Glow-in-the-dark ice cream made from jellyfish protein

FoxNews.com
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    LICK ME I’M DELICIOUS

Glow in the dark cuisine may seem like something straight from a science fiction movie, but a British inventor has turned dreams into reality with his newest creation: glow in the dark ice cream.

Charlie Francis, founder of Lick Me I’m Delicious Ice Cream, was thrilled to discover that Chinese scientists had synthesized the luminescence protein from jellyfish.

“Naturally we wanted to have a go with some of the stuff, so we ordered some, played around and eventually made this,” Francis posted on the blog for his company website, which features a picture of his mystical creation.

The specially extracted proteins interact with pH levels on the human tongue so the ice cream radiates light when licked.  And the more you lick it, the brighter it gets. But there’s a catch — an expensive one. Food enthusiasts may be ecstatic about this new trend but jellyfish ice cream doesn’t come cheap. One scoop will set you back about $220.

Adventurous eaters need not despair. For a cheaper version of this phosphorescent food, Francis offers a gin and tonic sorbet that glows under a UV light – the quinine from tonic exhibits luminescent properties.

The 10 states most addicted to smoking

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    ISTOCK

Antismoking efforts are hard to avoid nowadays. Cigarette packaging got graphic new warning labels (though they’ll soon be replaced thanks to a big-tobacco lawsuit), and 38 states have at least some restrictions as to where a person can light up. (New York State has even banned smoking in public parks.) But despite this increased regulation, plenty of Americans continue to smoke—like chimneys.

Using government data on smoking (and quitting) rates,smoking bans and restrictionscigarette taxes and sales, anddeaths attributable to smoking, Health.com identified the 10 states where people are most likely to literally smoke themselves to death. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

Health.com: 15 Ways Smoking Ruins Your Looks

Alabama

The Heart of Dixie has one of the highest youth smoking rates in America. The CDC reports that in 2011, nearly 23 percent of kids in grades 9 through 12 were smokers. To curb this alarming trend, several colleges have restricted tobacco use on campus, including Troy University, Miles College, and Auburn University.

Smoking culture continues off college campuses, however. Residents are still allowed to light up in workplaces, restaurants, and bars, and cigarette taxes are among the lowest in the nation.

Arkansas

Roughly 27 percent of adults in Arkansas smoke (compared to just over 20 percent nationwide), and in the most recent government surveys, less than 3 percent of smokers had managed to quit within the previous 12 months.

The tobacco smoke hangs so thick over the Natural State that Governor Mike Beebe has made secondhand smoke a statewide priority. In July 2011, for instance, a law went into effect prohibiting an adult from smoking in a car with children under the age of 14, broadening a 2006 law that banned smoking in the car with kids under 6. Only six other states—California, Louisiana, Illinois, Oregon, Utah, and Maine—have similar laws.

Kentucky

States, not just people, can be addicted to tobacco. Tobacco production is an important industry in Kentucky, which along with North Carolina generates two-thirds of the nation’s tobacco harvest. (In 2012 Kentucky farmers grew about 150 million pounds.)

People aren’t necessarily more likely to smoke if they live in a tobacco-growing state, but Kentuckians are certainly doing their part to help the local economy. The state has the nation’s second-highest adult smoking rate, as well the highest rate of smoking-related deaths. Most alarming of all, Kentucky is encouraging more smokers: The smoking rate among high schoolers is the highest in the U.S.

Health.com: 17 Worst Habits For Your Heart

Louisiana

Alcohol use and smoking are closely linked, so in a state known for its love of partying and drive-through liquor stores, it’s not surprising that more than one in four Louisiana adults also smokes.

Like many people, Louisiana residents apparently love to light up when they have a drink in hand. Despite multiple attempts, State Senator Rob Marionneaux has been unable to win support for his proposed ban on smoking in Louisiana bars. The state currently prohibits smoking in restaurants, public buildings, and most work sites, but opponents worry the ban would hurt bars’ profits.

Mississippi

Mississippi is one of only two states nationwide without any restrictions on smoking at child-care facilities. The state has banned smoking in government buildings and on college campuses, but proposals for a broader ruling haven’t been met with much approval.

Supporters were looking to ban smoking in restaurants and nongovernment buildings, but the proposal fell apart in March of 2011. Opponents argued that the government shouldn’t tell private businesses how to operate. But it may be even more simple: Some residents told local newscasters they wouldn’t want to stop lighting up when they’re out and about.

Missouri

The federal government slaps a $1.01 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the U.S., but taxes—and therefore prices—still vary widely from state to state. The average pack of cigarettes costs more than $10 in New York, thanks to the country’s heftiest per-pack tax ($4.35)—three times higher than the national average. In Missouri, meanwhile, the average pack retails for just $4.50 because the state taxes a mere $0.17 per pack.

The Show-Me State is passing up a proven way to reduce smoking, especially among young people. A 10 percent price hike can reduce the amount of cigarettes consumed by about 4 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oklahoma

The rates of smoking and smoking-related deaths in Oklahoma rank high nationally, and very few smokers are quitting. But there may be change on the horizon: In April 2013, a new state law gave communities local control over smoking in public parks and municipal facilities. The measure also banned use of all tobacco products in all state-owned buildings.

As the birthplace of the original Marlboro Man, Oklahoma has made a small but lasting contribution to the smoking scourge. Darrell Winfield, the child of farmers, was discovered by Marlboro in 1968 and was featured in the majority of the brand’s advertisements over the next two decades.

