Anthrax found at English farm


Anthrax found at English farm Deadly disease discovered in cow in Wiltshire

A cow has been incinerated
ANTHRAX has been discovered in a cow in Wiltshire — the first case in an animal in Britain since 2006.

The disease was detected by officials on a farm in the Westbury area following the death of a cow last week, Public Health England said.

A cow has been incinerated
A cow has been incinerated Getty
The cow has been incinerated and restrictions have been placed on the farm.

Mike Wade, of Public Health England , said: “We are aware of a confirmed case of anthrax disease in a cow in the Westbury area of Wiltshire.

“The risk of infection in close human contacts of the animal is very low, and we are in touch with any potential contacts to offer public health advice.”

Anthrax is a bacterial disease which primarily affects herbivorous animals, although all mammals are susceptible to infection.

Anthrax is deadly
Anthrax is deadly Alamy

Human cases of anthrax are very rare – with the last case occurring in 2008.

Wiltshire Council said “robust action” was taken immediately.

A spokeswoman said: “We worked with our partners both locally and nationally and swift action was taken to deal with the immediate risk.

“We know any risk is low; however, as you would expect, we are taking this very seriously and we will be doing everything in our power to support the national and local experts to keep Wiltshire safe.”

A local footpath close to the farm has been closed and it was confirmed that no cattle from the field have entered the food chain.

Pentagon mistakenly sends live anthrax to as many as nine states


Anthrax cells and spores
Anthrax cells and spores
Bacillus anthracis vegetative cells and spores are pictured in this photomicrograph from the Defense Department anthrax information website. (Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program)
By W.J. HENNIGAN contact the reporter Crime Diseases and Illnesses U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Army facility mistakenly sent live anthrax to labs in up to nine states
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to determine how many labs received live anthrax
The Army mistakenly sent live anthrax samples from a testing facility in Utah to commercial laboratories in as many as nine states, including California, as part of an effort to improve field testing for biological threats.

Pentagon officials said the accidental transfer of the potentially deadly biological agent Bacillus anthracis, better known as anthrax, had not caused any known infections.

Night raid in Syria: The special-forces op that killed Islamic State’s money man
Night raid in Syria: The special-forces op that killed Islamic State’s money man
“There are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in potentially exposed lab workers,” Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working with state and federal agencies to investigate the error. The CDC said it had launched its inquiry based on a request from a private commercial lab, not from the Army.

“At this time we do not suspect any risk to the general public,” the CDC said in a statement.

The CDC said it had sent investigators to all the labs and was trying to determine whether they also received live samples.

Officials said the commercial laboratories are in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. They did not identify the specific labs.

The Pentagon said one sample of anthrax also was sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea. A program there aims to boost biosurveillance capabilities on the Korean peninsula.

Under military research programs, anthrax spores must be inactive before they are sent to labs for study.
In this case, live spores were accidentally sent from the Army’s vast Dugway Proving Ground, about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, to labs working to develop a new diagnostic test for anthrax.

Dugway is used to test defense systems for chemical and biological weapons agents, including lethal viruses and bacteria.

In 2011, Dugway was put on lockdown overnight when a vial of deadly VX nerve agent went missing. The vial later was found, but had been mislabeled.

The nation’s worst biological attack involved anthrax created in an Army facility.

Weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, five envelopes containing anthrax spores were sent to several members of Congress and the media, sparking widespread fear of another act of terrorism.

At least 22 people contracted anthrax, and five died from the infection. About 35 post offices and mail rooms were contaminated along with seven buildings on Capitol Hill.

After years of false starts, the FBI concluded in 2008 that Dr. Bruce Ivans, a researcher at the Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md., was responsible. He committed suicide before he was charged.

FDA APPROVES NEW TREATMENT FOR INHALATIONAL ANTHRAX.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Anthrasil, Anthrax Immune Globulin Intravenous (Human), to treat patients with inhalational anthrax in combination with appropriate antibacterial drugs.

Anthrasil is manufactured from the plasma of individuals vaccinated against anthrax. The plasma contains antibodies that neutralize toxins produced by the anthrax bacteria.

