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U of M and Brazilian researchers partner to fight infectious disease

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It's difficult to treat a disease caused by something you don't know is there.

That's why Marna Ericson, Ph.D. in the Department of Dermatology and Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota's Medical School and Paulo Velho, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Campinas, Brazil are combining experience and expertise internationally to learn more about the hard-to-detect bacteria Bartonella.

Ericson and Velho are part of a joint U.S.-Brazil March government initiative encouraging science and technology collaboration between the U.S. and Brazil.

Not only did the pair recently participate in a round table discussion at the U.S. Department of State on recruiting, retaining and advancing women in science, but they also just received a three-year grant to study Bartonella from Brazilian government program Science Without Borders, alongside U of M Department of Medicine Professor Kalpna Gupta and two UNICAMP researchers.

"Bartonella may be causing sickness and we don't know it, because there's no good way to test for it," said Ericson. "Even the best state-of-the-art tests are inadequate."

Bartonella lives inside red blood cells and is responsible for cat scratch disease; an infection transmitted by--you guessed it--cats (although ticks, flies, fleas and other blood-transmitters can carry it, too). This stealthy bacterium is also responsible for an unknown number of other health problems including skin lesions, liver infections and brain dysfunction.

International collaboration between Brazil and U of M researchers is vital to successful research on Bartonella. Velho's yearlong appointment at the U allows both U of M researchers and Velho to share their unique experiences and research with the bacteria originally discovered in South America.

"We are a good example of collaborative work," Velho said, adding that Ericson and himself are hoping to make it easier for others to participate in a university exchange like their own.

If Ericson and Velho succeed in developing a better way to detect Bartonella, their international collaboration will result in cost savings stemming from improper disease diagnoses and will set the scene for developing treatments that have the potential to improve lives and help cure Bartonella-related disease.

(Photo credit: Tissue staining of Bartonella in skin by Marna Ericson.)

Case of Mad Cow Disease Is Found in U.S.

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Image: New York Times LogoThe Department of Agriculture announced that it had identified a case of mad cow disease, the first in six years, in a dairy cow in central California. Will Hueston, College of Veterinary Medicine, discusses how this case is different from many of the cases of the past.

Read on New York Times

US Regulators Call for Limits on Antibiotic Use in Livestock

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Image: AHC LogoU.S. regulators are taking steps to check the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections from animals to humans. James Johnson, Medical School, talks about the new, proactive FDA guidenlines that have been put in place.

Read on Voice of America

Now revised, controversial bird-flu research gets publication go-ahead from U.S. govt. panel

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The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) has reversed course and now supports publication of controversial research studies showing how scientists in the Netherlands and Wisconsin created new, easy-to-spread forms of bird flu in the lab.

The move comes as researchers partially revise their research to exclude details that could be used by bioterrorists to potentially create a pandemic. The NSABB had originally said publishing full details of the research would be too risky.

University of Minnesota professor Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., serves on the NSABB and had been directly involved with the original recommendation for redaction.

According to Osterholm, the H5N1 strains that were created in the lab could lead to research that improves pandemic preparedness, but he and others were concerned that releasing details of the research created a very real risk of a human pandemic -- by accident or intentional release of the virus.

"These papers really represent a seminal moment in life sciences," Osterholm said before a Feb. 2 New York Academy of Sciences debate about the issue. Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. "We now have really been confronted with examples of where the science itself -- which is very important in moving forward for the public's health -- also poses potential risk for nefarious actions or even situations where this virus might escape from the laboratory."

Read the full story from the U of M's Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy.

Controversial Bird Flu Research Safe To Publish

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Image: RedOrbit LogoA panel of US science research experts reversed its decision on banning the publication of the research that created the deadly H5N1 virus. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains he is worried about a "garage scientist" trying to replicate the research.

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Bird flu: how two mutant strains led to an international controversy

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Image: AHC LogoThe debate on whether or not to publish details about the mutant strain of H5N1 is heading to Washington. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains how this debate will determine how future controversial studies are handled.

Read on The Guardian

Budget Constraints Delay Outbreak Investigation Centers

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Image: AHC LogoLack of federal funds will likely postpone the creation of five centers proposed to improve foodborne illness outbreak investigations. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, explains that budget constraints likely played a large role in the decision from the CDC.

Read on Food Safety News

Amateur Biologists Are New Fear in Making a Mutant Flu Virus

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Image: New York Times LogoThe World Health Organization recommended last week in favor of publishing the results of the H5N1 flu. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about the potential for a garage scientist attempting to create a replica of the deadly virus.

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Lab-engineered bird flu virus may be less deadly than thought -- or not

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Image: Washington Post LogoThe lab-engineered H5N1 bird flu virus whose recipe the U.S. government doesn't want published may be less lethal than originally reported. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses different aspects of the debate over the virus.

