongest evidence yet links chromium to cancer

Drinking water tainted with hexavalent chromium (Cr+6) raises the chances of dying from stomach cancer, James Beaumont and colleagues report this week in Epidemiology after re-examining data from heavily… more

Rewards to spur TB control

Countries with a high burden of TB should expect the financial gains of launching and sustaining the ‘DOTS’ control strategy, or upgrading to the new WHO-recommended Stop TB Strategy, to far exceed the costs of… more

Desert storms send pathogens abroad

During an intense dust storm in Africa, a coastal city in the eastern Mediterranean saw a spike in particles of dust, on which scientists looked for signs of life that could have… more

Fine-tuning the safety of drinking water

When it comes to deciding whether drinking water is clean enough, risk managers use safety standards as a guide. But microbial risk assessment, a recently developed scientific tool, can help them to tailor decisions… more

FDA’s failings jeopardise public health

Severe shortcomings within the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are putting people at risk from unsafe food and medical supplies, one of its subcommittees said in a report that highlights the Agency’s… more

Stronger defences needed against future floods

The number of people exposed to floods in coastal cities is already in the millions and could triple to reach 150 million by the 2070s, at a cost of billions of dollars, according to a study prepared ahead of the United… more

Flu pandemic: tangible protection is years away

Europe is just halfway to being fully prepared for an influenza pandemic despite progress that puts the region ahead of the rest of the world, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reports this… more

Health suffers as reform continues in China

Beyond urban areas like Beijing, where the Green Olympics boosted efforts to clean up the environment, China’s drive to improve living conditions has created health risks that often go unnoticed and can have a… more

November 2007

Lead toxicity more likely for immigrant kids

New York City children born outside the USA, or with a recent history of living abroad, had a higher chance of testing positive for lead poisoning, public health scientists report today… more

Climate health risk sounds ethical alarm

Climate change is a global hazard, but it forces most health risks on the people and places that contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, which fuels inequalities and amounts to an ethical crisis, caution… more

Traffic pollutants reach for the brain

City-dwelling young children who grew up inhaling traffic fumes around their home scored more poorly in brain function tests as the level of pollution increased, Shakira Franco Suglia and colleagues report this month… more

Securing a fair share of preparedness

No country will be left untouched should a bird flu pandemic break out, but as preparedness progresses the international community must divide benefits even-handedly, the WHO said this week as the… more

Potent adenovirus surfaces in USA

A deadly strain of adenovirus appears to be on the rise in the USA, the CDC reports this month. After decades of rare sightings in which infections have caused mild illness, adenovirus serotype 14 (Ad14) has… more

Mental health declines after Katrina

New Orleans residents are struggling to maintain their mental health in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as recovery efforts continue more than two years later… more

Europe faces rising drug resistance

Years of keeping a close watch on a handful of disease-causing bacteria have revealed growing resilience to drugs across the continent, the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS) reports… more

MRSA traced to animal farms

The trail of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that emerged recently in communities across The Netherlands leads back to pig and probably cattle farms, Inge van Loo and… more

Computing the human cost of shipping

Large ocean-going ships release fine particulate matter (PM2.5) into the air, raise pollution levels, and account for thousands of deaths worldwide, according to… more

USA tracks chemicals that pose security risk

Any one chemical from a list of about 300 released this month by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could be used in a terrorist act and is now subject to reporting by facilities that hold them at certain… more

Plastic carries pollutant into the food chain

Tiny pieces of floating plastic can pick up phenanthrene from the sea’s surface and offload it easily onto sediment, raising concentrations in a marine lugworm… more

Public sanitation service shows health benefit

Diarrhoeal illness among children under the age of three dropped substantially after a sewage system was installed across the city of Salvador in north-east Brazil, Mauricio Barreto and colleagues report today in a… more

Severe chickenpox prompts call for ‘blanket’ vaccination

Chickenpox usually causes mild symptoms but many children in the UK and Ireland suffer severe complications from the illness, Claire Cameron and colleagues report today. Lacking… more

Disease control made to fit the community

Sound disease control principles are just one ingredient of a successful response to outbreaks of highly infectious diseases, a team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports this month. Some interventions… more

Chikungunya could take hold in Europe

The recent outbreak of chikungunya fever in north-eastern Italy, which marked the first time the disease spread within Europe, persisted for weeks and could happen again in Italy or elsewhere on the continent, the ECDC and… more

Breastfeeding benefit for asthma in doubt

Young children fed with breast milk for several months after birth developed healthier lungs later in childhood, Theresa Guilbert and colleagues report this month. But there was no advantage when the mother had asthma… more

Immigrants keep TB to themselves

A 12-year influx of TB-infected immigrants into Norway did little to spread the disease to native people or overwhelm the country’s control programme, Ulf Dahle and… more

