Category: Featured

This Week in Virology #408 – Boston Quammens (video)

September 26th, 2016 in Events, Featured, In The News, Video

Original video from: American Society for Microbiology aired on September 24, 2016

Four years after filming ‘Threading the NEIDL’, Vincent Racaniello and Alan Dove return to the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory BSL4 facility at Boston University where they speak with science writer David Quammen.


Watch more TWIVs here

NEIDL Symposium: Talking about Infectious Diseases

September 21st, 2016 in Events, Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Today posted on September 21, 2016. by Sara Rimer

Anthony Fauci flashed on the screen a slide of a huge map of the world crisscrossed with blue and red lines showing dozens of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. Ebola. Yellow fever. MERS. West Nile virus. Dengue. Zika. This was the map the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had shown to the appropriations committee of the US House of Representatives last March, he said, addressing the opening of BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) inaugural symposium, held at the George Sherman Union last Sunday.

“I made this slide completely impossible to read, because I want to overwhelm them so they will give me more money,” Fauci said. “For the last few years they haven’t, but that’s another story.”

Later, during a panel discussion with experts and journalists, Fauci pointed out that in February, President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the spread of the Zika virus. “It is now September 18 and we still don’t have it,” he said. “It is completely unconscionable. We could turn that around by having an emergency fund.” He was referring to a global health security fund that has been proposed by health experts and would not be subject to the whims of Congress.

The symposium, which ran through Tuesday, brought together some 160 virologists and other scientists from all over the world who study the diseases on Fauci’s map—and work on vaccines, treatments, and public health responses—to discuss their research and the particular challenges of working with dangerous pathogens. On Sunday, the scientists joined a large crowd of BU faculty and students, funders, journalists, and other members of the public at the GSU.

Read Full Article in BU Today

Author David Quammen at NEIDL Symposium

September 15th, 2016 in Events, Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Research posted on September 14, 2016. by Sara Rimer

On assignment for National Geographic 16 years ago, science writer David Quammen spent eight weeks following a field biologist and conservationist named Mike Fay as he made an epic trek across the Congo, bushwhacking his way through swamps and forests. Fay was gathering data documenting the richness of the ecosystems he was passing through. A team of Bantu and Pygmy men carried tents and food. They were all sitting around the campfire one night, Quammen writes, when “there comes a weird, violent, whooshing noise that rises mystifyingly toward crescendo, and then crests—as, whoa, an elephant charges through camp, like a freight train with tusks…Anybody hurt? No. Dinner is served and the pachyderm in the kitchen is forgotten.” Fay walked for 456 days and 2,000 miles, in shorts and Teva sandals. Quammen, who adopted Fay’s uniform on the trail, made periodic trips in and out of the Republic of the Congo and Gabon to join him, getting to field sites by dugout canoe, bush plane, and helicopter.

The journey illustrates one of Quammen’s principles of science journalism: go there. A contributing writer for National Geographic and an author, whose books include The Song of the Dodo (1996); The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (2006); Spillover (2012), about the science, history, and human impact of emerging diseases; Ebola (2014); and his latest book, Yellowstone: A Journey through America’s Wild Heart (August 2016), Quammen has been going there for over three decades. In his quest to explore the natural world and how humans are connected to that world, Quammen has gone to the Russian Arctic with a boatload of Russian and American biologists, to the jungles of Indonesia with park rangers who track Komodo dragons, to biosafety level 4 labs where virologists study Ebola and other dangerous pathogens.


Read Full Article & Interview on BU Research

Rage Against The Busted Medical Machines

September 9th, 2016 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NPR Goats & Soda posted on September 8, 2016. by Nahid Bhadelia

“Oh, we have a hematology analyzer but it stopped working,” the lab technician said as he pointed to a covered tabletop medical equipment in the corner used to measure blood count levels — an important but simple tool for a community where anemia and infections are prevalent.

The busted hematology analyzer, which I encountered during a visit to a hospital in the rural Kono district in Sierra Leone, has plenty of company in the hall of nonfunctional medical equipment. The landscape of the West African countries I’ve worked in — not only Sierra Leone but also Liberia and Nigeria — is strewn with broken machines. Sometimes they bear the name of the nonprofit group or aid agency that made the donation. I’ve seen the same problem during two stints in a rural Nicaraguan hospital in 2005 and 2008.

Indeed, the scope of the problem is immense. To start with, WHO estimates that 80 percent of the medical equipment in developing countries is donated. A 2011 study looked at inventory lists from 16 low-income countries and showed the number of nonfunctional medical equipment in that pool is at about 40 percent. (Take this with the caveat that most places I have worked do not have up-to-date inventories).


Read Full Article in NPR Goats & Soda

City Council Meeting Discusses Proposed Level 4 Research Moratorium

August 26th, 2016 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: South End News posted on August 25, 2016. by Michele D. Maniscalco

With about 25 spectators in the gallery, City Council president Ayanna Pressley, District 7 city councilor Tito Jackson and councilor at large Annissa Essaibi-George held a meeting on August 11 to hear panels from Roxbury Safety Net and its allies, Boston University’s (BU) research and NEIDL (National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory) leadership and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) as well as members of the public on the proposed moratorium on all level 4 potential pandemic research, pending a national review.