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Bird Flu: More Common, Less Deadly than We Thought?

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Image: AHC LogoA new study suggests H5N1 is more easily spread and far less deadly than scientists believed. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains that the fatality rate of H5N1 is at least as high as the World Health Organization has put it, between 30% and 60%.

Read on TIME and Huffington Post

Mesothelioma Clinical Trial to Study Effectiveness of Measles in Fighting the Deadly Cancer

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Image: AHC LogoResearcher from the U of M and Mayo Clinic are running a clinical trial to see if the measles virus can fight cancer. Robert Kratzke, Medical School, Masonic Cancer Center and University of Minnesota Physicians, discusses how measles have been used to fight other cancers.

Read on Mesothelioma Help

'Downton Abbey' gets the flu -- but does it get it right?

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Image: MinnPost LogoThe years 1918 and 1919 were marked in Britain, as in the United States and elsewhere around the world, with one of history's most virulent and deadly flu pandemics. Michael Osterholm and Richard Danila, School of Public Health, talk about the accuracy of a television shows depiction of the pandemic.

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Ind. measles outbreak, traced to Super Bowl, illustrates disease's quick rate of transmission

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Image: Washington Post LogoIndiana is battling its second measles outbreak in two years, even though its vaccination rate exceeds the national average. Kristen Ehresmann, School of Public Health, explains why the Super Bowl provided the perfect atmosphere for the disease to spread.

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Mom Warns Parents To Vaccinate After Baby's Near Death

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Image: WCCO LogoA Minnesota mother is pushing all parents to vaccinate their kids after a case of whooping cough put her baby in intensive care. Mark Schleiss, Medical School and University of Minnesota Physicians, talks about how vaccine refusal has led to a lot of severe illnesses in children.

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Cefpodoxime No Match for Ciprofloxacin in Acute Cystitis

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Image: Medscape LogoThree days of cefpodoxime failed to measure up to 3 days of ciprofloxacin in the treatment of women with acute uncomplicated cystitis, a bladder infection. James Johnson, Medical School, discusses how useful the results of the study will be in the future.

Read on Medscape Today

Documents from Michigan Further Identify Taco Bell

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Image: AHC LogoThe Michigan Department of Community Health named Taco Bell as the mystery fast food chain linked to an outbreak of Salmonella infection last year. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, discusses the results of the report and how they relate to Taco Bell.

Read on Food Safety News

Emotion runs high at H5N1 debate

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Image: Nature LogoResearchers and public health officials recently gathered in hopes of narrowing the divide within the scientific community over the debate of the H5N1 flu creation. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the impact of this research and the debate will have.

Read on Nature

Restaurant Chain A: To Name or Not to Name

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Image: AHC LogoThe CDC and FDA was withholding the name of a restaurant chain linked to a 10-state outbreak of Salmonella in 2011. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, explains that revealing the name of an outbreak source can create complications for researchers.

Read on Food Safety News

Wisconsin Scientist Says H5N1 Flu Strain He Created Is Less Dangerous

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Image: AHC LogoA Wisconsin virology team that created a more contagious form of bird flu did not produce a highly lethal superflu. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains there are concerns both about the organisms and about how you manufacture them.

Read on New York Times, USA Today, and Scientific American

Don't be lulled by mild flu season

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Image: AHC LogoThis winter's flu season has been mild, but the usual flu peak comes next month, so it's not over yet. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about the different flu strains that doctors are seeing so far this year.

Read on USA Today and The Economist

Bird flu research halted to ensure safety of experiments

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Image: AHC Logo39 scientists agreed Friday to halt their research for 60 days to allow time to assure the public the experiments are safe. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses how H5N1 is one of the most virulent known human infectious diseases.

Read on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

More labs close to deadly bird flu mutations

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Image: Reuters LogoAn international debate over whether to censor new research on bird flu may soon prove academic. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the dangers of publishing details of the research.

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Scab Check for Poultry to Be Scrapped Under Food-Safety Rule

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Image: AHC LogoThe U.S. would increase oversight of poultry processors' sanitary practices and contamination controls to potentially prevent 5,200 foodborne illnesses a year. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about how historic this proposal is for the poultry system.

Read on Bloomberg

Study Finds Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Retail Pork

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Image: AHC LogoResearchers have found that a serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as MRSA is becoming more prevalent in retail pork products. Peter Davies, College of Veterinary Medicine, explains how proper cooking and handling of raw meat can reduce any potential risk.

