Assume the Position

Saturday, September 28, 2002
Press Group Blasts Turkish Government. Following on the heels of its accusations that violence against journalists in Venezuela"is instigated by President Chavez," the International Press Institute lashed out at the Turkish government for the arrest of two freelance journalists.

Jorge Fascetto, IPI president, complaining that the arrests were racist and corporatist said, "Look, the Turks let Brian Ross cart radioactive material all over the place, but he's white and he works for ABC. These two guys with 33 pounds of weapons-grade uranium were just trying to get a story on how easy it is to smuggle the stuff. Besides, 15 kilograms of enriched uranium is not quite enough to make a 'proper' nuclear bomb, 25 kilograms is considered the standard threshold and they were well short of that."

Reporters who are not affiliated with major news organizations say the arrests will have a "chilling effect" on their ability to carry out their proper role of "heaping derision on government agencies and generally keeping the public in a state of constant fear," according to the IPI president.

(Yahoo-Reuters link via InstaPundit)

John Hawkins presents "The Quick And Dirty Leftist's Guide To Arguing Against The War On Terrorism." It could be subtitled You Might Be An Idiotarian If...

An election to watch, if only to see if Jesse Jackson's campaigning for the Brazilian front-runner, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, can do for him on October 6th what it did for Cynthia McKinney last month. Also of interest is the difference between Reuters' slant and the AP's angle.

Reuters has "civil rights leader" Jackson praising the "left wing" "champion of workers' rights" Lula, and the "inclusiveness" in the Workers' Party.

"The beauty of Lula has been to watch his evolution as a labor leader learning through successive election campaigns how to construct a coalition," Jackson told a news conference beside sundrenched Guanabara bay.

"Many people are impressed with the mix of the campaign and the role of Afro-Brazilians. The prominence of Benedita shows that inclusiveness is growing."
Meanwhile, the AP says Jackson is down there to entice the "evangelicals."
"It is a joy to have known Lula and Benedita," Jackson said. "Both are activists and Christians who applied their faith."

Party strategists hope Jackson's support could help Lula win votes among evangelical Protestants, a strong political bloc in Brazil. Most Protestants are believed to support rival candidate Anthony Garotinho, a former governor of Rio and himself an evangelical.

Other than that, the US interest is mostly concerned with the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), to which all four candidates are skeptical or opposed.
The front-runner in the race, four-time candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the left-wing Workers' Party, has said he supports free trade in theory.

But Lula, as the former metalworker is known here, has lashed out at the current FTAA proposal as a threat to Brazil's sovereignty, suggesting it would mean turning over Latin America's biggest economy to policymakers in Washington.

"The FTAA as it stands right now is a policy of annexation, not integration," he said in a radio interview last week.

Jose Serra, the candidate backed by Cardoso's ruling coalition and the Wall Street favorite, has also expressed reservations about the FTAA, saying that Washington doesn't "practice what it preaches" when it comes to free trade.

The other two candidates are even more skeptical of the U.S. proposal. Ciro Gomes, a left-leaning former finance minister, has said his government might instead seek bilateral trade deals with the likes of China and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Anthony Garotinho, a media savvy former state governor who got his start in talk radio, recently posed for the cameras signing an anti-FTAA plebiscite sponsored by Brazil's Catholic bishops.

In all, the nonbinding plebiscite was endorsed by 10 million Brazilians, many of whom celebrated the event earlier this month by marching outside the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, chanting "Yes to sovereignty, no to FTAA."

Sunday, September 22, 2002
Antivirals for Smallpox. Discussing the Israeli decision to begin smallpox vaccinations for emergency workers over on Daily Pundit, I began thinking about the two modes of dealing with anthrax: prophylactic vaccination to provide full or limited immunity prior to exposure and post-exposure antibiotic treatment. The availability of effective post-exposure treatments changes the equation for deciding who should be vaccinated under various circumstances by significantly reducing the mortality rate among the unvaccinated. You don't need to vaccinate everybody against a disease if you can effectively treat those who contract it.

While most everybody knows about the smallpox vaccines, I wondered about post-exposure treatment; why hasn't there been much talk about using antiviral drugs against smallpox? I guessed that it could be because smallpox was eradicated before significant progress was made in developing antiviral drugs. That seems to be the case, since the last naturally occurring case of smallpox was in 1977 and, although there were a few early antivirals in the 1960s, development of antiviral drugs didn't really take off until the 1980s. With smallpox eliminated, the remaining samples supposedly placed under tight controls, and a world still full of other deadly and debilitating viruses, there wasn't much call for R&D into antiviral treatments for it until the growth of fears about bioterrorism.

But, just like there are broad-spectrum antibiotics that treat numerous bacterial infections, some antivirals may provide effective treatment for several related or similar viruses. It turns out the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) discovered that cidofovir, used to treat cytomegalovirus eye infections, was effective against monkeypox, which is similar to smallpox.

