Saturday, February 28, 2009

NY Times "Postscript" to Scott Shane's article on Ivins of Jan 4, 2009

A two-paragraph article in today's NY Times, sans byline, appears to end discussion of the so-called "chemical signature" said to identify the source of water used to grow the anthrax letter spores:
On Tuesday at an American Society for Microbiology conference in Baltimore, an F.B.I. scientist, Jason D. Bannan, said the water research ultimately was inconclusive about where the anthrax was grown. An F.B.I. spokeswoman, Ann Todd, said on Wednesday that the bureau “stands by the statements” of Dr. Bannan.
It is a postscript to Scott Shane's major article on Bruce Ivins dated January 4, 2009, which reported that a "chemical signature" of the water in which spores were grown pointed to Fort Detrick, Md.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Revealed: Scientific evidence for the 2001 anthrax attacks

from an article by Debora MacKenzie, who has been knowledgeably reporting on anthrax and bioterrorism at the New Scientist for more than a decade:

. . . Next the team developed highly sensitive tests to screen all 1072 samples for four of the mutations. Eight samples had all four. One came from a flask labelled RMR-1029 that Ivins was responsible for at USAMRIID. The other seven came from cultures taken from that flask, only one of which was not located at USAMRIID. So while these findings show the attack spores came from one of these cultures, the FBI has gone further in concluding the attack came directly from the RMR-1029 flask.

Another question is how the attacker turned the water-based slurry of spores in the flask to the fine, dry powder in the letters. . .

How to Heal the Ailing FDA

Six spot-on suggestions from Steve Nissen, MD to the Obama administration.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anthrax investigation still yielding findings: Chemical composition of spores doesn't match suspect flask.

Nature article by Roberta Kwok discusses the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on February 24, 2009. Excerpt:
Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael. Bacteria from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements. . .

Monday, February 2, 2009

NICE on Mars

Merrill Goozner discusses a BMJ article by Nigel Hawke about Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and how it might help those of us in the less-regulated medical world to get useful information on pharmaceuticals. Excerpts:

The global pharmaceutical industry considers Great Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) about as welcome as salmonella-tainted peanut butter at a Super Bowl party.

NICE has used independent researchers to compare the effectiveness of new drugs (especially cancer drugs) to what's already available. It then proceeds to establish their value by measuring how much they extend life and wellbeing (the dreaded cost-effectiveness analysis, also independently derived). Finally, the agency provides the information to England's National Health Service, which uses it to determine what services it can provide through its limited budget.

Great Britain also has longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality and health care costs about 60 percent of what we pay in the U.S.

NICE may export its model for profit to -- oh, double the horror -- the U.S. "It's clear that what we do and how we do it is of interest to healthcare systems around the world, regardless of how they are funded," NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon told BMJ.