Read on Public News Service

Antibiotics Breed Drug Resistance in Pigs

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Image: AHC LogoA recent study explains feeding antibiotics to feeding animals increases drug resistance in the bacteria living in those animals. Jim Johnson, Medical School, talks about the concerning effects of resistant bacteria in antibiotic-fed farm animals.

Read on Lincoln Tribune

WHO will take a role in solving issued raised by bird flu studies controversy

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Image: AHC LogoMichael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the World Health Organization's comments about taking a role in helping sort through an international scientific controversy over two bird flu studies that the U.S. government deemed too dangerous to publish in full.

Read on Winnipeg Free Press

Waukon native Dr. Michael Osterholm shares his views on recent reports on the effectiveness of vaccines

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Image: AHC LogoUnlike the cure for the common cold, there are some remedies available to fight influenza. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains that vaccines that are the best intervention available for seasonal influenza.

Read on Waukon Standard

Minnesota experts name the most significant health-related events of 2011

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Image: MinnPost LogoSteven Miles, Center for Bioethics, Medical School and University Physicians, and Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discuss the most significant events ("good" or "bad") in their field of expertise in 2011.

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Concerns grow over salmonella that survives antibiotics

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Image: AHC LogoThe frequency of outbreaks linked to antibiotic-resistant salmonella is rising. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, discusses how banning specific strains of salmonella could cause logistical problems in the food industry.

Read on Denver Post

Should Science Journals Publish H5N1 Flu News?

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Image: AHC LogoThe U.S. government asked scientific journals not to publish the details of experiments on the deadly H5N1. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains that the rapid spread of an escaped flu virus would make it more dangerous than other deadly pathogens.

Read on TIME, Washington Post, CNN and Star Tribune

Fears grow over lab-bred flu

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Image: Nature LogoScientists call for stricter biosafety measures for dangerous avian-influenza variants.. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains that influenza presents a very difficult challenge because if it ever were to escape, it is one that would quickly go round the world.

Read on Nature News

Contagion: Controversy Erupts over Man-Made Pandemic Avian Flu Virus

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Image: AHC LogoTwo teams of scientists have independently constructed a deadly strain of flu. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the need to work on agents that yield important information without compromising our safety and security.

Read on Scientific American

Global flu vaccination levels "low, despite increased supplies"

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Image: AHC LogoGlobal influenza vaccination levels remain low and the rate of growth is slowing, despite the increasing provision of vaccine supplies. Kristin Nicol, Medical School, discusses the importance of routine flu vaccination of healthcare professionals.

Read on Pharma Times

Deadly man-made strain of H5N1 bird flu virus raises controversy

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Image: AHC LogoA group of scientists are trying to publish a paper on how they created a new flu virus that could wipe out all humanity. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about the importance of research like this.

Read on International Business Times , Digital Journal and Daily Mail

Saving lives with salmonella

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Image: AHC LogoSalmonella hospitalizes 20,000 and kills almost 400 people every year. Ed Greeno, Medical School, Masonic Cancer Center and University of Minnesota Physicians, explains how he is attempting to use salmonella to fight cancer.

Read on WNDU

Tainted chicken livers sicken nearly 170 with salmonella

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Image: AHC LogoThe Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota tallied 169 reports of illness tied to chicken livers produced by a New York food processor.

Read on MSNBC and NBC Washington

Ask Dr. Hallberg: New studies cast confusion on conventional wisdom

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Image: MPR LogoOn his weekly segment Jon Hallberg, Medical School and University of Minnesota Physicians, discusses recent studies that show flu shots aren't as effective as we used to think and neither is the PSA screening for prostate cancer.

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Stronger flu shots, more side effects

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Image: Star Tribune LogoA high-dose version of the flu vaccine, aimed at seniors, can cause short-term aches and flu-like symptoms. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in seniors.

Read on Star Tribune, Medical Xpress and Sun Herald

Doctors push flu shot despite study's findings

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Image: AHC LogoAlthough recent research shows that flu shot is not as effective as it used to be, most doctors still encourage patients to get the shot. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about how the study showed that flu shots need to be improved, not avoided.

Read on Duluth News Tribune

Flu shot not as effective as thought (but get one anyway)

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Image: AHC LogoFlu vaccines don't work as well as previously thought, although they're still the best protection available against seasonal influenza. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses his research on the effectiveness of the current flu vaccination.

Read on MSNBC, FOX News, USA Today and MPR

'U' Expert: We Need A Better Flu Shot « CBS Minnesota

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Image: WCCO LogoHealth officials say it's a good time to get a flu shot. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains it's time for a new flu vaccine to keep up with the different strains that develop over time.

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Is The Government Hiding Something About Swine Flu?

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Image: Forbes LogoNow we have two flus circulating: the "old" H3N2, and the 2009 pandemic flu, called H1N1. Research from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy explains parts of the 2009 flu outbreak.