October 2007

Dioxin singles out young men’s health

A 1976 chemical plant explosion in the Italian town of Seveso released the dioxin TCDD into the environment. Twenty-two years later, the reproductive system of local men exposed as children appears… more

Kids need protection against global warming

Governments and paediatricians should do more to protect children’s health from environmental risks that are expected to increase as the global climate changes, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said… more

Air pollution eludes Beijing’s greening

Projects designed to ‘green’ Beijing for the Olympic Games are generally on track for success, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reports this week, but the city’s… more

Children neglected in bird flu plans

Nearly half the deaths from bird flu recorded so far are among children and adolescents, yet special provisions for this group are missing from US preparations for an influenza pandemic, the American… more

Wildfires pass around the mercury

Plants and soil lock in mercury released by natural processes or industrial burning of fossil fuels, but forest and agricultural fires across the USA free tonnes of the… more

Multidrug-resistant bug discovered

A newly identified pneumococcal strain caused ear infections among a small group of children and proved resistant to treatment with all approved antibiotics, paediatricians in New York report in JAMA this week… more

Climate change in a risky synergy for asthma

Millions of people across the USA are exposed both to ozone and ragweed pollen, each thought to worsen respiratory problems and expected to reach higher levels as a result of climate change, the Natural… more

Heavy metal risk in Kenya’s urban waste

A large waste site in Nairobi, the Dandora Municipal Dumping site, holds hazardous chemicals at levels high enough to pose a health threat to children living in the area… more

Childhood cancer link to pesticides strengthens

Pesticides applied around the house while a child develops could raise their chances of developing cancers that affect the blood, Jérémie Rudant and colleagues say in Environmental Health Perspectives… more

Tamiflu endures in treated water

The antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is released from conventional sewage treatment plants to enter water bodies mostly intact, a study reports this week. Contact with low levels of this drug in areas where doctors… more

Air fresheners release potential toxins

Most air fresheners on the US market contain one or more potentially toxic chemicals called phthalates, the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports. The compounds tend to not be listed… more

September 2007

Bird flu not restricted to infecting the lungs

Avian influenza H5N1 causes severe respiratory symptoms and kills many people who become infected. But the virus can travel further than the respiratory tract to the brain and other organs, even crossing the placenta to reach… more

Conflicting trends for vaccine mercury risks

Since the 1930s some vaccines have been preserved with thimerosal, a substance that contains mercury. Exposure to the potentially toxic chemical through vaccines administered to children early in life had both… more

UK allergy epidemic fuelled by environmental factors

Environmental conditions at home, work, and in schools are prime suspects behind the threefold increase of allergic reactions over the past 20 years in the United Kingdom, a House of Lords committee said today. The… more

DDT may pose enduring risk

Once popular and used extensively to control insects, DDT was phased out in most countries when it proved to be harmful to wildlife. But women exposed to high levels of the chemical’s active ingredient, p,p’-DDT, in… more

Integrated approach urged to address pollution

Water and air pollution, chronic problems that hit parts of Asia and Africa the hardest, pose fresh challenges as more people move to urban areas. Their close links with other health threats and deficient infrastructure… more

Major role for meat industry in emerging disease

Current food production practices are set to keep fuelling the threat of diseases making the jump to humans from animals, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned this week. Citing the emergence of bird flu as a clear… more

US cities face rise in heatwave deaths

Rising temperatures resulting from climate change will probably put more people at risk of dying prematurely as heatwaves intensify and become more frequent. At least twice as many… more

Energy at the root of many global risks

The growing global demand for energy depends on burning fossil or biomass fuels, threatening health by polluting the air and driving climate change. Energy use factors… more

Concrete plans missing from US pandemic response

The US federal government has yet to spell out how different agencies should co-operate to lead an effective response in the event of a pandemic, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released… more

SARS immunity ebbs after three years

The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), caused by the newly identified SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), spread from Asia to countries around the world within a few… more

Global network tackles antimalarial resistance

Resistance to anti-malarial drugs began to develop in the 20th century and continues to jeopardise the success of new treatments. A global network designed to serve as a public data resource to guide treatment… more

Tsunami risk may stretch to northern Bay of Bengal

The 2004 tsunamis that devastated coastal communities bordering the Indian Ocean were triggered by the undersea Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. By all accounts… more

Poultry workers at higher risk of drug-resistant E. coli

Antibiotics are used frequently in animal farming in many countries, potentially playing a role in the growing resistance to these drugs in human treatment. Drug-resistant… more

Record high for global burden of COPD

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have difficulty breathing and their lungs react with inflammation when exposed to hazardous particles or chemicals. Expected to reach third place among… more

Housing quality linked to depression

Living in a mouldy house can trigger respiratory and other health problems. But these could also be a stepping stone to poor mental health, Edmont Shenassa and… more