The efficacy of Anthrasil was studied in animals because it was not feasible or ethical to conduct adequately controlled efficacy studies in humans. Rabbits and monkeys were exposed to a lethal aerosolized dose of B. anthracis spores, then treated with Anthrasil or a placebo, and evaluated for survival. Survival in anthrax-infected monkeys treated with Anthrasil ranged from 36 to 70 percent compared to 0 percent survival in the placebo group with a trend toward increased survival at higher doses of Anthrasil. Rabbits treated with a moderate dose of Anthrasil after infection exhibited 26 percent survival compared to 2 percent survival in the placebo group. Another study in rabbits showed that a combination of Anthrasil and antibiotics resulted in 71 percent survival compared to 25 percent survival in animals treated with antibiotics alone.

The results of studies in research animals provided sufficient evidence that Anthrasil is reasonably likely to benefit humans with inhalational anthrax. The FDA’s Animal Rule allows efficacy findings from adequate and well-controlled animal studies to support FDA approval when it is not feasible or ethical to conduct trials in humans.

The safety of the product was tested in 74 healthy human volunteers. The most commonly observed side effects were headache, back pain, nausea and infusion site pain and swelling.

Anthrax could deliver the cancer drugs of the future .


Anthrax, a potentially fatal disease caused by the Bacillus anthracisbacterium, infamous for being used as a biological weapon inside letters in 2001, is back – but scientists have now managed to turn it into a non-toxic, efficient drug delivery platform.

“Anthrax toxin is a professional at delivering large enzymes into cells,” Bradley Pentelute, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and senior author of the paper, told Anne Trafton for an MIT story on the discovery. “We wondered if we could render anthrax toxin nontoxic, and use it as a platform to deliver antibody drugs into cells.”

Now the scientists have successfully shown that they can do just that, and their research is published in ChemBioChem.

In the study, Pentelute and his team showed that they could use a “disarmed” version of the anthrax toxin to deliver two cancer-killing proteins known as antibody mimics into cells. These antibody mimics are important because they disrupt specific proteins inside cancer cells and are therefore capable of destroying them, but until now scientists haven’t been able to work out how to get them into cells.

This is the first demonstration of an effective antibody mimic delivery system, and it could allow research to develop new drugs for cancer and a range of other diseases, Pentelute explains in the MIT release.

Antibodies are proteins that are produced by our immune system to bind to pathogens, and in recent decades, scientists have designed their own antibodies that can disrupt proteins such as the HER2 receptor found on the surface of some cancer cells. Researchers have already developed a drug designed to bind to the HER2 receptor, called Herceptin, and it’s being successfully used to treat breast cancer tumours.

But the big hurdle in antibody drug research is that many of the potential drug targets are inside the cell – and scientists haven’t worked out how to get the antibody drugs there, until now.

The MIT team managed to successfully target several proteins inside cancer cells, including Bcr-Abl, which causes chronic myeloid leukaemia. The cancer cells that had the antibody mimics injected into them by the anthrax toxin underwent programmed cell suicide.

The researchers also managed to use anthrax to block a protein called hRAf-1 that’s overactive in many cancers.

“This work represents a prominent advance in the drug-delivery field,” Jennifer Cochran, a bioengineer at Stanford University in the US who wasn’t involved in the study, told Trafton for MIT. “Given the efficient protein delivery Pentelute and colleagues achieved with this technology compared to a traditional cell-penetrating peptide, studies to translate these findings toin vivo disease models will be highly anticipated.”

The MIT researchers are now testing the anthrax delivery method in mice and investigating ways they can target particular cell types.

Anthrax could deliver the cancer drugs of the future


Chemists have modified the anthrax bacteria and discovered that, when it’s not being deadly, it’s a ground-breakingly efficient drug carrier.

Anthrax

Anthrax, a potentially fatal disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacterium, infamous for being used as a biological weapon inside letters in 2001, is back – but scientists have now managed to turn it into a non-toxic, efficient drug delivery platform.

