US to build 2 more maximum security infectious disease labs</b>

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the US Department of Health is pushing ahead with plans to build at least five maximum security laboratories to study deadly diseases like Ebola, anthrax and smallpox. Five of these "level 4" labs already exist in the US. The government feels that the labs are essential in the war on terror. "To know that we can do this research and not do it would be irresponsible," says Rona Hirschberg, of the National Institutes of Health.

A lab in Boston has drawn fierce opposition from community activists -- and even from 150 scientists, including two Nobel laureates from Harvard. They query whether housing dangerous pathogens in an urban setting is safe. "There's no way of having a system that's 100% foolproof," said Penn Loh, executive director of Alternatives for Community and Environment in Roxbury, an inner city, mainly black, Boston neighbourhood near the site. "Should something occur, you don't want it to happen… click here to read whole article and make comments

Shortage of primates slows research</b>

The first audit of non-human primates used in global research has found that not enough apes and monkeys are being bred for research, that the shortfall could be slowing scientific advances and that lack of information about the animals in papers makes it difficult to gauge their validity. A group at the University of Uppsala in Sweden conducted the survey. It estimates that in 2001 3,000 research papers were published based on experiments on primates, with 4,411 studies on 41,000 animals. However, the real number of animals used is likely to be 200,000, as many government studies are never published.

However large this may seem, it actually masks a shortage of primates, which are the only suitable animals for some types of research. Some grant proposals are being turned down because there are not enough animals to study. One sign of the shortage is that researchers, especially in the US, often have to perform successive independent studies on the same… click here to read whole article and make comments

BOOKS: </b>enjoying Alzheimer’s

A sensitive review of two books in The Lancet highlights the dignity of people afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. "Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's", by Ray Smith (ISBN 1-84358-089-6) tells the story of a British man whose wife Grace developed Alzheimer's at 56. Rather than let her vegetate, he travelled the world with her, even though she was confused and incontinent, going to places as exotic as the Galapagos, India, and Sri Lanka; took her on long hikes; and continued to have sexual relations. "Ray never lost sight of Grace; he did not reduce her to her disease; he was able to see her as she once was and as she had become simultaneously." This is also the message of the other book, "Alive with Alzheimer's", by Cathy Stein Greenblat (ISBN 0-226-30658-5), a photo essay which stresses that sufferers must not be marginalised and devalued. click here to read whole article and make comments

ABI publications this week</b>

"Hippocratic oath a casualty of war"
By Michael Cook, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 2004

Why didn't the doctors at Abu Ghraib prison protect their patients? It is becoming clear that it was not just trailer trash who were corrupted by their power over Iraqi detainees in the prison...   

IN BRIEF: click here to read whole article and make comments

Lancet denounces doctors’ complicity in Abu Ghraib abuse </b>

A photo of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison Military doctors and medics in Iraq should "protest loudly and refuse cooperation with authorities" if they are aware of "torture and inhumane and degrading practices against detainees", says one of the world's leading medical journals, The Lancet, in a stinging editorial.

In its current issue, Dr Steven H. Miles, of the University of Minnesota, highlights the complicity of medical staff in the scandalous events which took place in the Coalition prison. These included "failure to maintain medical records, conduct routine medical examinations and to provide proper care of disabled or injured detainees. Medical personnel and medical information was also used to design and implement psychologically and physically coercive interrogations. Death certificates and medical records were falsified."

One case illustrates the abandonment of well-recognised principles of medical ethics by US doctors. In November 2003 Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former air defence commander, died… click here to read whole article and make comments

Cures from therapeutic cloning “distant at best”, says Nature </b>

The feverish excitement surrounding therapies from stem cells from cloned human embryos needs "a dose of reality", says a Nature news feature. The recent announcement that a British team will soon begin therapeutic cloning has raised hopes of individualised cures for degenerative diseases. "In reality, say those in the field, such a prospect remains distant at best," Nature comments.

Researchers in human embryonic stem cells distinguish between short- term and long-term benefits. The short-term benefits are insights into diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's. But because of the enormous obstacles that must be overcome, cures are a long-term benefit. For one thing, cloning is terribly inefficient. The South Korean team which announced earlier this year that it had created cloned embryos used 242 eggs from 16 women and produced a single stem cell line. "Until the success rate is improved, cures or treatments from therapeutic cloning will be impossible," says Nature. Improving the efficiency of the technique will require repeat… click here to read whole article and make comments

New study doubles number of US deaths caused by hospital error </b>

As many as 195,000 people a year die in hospital because of easily prevented mistakes, says a US health research company, HealthGrades Inc. A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine had found that the figure was 98,000, but Dr Samantha Collier, of HealthGrade, says that this underestimated the number of deaths. Her figures include failures to rescue dying patients and the death of low-risk patients from infections, neither of which were included in the previous study. "If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual list of leading causes of death included medical errors, it would show up as number six, ahead of diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and renal disease," commented Dr Collier. click here to read whole article and make comments

Big pharma eager to begin clinical trials in India </b>

International drug companies will begin conducting drug R&D in India next year. Up until now, Big Pharma had shied away from doing drug design and preclinical testing there. But in accordance with an agreement with the World Trade Organization, from next year India will honour overseas drug patents. This gives drug companies the protection they need to do drug research and conduct clinical trials without too much fear of being robbed by drug pirates. The change in intellectual property law will also build up India's expertise in conducting clinical trials, which has not developed because its patent laws did not require them.

The change means that foreign business is flooding in. Mumbai-based SIRO Clinpharm, which conducts clinical trials, says that its business has grown 60 to 80% each year, with 90% coming from overseas. The attraction is the prospect of saving money. Clinical trials cost as little as 40% as those done in Western countries. They are also far… click here to read whole article and make comments

Chicago IVF clinic claims that PGD does not harm embryo </b>

pre-implantation genetic diagnosis A leading centre for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, the Reproductive Institute of Chicago, has concluded that extracting a cell from an eight-cell embryo to test it for genetic disorders, does not cause birth defects. In research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, the clinic said that PGD babies are no more likely to suffer birth defects than babies born after natural pregnancies. The news supports a recent decision by the UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, to allow PGD to create tissue matched "saviour siblings".

About 1,000 babies around the world have been born with the help of PGD since it was first used experimentally around 1990. Like other IVF procedures, its effects were never studied in animal models or in human clinical trials before it became a standard procedure. Although the HFEA now says that the US study should reassure parents that the test will not harm… click here to read whole article and make comments

Fears of animal liberation radicals growing in US </b>

The new president of the world's largest animal rights group has vowed to take his group into a new era of animal protection advocacy, while shunning violence. In an interview with the Washington Post, 38-year-old Wayne Pacelle says that he will be "more aggressive" in pursuing the goals of the Humane Society of the United States. He starts from a good base, as its previous president build the HSUS up into an organisation with 8 million members and US$80 million in revenue last year.

Although Mr Pacelle is an outspoken opponent of violence, some American observers fear the hair-raising activism of radical animal liberationists in Britain could cross the Atlantic. An American trauma surgeon who advises the British movement, Dr Jerry Vlasak, recently told the Observer newspaper that violence was part of the struggle against oppression and that that assassinating vivisectors could save the lives of millions of animals. "I don't think you'd have to kill too many (researchers)," he… click here to read whole article and make comments

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