Atlanta, GA, March 10, 1998 - Researchers from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have disclosed that Gilead Sciences' antiviral drug cidofovir prevented death and disease associated with poxvirus infection in animals. In primates infected with monkeypox, cidofovir treatment reduced respiratory symptoms, fever and pox-like skin lesions and decreased mortality associated with the viral infection. These data were presented this week in Atlanta, Georgia by Dr. John W. Huggins, Chief, Department of Viral Therapeutics, Virology Division of USAMRIID, at The International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases. The conference is organized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the CDC Foundation. The conference is designed to encourage the exchange of scientific and public health information on global emerging infectious disease issues and highlight scientific activities that address these threats.

"This is the first time we have data in primates that confirm a drug's potential activity against orthopoxvirus infections, "Dr. Huggins said. "The disease observed in primates infected with monkeypox is clinically similar to what occurs in humans, so we are quite encouraged by cidofovir's activity in this model. Our next step will be to conduct additional studies to better define the utility of cidofovir for the potential treatment of poxvirus infection in humans."

Ongoing Threat of Monkeypox in Africa

Poxvirus infections in humans historically caused significant disease and death until the advent of efficient poxvirus vaccines in the early 1800's. The public health threat of poxvirus has recently resurfaced with the observation of increased cases of monkeypox infection in humans. For example, research teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) report that from February 1996 to October 1997, more than 400 cases of human monkeypox were confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire).

Monkeypox infection in humans is associated with signs and symptoms similar to smallpox, including the development of pox-like skin lesions (pustular rash), fever and respiratory symptoms, with subsequent lung hemorrhage and pneumonia. In severe cases, the associated respiratory illness may lead to death.

Additional progress has been made since 1998, including a more effective and less toxic oral version.
By cloaking an antiviral drug in a fat molecule, scientists have developed a new compound that people might someday swallow to ward off smallpox.

In response to smallpox's potential as a bioterror threat, the U.S. government in the 1990s started sponsoring research into drugs that inhibit poxviruses. The star candidate so far has been cidofovir, which kills the smallpox virus in test tube studies. Cidofovir, however, has two major drawbacks. The drug, marketed as Vistide for cytomegalovirus eye infections, must be injected intravenously. Also, the large doses required to get cidofovir into cells can damage the kidneys, says Karl Y. Hostetler, an endocrinologist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla.

To create an oral version of cidofovir that's less toxic, Hostetler and his colleagues packaged each molecule in a partially degraded, digestible fat molecule. The new compound, called hexadecyloxypropyl-cidofovir (HDP-CDV), is absorbed intact through the membranes of mammalian cells—including those infected with a poxvirus—the researchers reported this week in Prague, Czech Republic, at the 15th International Conference on Antiviral Research. Inside the cells, enzymes strip away HDP-CDV's fatty portion, then its cidofovir binds to poxvirus and prevents it from replicating, Hostetler says. HDP-CDV is more than 100 times as effective against poxviruses as cidofovir is.

Further tests on mice receiving HDP-CDV orally once or twice a day over 5 days show that the animals fended off cowpox, a close relative of smallpox, reports John W. Huggins, a virologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md.

In addition to HDP-CDV, as many as 27 other drugs show promise against poxviruses in early lab tests, says virologist Earl R. Kern of the University of Alabama–Birmingham School of Medicine.

Based on lab tests, Kern says, cidofovir and HDP-CDV may also prove useful against chickenpox, herpes, and infectious mononucleosis.

However, some scientists downplay antivirals' importance.
The possibility of an effective drug for smallpox is likely to fuel the debate among smallpox experts about the best way to control a future outbreak. Many prominent scientists argue that antiviral drugs such as cidofivir shouldn't play a prominent role.

Antivirals may save lives and perhaps reduce transmission, but they do not confer immunity to the disease, as vaccines do, the argument goes.

Donald Henderson, head of George W. Bush's newly created Office of Public Health Preparedness, is a prominent sceptic. The use of cidofovir "would be limited to administration at or shortly after infection had occurred to prevent the virus from multiplying and eventually causing disease", he says.

Antiviral drugs would best be used to treat people who can't be vaccinated, says Henderson. Those with weak immune systems can suffer adverse, even fatal, reactions to smallpox vaccine.

Joseph Esposito, a poxvirus specialist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, agrees: "A new drug would be very important." But in terms of a national strategy, "the first line of defence is a proven one, and that's vaccination," he says.

But while questions loom about the number of smallpox vaccine doses available to limit an outbreak, and about the possibility of a smallpox virus being engineered that can outwit existing vaccines, antivirals deserve a fair trail, says Hostetler.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.