RealNews

Database Intended To Assist Biodefense

Project Will List Harmful Pathogens. A Herndon company has been awarded a five-year, $16.9 million federal contract to build a database that will contain information on six dangerous pathogens that could be used as bioterrorism weapons or pose serious health hazards. Northrop Grumman IT will create the database for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The database will be used primarily by scientific researchers. Since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, there has been a spike in public awareness of bioterrorism threats, including “dirty bombs” and the introduction of fatal diseases or bacteria into public drinking water supplies or air supply systems at large public gathering spots such as shopping malls. Two of the six disease-causing organisms included in the database — tuberculosis and influenza — are well known. The others are not as prominent, though two of them recently received media attention. One, the Entamoeba histolytica parasite, was thought to be responsible for knocking New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi out of the lineup for weeks. The other, Ricinus communis, which comes from castor bean plants, was discovered last month in jars of Gerber’s banana yogurt dessert in Irvine, Calif. The other two pathogens are Giardia lamblia and microsporidia parasites. Full Story

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