August 2007

Role of vegetation in climate risk reassessed

Climate change predictions typically consider how carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases might influence the energy balance on the surface of the Earth. But in addition to this ‘radiative forcing’, rising CO2… more

Unknown noroviruses fuel illness surge

Formerly known as ’Norwalk-like viruses’, noroviruses circulate easily among people and can launch sudden outbreaks of severe diarrhoea and gastric illness. After looking… more

Perfluorinated chemicals may lower birth weight

Some perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), manufactured for use in non-stick pans and many other household products, have a lasting presence in the environment. Two of these chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, have… more

Escalating global threats need collective action

New diseases are surfacing faster than ever, and older health threats persist, jeopardising global security, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its… more

Air pollution in Chinese cities among highest worldwide

Partial burning of fossil fuels releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the air. Levels of these potentially harmful chemicals in urban China top those of most countries, Xiang Liu and colleagues reported… more

Signs of immune trouble from PCBs

Hints from animal studies that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) could damage an essential immune organ are now beginning to be borne out in humans. Hye-Youn Park and colleagues show that the presence of… more

Fresh trail between housing quality and diabetes

People with certain features or behaviours, including genetic make-up and poor nutrition, have a greater chance of developing diabetes mellitus. Living environment… more

Sharpening the focus for nanotoxicology

Nano-scale materials are increasingly being used in numerous consumer products, raising concerns that their novel properties might be accompanied by unforeseen health hazards. A report published this week in… more

Test traces diesel exhaust in people

Diesel exhaust fumes contain fine particles and cancer-causing chemicals formed by partial burning of fossil fuels. But making a link between actual health effects and… more

June–July 2007

WHO makes special case for kids in risk assessment

Chemical pollutants can harm a growing child in ways that may not be obvious until later in life, or cause health effects that differ from those in adults. Risks to children… more

New Yorkers’ blood high in mercury

Mercury often finds its way into people’s blood through intake of fish contaminated in the environment. A large fraction of New York City (NYC) residents, about 1.4 million… more

No short-term health risk detected from mobile phone fields

Some people suffer symptoms of ill health that they associate with exposure to low-intensity, radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (rf-emf) coming from mobile… more

Majority would avoid public transport in flu pandemic

The precautions people might take to reduce their risk during an influenza pandemic could have negative effects on health and the economy. Avoiding public transport and staying… more

Rainfall trends traced to human impact

Trends in average rainfall observed during part of the 20th century now show a clear link with human activity, or ‘anthropogenic forcing’, when compared with models… more

Traffic fumes linked to build-up of heart disease

Air pollution from traffic contributes to heart trouble. Over time, exposure raises the risk of dying or occurrence of heart disease, but it is unclear whether this results from… more

Crucial gaps in US bird flu preparations

The US government National Plan of May 2006 mobilised resources to prepare for a bird flu pandemic at home and abroad. An evaluation of achievements a year later highlights the steps taken to expand vaccine manufacture… more

Countries advised to guard food safety

Food contamination is harmful to public health and international trade. In a joint statement released today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) alert national authorities to a need for… more

New class of persistent pollutant uncovered

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), a group of potentially toxic chemicals, work their way up the food chain by dissolving into the fatty layers of living organisms. Lipophilic chemicals, substances attracted to fat or… more

Nano-materials to get no special treatment

Sticking with traditional practice, the US Environmental Protection Agency will determine whether nano-scale substances qualify as ‘new’ chemicals on a case-by-case basis, considering only their molecular make-up, according… more

E-waste recyclers tainted by flame retardants

Electronics-recycling labourers in Guiyu village, south China, absorb flame retardants at levels many times higher than seen elsewhere, report Xinhui Bi and colleagues this… more

Safety concerns about food additive

The food colour Red 2G (also called E128) is added to some sausages and burgers. A recent safety evaluation indicated that this additive may cause cancer, prompting the… more

Persistent pollutants linked to developmental disability

Children with some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in their blood were more likely to have learning disability or attention deficit disorder compared with children with no known exposure, according to a study published this week… more

Depleted uranium exposure limited in UK military

UK military forces who took part in the Iraq invasion of 2003 can be reassured that they had no substantial exposure to the depleted uranium used in armour-piercing and other weapons, according to results published… more

UN call to tackle desertification

The effects of desertification will not only take their toll on the millions of people living in dryland areas, warns a UN policy report published this week, they will also spread to other nations unless coordinated policies are put in place… more

UK changes e-waste disposal

The EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, or WEEE comes into effect across the UK starting this month. It sets out to break old habits of dumping used computers, kitchen appliances, and other electrical or… full story (PDF) – published 02.07.07

Extreme weather to raise death rates

The risk of dying is greater during a heat wave than during a cold snap, according to a study of US urban populations published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. As climate change is expected to create greater extremes of… full story (PDF) – published 28.06.07