“Anthrax toxin is a professional at delivering large enzymes into cells,” Bradley Pentelute, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and senior author of the paper,told Anne Trafton for an MIT story on the discovery. “We wondered if we could render anthrax toxin nontoxic, and use it as a platform to deliver antibody drugs into cells.”

Now the scientists have successfully shown that they can do just that, and their research is published in ChemBioChem.

In the study, Pentelute and his team showed that they could use a “disarmed” version of the anthrax toxin to deliver two cancer-killing proteins known as antibody mimics into cells. These antibody mimics are important because they disrupt specific proteins inside cancer cells and are therefore capable of destroying them, but until now scientists haven’t been able to work out how to get them into cells.

This is the first demonstration of an effective antibody mimic delivery system, and it could allow research to develop new drugs for cancer and a range of other diseases, Pentelute explains in the MIT release.

Antibodies are proteins that are produced by our immune system to bind to pathogens, and in recent decades, scientists have designed their own antibodies that can disrupt proteins such as the HER2 receptor found on the surface of some cancer cells. Researchers have already developed a drug designed to bind to the HER2 receptor, called Herceptin, and it’s being successfully used to treat breast cancer tumours.

But the big hurdle in antibody drug research is that many of the potential drug targets are inside the cell – and scientists haven’t worked out how to get the antibody drugs there, until now.

The MIT team managed to successfully target several proteins inside cancer cells, including Bcr-Abl, which causes chronic myeloid leukaemia. The cancer cells that had the antibody mimics injected into them by the anthrax toxin underwent programmed cell suicide.

The researchers also managed to use anthrax to block a protein called hRAf-1 that’s overactive in many cancers.

“This work represents a prominent advance in the drug-delivery field,” Jennifer Cochran, a bioengineer at Stanford University in the US who wasn’t involved in the study, told Trafton for MIT. “Given the efficient protein delivery Pentelute and colleagues achieved with this technology compared to a traditional cell-penetrating peptide, studies to translate these findings to in vivo disease models will be highly anticipated.”

The MIT researchers are now testing the anthrax delivery method in mice and investigating ways they can target particular cell types.

Confronting Biological Plagues like Ebola, Smallpox, and Anthrax


Dr. D.A. Henderson also talks to GEN about how prepared we are, or not, for a bioterror attack.

Confronting Biological Plagues like Ebola, Smallpox, and Anthrax

Dr. Henderson led the effort that eventually eradicated smallpox in the late 1970s.

  • Donald A. Henderson, M.D., is a Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Service Professor and Dean Emeritus of the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is also Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Henderson, who led the effort in 1967 that eventually eradicated smallpox in the late 1970s, serves as co-editor-in-chief of Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert. GEN’s editor-in-chief John Sterling interviewed Dr. Henderson to find out more about Ebola and other infectious diseases, including how prepared we are for a bioterror incident.

  • GEN: Let’s begin by talking about the Ebola crisis in West Africa. According to Margaret Chan, M.D., Director-General of the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak is nearly out of control. Then there is the case of the man ill with Ebola who boarded a plane in Liberia, disembarked in Nigeria, and died five days later. How should health officials address this very serious problem?

    Dr. Henderson: Several measures are needed. The likelihood that we’re going to have people on a plane with Ebola virus disease and that they’re going to transmit it quickly is small. But if one has a patient on a plane who seems ill, it’s customary for a call to be sent ahead to have a physician meet the plane, determine if there is an illness, and then take whatever action is necessary. That’s a practice now in place and pretty well established.

    Ebola patients do not transmit the disease until they really get sick. At that point one has to identify those who may have been in contact with that patient and begin to think in terms of isolating them.

    Once a person is diagnosed with Ebola we know from experience in previous outbreaks that one isolates the patient in a hospital and provides needed fluids and nutrients. One makes sure that the people taking care of him or her follow the proper procedures for personal protection. Then the virus will burn out quickly. It does not spread easily and does so only as a result of direct contact with the patient or with blood or perhaps vomitus.