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FDA plan aims to improve food safety at retail outlets

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Image: CIDRAP LogoThe U.S. FDA has announced a "Retail Food Safety Action Plan" aiming to improve how food facilities manage food safety efforts and how public health agencies oversee them. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, talks about the new action plan.

Read on CIDRAP News

Cantaloupe outbreak is deadliest in a decade

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Image: KARE 11 LogoThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses and a number of deaths, are linked to the tainted fruit. Craig Hedberg, School of Public Health, talks about the this deadly outbreak of bacteria.

Watch on KARE 11

Cantaloupes Cause Worst Food-Borne Illness Outbreak in a Decade

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Image: AHC LogoAs many as 72 people have fallen ill and 16 have died, after eating cantaloupes that were contaminated with listeria, a dangerous bacteria. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the outbreak and spread of listeria.


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U.S. Restructures $1.5B Biodefense Research Effort

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Image: AHC LogoThe U.S. Defense Department is significantly restructuring its mission to develop countermeasures against potential biological warfare agents. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the old mission and why the U.S. is restructuring.

Read on Global Security Newswire

Cantaloupe Illness And Death Toll May Keep Climbing, CDC Says

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Image: AHC LogoThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 55 people in 14 states have become infected with one of the strains of Listeria tied to cantaloupes. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, talks about the evidence tying the outbreak to Del Monte.

Read on NPR

Del Monte pushes back in food safety case

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Image: AHC LogoDel Monte Fresh Produce, is trying to block additional restrictions on melon imports, creating a battle between the produce industry and food safety regulators. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses Del Monte being the source of the salmonella outbreak earlier this year.

Read on Bend Bulletin

Editorial: Regulation is key to food safety

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Image: Star Tribune LogoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a landmark measure to protect against a potentially deadly foodborne bacteria -- E. coli. Mike Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the next step the USDA can take to improve food safety standards.

Read on Star Tribune

Rx could be required for farm antibiotics

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Image: AHC LogoAmerican farmers may be forced to get prescriptions for livestock antibiotics as a way to stem a rising tide of drug-resistant infections. James Johnson, Medical School, explains how resistance infections work in livestock.

Read on Arizona Daily Star

Farm-Animal Prescriptions Urged to Cut Drug Resistance

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Image: AHC LogoHealthy livestock routinely get antibiotics in the U.S. to promote growth and prevent illness. James Johnson, Medical School, explains how livestock can develop resistance infections if treated with too many antibiotics.

Read on Bloomberg Businessweek

Bachmann's vaccine claim draws fire

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Image: Star Tribune LogoScientists offer reward for proof of link between HPV vaccine, mental disability. Steve Miles, Medical School, Center for Bioethics and University of Minnesota Physicians, discusses the HPV vaccine and the claims of Michelle Bachmann.

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'Contagion' portrays extreme but not impossible scenario

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Image: CIDRAP LogoThe movie "Contagion" is clearly an extreme scenario, but not an impossible one, say experts who have seen the movie. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, expands on how realistic the disease outbreak in the movie is.

Read on CIDRAP News

Biodefence since 9/11: The price of protection

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Image: Nature LogoSince the anthrax attacks in 2001, some $60 billion has been spent on biodefence in the United States. Michael Osterholm, School of Public Health, explains how plans and cost estimates are necessary in preparation for future defense efforts.

Read on Nature

Second Del Monte cantaloupe suit targets Oregon agency

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Image: The Packer LogoMichael Osterholm, School of Public Health, discusses the accomplishments of another food safety illness expert in the United States..

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Doyle, Masters & Hedberg Named to Cargill Panel

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Image: Food Safety News LogoCraig Hedberg, School of Public Health, talks about being chosen for Cargill's expert panel that will review its enhanced ground turkey food safety program.

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New multi-drug resistant strain of salmonella identified

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Image: Health News LogoA new study has identified the emergence of a potentially deadly new strain of salmonella that highly resistant to Cipro, the primary drug used to battle infections of the bacteria.

Read on Health News

Lessons cited as Germany declares end to E coli outbreak

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Image: CIDRAP LogoCraig Hedberg discusses how the latest E coli outbreak has taught us some useful lessons and raised some issues that warrant follow-up discussion

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Key discovery to help women fight infections during pregnancy

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Image: Medical Xpress LogoU of M Medical School researchers have identified the underlying mechanisms for immune suppression that may lead to new therapies to help ward off infections during pregnancy.

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GAO urges tighter antibiotic resistance checks

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Image: American Medical Association LogoJames Johnson agrees that the federal government should step up monitoring of antibiotic use to help stem overuse of the drugs, which is rendering them ineffective.

Read on American Medical Association