While Councilor Essaibi-George had to leave early due to schedule conflicts, she pledged to listen to the proceedings in their entirety via the City Council’s on-line video library, with special attention to testimony from the public. Pressley and Jackson had pointed questions for proponents of approving level 4 research at the NEIDL, or Biolab as it is also known, about the economic impact of level 4 research for BU and for the city; on community engagement in the Institutional Biosafety Committee, the Community Liaison Committee and the Boston Biosafety Committee and on BU’s self-oversight of labs handling dangerous pathogens.


Read Full Article in South End News

Healthcare Workers and Ebola (Video)

August 8th, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Video

Original video from:

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, Director of Infection Control, talks with PBS about her experiences as a Healthcare worker in Sierra Leone battling Ebola.


Watch other Spillover related videos on PBS

The 9 Deadliest Viruses on Earth

July 20th, 2016 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: The Gleaner posted on July 20, 2016

Humans have been battling viruses before our species had even evolved into its modern form. For some viral diseases, vaccines and antiviral drugs have allowed us to keep infections from spreading widely, and have helped sick people recover. For one disease ó smallpox ó we’ve been able to eradicate it, ridding the world of new cases.

However, as the 2015 Ebola outbreak demonstrated, we’re a long way from winning the fight against viruses.

The strain that drove the last epidemic, Ebola Zaire, killed up to 90 per cent of the people it infected, making it the most lethal member of the Ebola family. “It couldn’t be worse,” noted Elke Muhlberger, an Ebola-virus expert and associate professor of microbiology at Boston University, United States.

There are other viruses out there that are equally deadly, some even deadlier. Here are the nine worst killers, based on the likelihood that a person will die if they are infected, the number of people killed, and whether they represent a growing threat.


Scientists identified Marburg virus in 1967 when small outbreaks occurred among lab workers in Germany who were exposed to infected monkeys imported from Uganda. Marburg virus is similar to Ebola in that both can cause hemorrhagic fever, meaning infected people develop high fevers and bleeding throughout the body that can lead to shock, organ failure and death.

The mortality rate in the first outbreak was 25 per cent, but it was more than 80 per cent in the 1998-2000 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as in the 2005 outbreak in Angola, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


Read Full Article in The Gleaner

Emergency Response Exercise to be Conducted

June 17th, 2016 in Events, Featured, Press Releases

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2016

Contact: Tom Testa (617) 353-7628,

            (Boston) – On Tuesday, June 21, 2016 between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Boston University (BU) will conduct a full- scale emergency response simulation at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) located at 620 Albany Street. This exercise is part of the NEIDL’s ongoing safety and training program for laboratory personnel and internal and external response officials.

This drill will simulate an emergency response to a medical incident involving a NEIDL staff member and transport from the NEIDL to the hospital. The participants in this exercise include: NEIDL operations staff and researchers, BU Public Safety, Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and EasCare Ambulance services.

While the simulation should have no affect or impact on neighborhood traffic, there may be a number of local emergency response vehicles parked at the NEIDL.

Following this exercise, all participants will convene to review and critique the response in order to continuously improve response and training.

Please note that BSL-4 research is not being conducted at the NEIDL now and will not commence until the completion of further regulatory approvals .




BU Lab Temporarily Halts TB Research after Safety Lapse

June 2nd, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: Boston Globe posted on June 2, 2016. by Kathy McCabe

Boston University has temporarily halted tuberculosis research at its high-security biolab after a malfunction forced a partial shutdown of the South End facility’s ventilation monitoring system in March, university officials said Wednesday.

A faulty network switch impeded air flow from two laboratories, prompting an eight-hour shutdown, BU officials said. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories was closed at the time, and the shutdown posed no threat to public safety.

The malfunction was immediately reported to the Boston Public Health Commission and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a BU spokesman said.

“We reported the incident, as required, within 24 hours to the regulators,” Colin Riley said.

BU has suspended research in the affected laboratories until an outside engineering firm completes a review of the system. Freezer units containing pathogens were not affected by the malfunction, officials said, and redundant safety systems operated as intended.

In a statement, the city’s public health commission said there was “no public impact from the ventilation shutdown.” The commission will review the engineering report and inspect the lab before it reopens.


Read Full Article in Boston Globe

NEIDL Ventilation Monitoring Was Temporarily Halted

June 1st, 2016 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: BU Today posted on June 1, 2016. by BU Today Staff

A malfunctioning network switch at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) resulted in a shutdown of parts of the lab’s ventilation monitoring system for eight hours on March 21. The malfunction impeded the flow of air out of the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) and Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) labs. The event, which was immediately reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), was detailed in a draft report by outside engineers Colorado-based Merrick & Company, whose final report is expected within the next several weeks. Once the event had been analyzed, BU also notified the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The University has suspended BSL-3 research until the outside engineers review recommended remedial work to prevent future ventilation system malfunctions. Gloria Waters, BU’s vice president and associate provost for research, says the University will contact the CDC and the BPHC when the remedial work is complete. “We would want to hear back from them before we start to do research again,” she says.

Waters says the event did not pose a threat to public health because no research was under way, safety protocols were in place, and redundant safety systems continued to operate as intended. She says in both BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs, pathogens are exposed to air only within biosafety cabinets, which have their own filtration system, while a redundant filtration system operates in the rooms containing the cabinets.  

NEIDL’s BSL-4 labs are not in use, says Waters, because they have not yet received final regulatory approval, and consequently there were no BSL-4 pathogens or research in those laboratories. (BSL-4 research requires the highest safety levels.) Even if research had been under way, Waters says, “The underlying safety systems, which include airtight seals around the doors, worked as intended, and the malfunction would not have created a public risk.”


Read Full Article on BU Today