    The situation in West Africa is an extremely unique one. There are a lot of people, especially in rural areas, who are suspicious of strangers and other outsiders, including healthcare workers. Also some of the burial rituals that are common in West Africa are geared, unintentionally, to spread the virus. And patients are terrified of going into hospitals where patients are isolated because they know that’s where people go to die.

    Instead, relatives and friends often care for infected people at home. That means friends and relatives are in close contact with the patients. This behavior is considered a mark of respect and care for the patient and it’s understandable. But this has served to spread Ebola in a way that wouldn’t happen in a country like the U.S.

  • GEN: There’s another topic in the news that I would like to ask you about. How surprised were you when six vials of live smallpox virus from, most likely, the 1950s turned up in an FDA lab at the NIH?

    Dr. Henderson: I was very surprised indeed. In 1985, when we became engaged in persuading laboratories to destroy all smallpox virus specimens (they had to transfer them to one of two laboratories in Russia or Atlanta), we wondered how many might have virus samples and how many might comply. There were some 75 labs that originally reported being in possession of smallpox virus and most complied readily. We went from about 75 laboratories down to about eight in 1977 when the last cases occurred. By 1983, all had surrendered their samples except for two World Health Organization Collaborating Laboratories, one in Russia and the other in the United States.

    The six vials that turned up in NIH were small and contained powdered material. I have not seen them but I’m informed that two contained viable freeze-dried smallpox virus that had been sealed under vacuum. These were probably being used as reference specimens for research that was taking place decades ago to assess various smallpox vaccine products.

  • GEN: There’s a debate going on right now about what to do regarding the remaining two official smallpox stockpiles in the U.S. and Russia. Keep them or destroy them? Where do you stand on the issue?

    Dr. Henderson: I’m very much in favor of destroying them. This question actually came up in the early 1980s. Many countries, particularly those that had suffered with smallpox, wanted to see the virus destroyed and the risk of its recurrence minimized. There was a general understanding that we needed to preserve the genetic information intrinsic to the virus. But we did not need the intact smallpox virus to accomplish this.

    This could be done by slicing the virus up and putting the fragments into E. coli for a permanent library. A number of strains of the virus underwent this procedure. Sequencing the virus would provide even more information about its genetic nature. Fortunately, the technology was just becoming available and smallpox viruses were among the first specimens to be sequenced back then.

    The vast majority of countries argued strongly for virus destruction and requested that the World Health Assembly vote on this. We were surprised, however, to find there were two countries that were much opposed to destroying the virus—the United States and Russia. Their stated rationale was based on a general principle: We shouldn’t destroy a virus. They succeeded in having the vote deferred year after year. Other countries wanted specific reasons for the continual delay on a vote.

    In 2002 representatives from the U.S. cited such reasons for their views. They expressed the need, as they saw it, to have an effective smallpox vaccine that had no adverse side effects. But every vaccine, in fact, has some side effects so, in essence, an impossible objective was being proposed.

    This was in 2002 and a final decision on whether to keep or destroy the virus was postponed in 2007 and 2011 and, again, this past May.

  • GEN: What do you say to those who argue that it will eventually be possible, using the modern tools of molecular biology, to create a synthetic form of the smallpox virus?

    Dr. Henderson: To create a synthetic smallpox virus with the same properties as the original virus would be extremely difficult. Smallpox is an extraordinarily large virus and there are going to be real problems in trying to create a virus that’s exactly the same. In theory, I guess someone could.

    However, if someone were able to create a synthetic virus, the question is would the present vaccine be effective against it? The answer is probably not.

  • GEN: A few years ago you were quoted in an article as saying the U.S. was unprepared for a bioterror attack. Do you still feel that way?

    Dr. Henderson: Yes. We still have a way to go before we would really be reasonably well-prepared to deal with recognized biological threat agents such as smallpox, plague, and anthrax.

    After 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks, the U.S. government provided an emergency appropriation of $3 billion for the development of programs for preparedness and emergency response. State and local resources, especially the health departments, are critical to this effort. With a major bioterror attack and many casualties, it would be essential to render emergency care, to trace where the attack originated, and to implement requisite control measures. Much would depend on the existing but weak public health infrastructure throughout the U.S.

    I was part of the preparedness effort, and we allocated $1 billion specifically for initiatives that would involve state and local health departments. This would require bringing together coordinate activities among public health officials, physicians, hospitals, police, voluntary agencies such as the Red Cross, and industrial personnel, as well as various other participants with the singular goal of planning what to do in the event of a bioterror attack.

    Development of supporting resources is essential. In 2001, for example, we only had two laboratories in the country that could diagnose smallpox or anthrax. Now there are over 100 labs nationwide that can detect these and a range of other agents. Emergency communication networks were established and a central command post as well.

    So when you ask the question how well prepared we are, I perceive that much has been done but a lot more is required. For example, say we had a release of smallpox. State and local health authorities face a number of critical questions: Are their personnel trained properly to handle this? Do they have people who know how to vaccinate? Have they drilled enough to prepare for such an event? Where are you going to put patients if they have smallpox? Do you have sections of a hospital that could be set aside for isolation?

    Until the attack of September 2001, little if any thought had been given to these questions. So yes, a great number of positive actions have been taken. But as time has passed, I would say complacency has set in.

    A substantial effort was made beginning after 9/11 to begin to address emergency preparedness needs. The effort probably reached a peak about four or five years after 2001. But it’s begun to ebb since then.

    Definitive, rehearsed plans, stable financial resources, and experienced professional staff continue to be the vital needs. What we have now is far less than adequate. Few states or communities have adequate resources and this is not well understood.

CDC Lab Head Reassigned in Anthrax Incident.


The CDC has reassigned the director of the level 3 containment laboratory where an error allowed the release of live anthrax.

The staffer has been “placed on a detail,” a CDC spokesman told MedPage Today — the agency’s way of saying he has been given other duties while an investigation into the incident is underway.

Reuters news agency identified the staffer as Michael Farrell, PhD, who was responsible for the agency’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory. The CDC is not confirming that identification, according to Benjamin Haynes, a senior press officer.

The CDC investigation into the release, which saw 84 workers potentially exposed to live Bacillus anthracis, is continuing, Haynes said, under the direction of Harold Jaffe, MD, the agency’s associate director for science.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Health Inspection Service will conduct its own separate investigation into the incident, since anthrax is regarded as an animal pathogen.

Many of the 84 possible exposed workers are being treated with antibiotics or anthrax vaccine, but so far none has displayed any symptoms.

“When this sort of thing happens, it is treated just like an accidental release or an epidemic in the community,” commented Robert Amler, MD, of New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y.

“First of all [you] establish as wide as possible a perimeter around what may have happened so that you catch every possible exposure,” said Amler, a CDC veteran who was involved in the response to the 2001-2002 anthrax terror attacks.

“Then you begin testing [exposed people] and also giving them any sort of intervention that would help either to prevent getting the disease or if they did get the disease, to make it a milder case,” he told MedPage Today.

Exactly how big an exposure to anthrax is not an exact science, he said. “I would love to be able to quantify this, but it’s something that’s difficult to put an exact number on,” he said.

The number of infective particles is important, he said, but so is the route into the body and the immune status of the exposed person.

“That’s why the responsible action is to assume that everyone … has a credible exposure and one that has to be taken seriously,” he said. “But just because there’s a breach in the way things are supposed to be handled … does not mean automatically that people are going to get sick.”

Amler said his immediate reaction to the news was twofold. On one hand, he said, “you always feel bad when something like this happens … you do not want your workers to get exposures.”

On the other hand, “I figured that if anyone knows how to handle the possibly exposed employees, it’s going to be the CDC.”

The name anthrax comes from the Greek word for coal, and the pathogen is named after its signature skin lesion — a coal-black necrosis. “It’s quite a striking skin lesion,” Amler said.

There is also a gastrointestinal form of the disease, which is rare.

But the most concerning form of the illness occurs when spores are inhaled, become active bacteria, and begin to multiply, releasing toxins. The initial symptoms are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they are followed by pneumonia and severe respiratory distress that is often fatal.