Health.com: 20 Things That Can Ruin Your Smile

South Carolina

South Carolina has the nation’s lowest smoking-cessation rate. In the most recent government survey, only about 2 percent of smokers had successfully quit for at least a year (compared to a high of 7 percent in Vermont), which isn’t surprising given that South Carolina has a measly $0.57 cigarette tax and no smoking restrictions in restaurants, bars, private work sites, and retail stores.

These factors can discourage quitting. Fewer than one in 10 smokers successfully kick the habit without medicine or other aids. Roadblocks to quitting can include cravings, nicotine withdrawal symptoms, weight gain, lack of support, stress, alcohol, and living with a smoker.

Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains couldn’t have a better home. Although Tennessee’s smoking rate isn’t exceptionally high by national standards, the Volunteer State ranks among the worst in the number of packs sold per capita and the rate of smoking-related deaths. And in 2007, state spending for smoking cessation and other control programs was the third lowest, at only 3 percent of the CDC’s recommended amount.

As in many southern states, tobacco is a lucrative crop in Tennessee. Twenty-one states produce tobacco in the U.S., and many farmers depend on it to make a living, despite growing additional crops.

West Virginia

The Mountain State is home to the second-highest percentage of adult smokers in the country, with 28.6 percent of adults lighting up.

Not only are the most adults smoking in West Virginia, but they’re also smoking the most. The average West Virginian smoker buys 113 packs a year, compared to just 23 packs per person sold in Washington, D.C.

All those cigarettes aren’t without consequence: West Virginia has the second highest rate (after Kentucky) of deaths attributable to lung cancer, which, in roughly 90 percent of cases, is caused by smoking.

The 10 States Most Addicted to Smoking originally appeared on Health.com.

‘Biohacker’ implants chip in arm

LiveScience
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    Biohacker Tim Cannon had a battery-powered electronic device installed in his arm. (MOTHERBOARDTV/YOUTUBE)

Kids, don’t try this at home: A self-described “biohacker” had a big electronic chip almost as large as a deck of cards inserted beneath the skin of his arm. Without a doctor’s help. And without anesthetics.

Tim Cannon is a software developer from Pittsburgh and one of the developers at Grindhouse Wetware, a firm dedicated to “augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology,” according to the group’s website. As they explain it, “Computers are hardware. Apps are software. Humans are wetware.”

The device Cannon had inserted into his arm is a Circadia 1.0, a battery-powered implant that can record data from Cannon’s body and transmit it to his Android mobile device. Because no board-certified surgeon would perform the operation, Cannon turned to a DIY team that included a piercing and tattoo specialist who used ice to quell the pain of the procedure. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Now that the device is inserted and functioning, Cannon is one step closer to achieving a childhood dream. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been telling people that I want to be a robot,” Cannon toldThe Verge. “These days, that doesn’t seem so impossible anymore.”

The Circadia chip isn’t particularly advanced: All it does is record Cannon’s body temperature and transmit it to his cellphone over a Bluetooth connection. While this isn’t a huge improvement over an ordinary thermometer how analog! it does represent one small step forward in what will undoubtedly be a continuing march toward greater integration of electronics and biology.

Cannon is hardly the first individual to have technology implanted into his or her body just ask former vice president Dick Cheney (who had a battery-powered artificial heart implanted), or any dog with a microchip.

Some are referring to biohacking as the next wave in evolution. “I think that’s the trend, and where we’re heading,” according to futurist and sci-fi author James Rollins.

“There’s a whole ‘transhuman’ movement, which is the merging of biology and machine,” Rollins told LiveScience in an earlier interview. “Google Glass is one small step, and now there’s a Japanese scientist who’s developed the contact lens equivalent of Google Glass. And those are two things you put right on, if not in, your body. So I think we’re already moving that way, and quite rapidly.”

Cannon sees future refinements as being able to do more than just passively transmit information. “I think that our environment should listen more accurately and more intuitively to what’s happening in our body,” Cannon told Motherboard. “So if, for example, I’ve had a stressful day, the Circadia will communicate that to my house and will prepare a nice relaxing atmosphere for when I get home: dim the lights, [draw] a hot bath.”

Brain-machine interface puts anesthesia on autopilot

LiveScience
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A new brain-machine interface could replace human administration of anesthetics to patients in a medically induced coma.

The machine monitors a patient’s brain activity and automatically delivers just the right amount of anesthetic to keep the patient in a coma thus reducing the amount of anesthetic needed and preventing an overdose, researchers say. Doctors could also use the system to awaken patients periodically from a coma to do neurological assessments.

In a medically induced coma, physicians administer drugs to inactivate a patient’s brain, usually to treat high pressure in the skull or uncontrollable epilepsy. Doctors maintain these comas, which often last for several days, by monitoring a patient’s electroencephalogram (EEG) brain activity and delivering a precise dose of anesthetic.

Controlling the delivery of the anesthesia by hand is a bit like flying a plane manually for several days, the researchers say. In contrast, the brain-machine interface puts the process on autopilot.

Doctors need to deliver enough anesthetic to maintain a level of burst suppression, a pattern of brain activity involving bursts of electrical signals followed by quietness, in order to achieve a coma state.

A team of researchers from Cornell University, Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT developed the brain-machine interface that controlled burst suppression in rodents. The system, detailed Oct. 31 in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, uses sophisticated algorithms that measure the EEG brain activity, estimate the burst-suppression level and use that information to control the release of anesthetic, in real time.

The machine’s developers say it could be adapted for other kinds of anesthesia, too. The system could replace the manual administration of anesthetic in long surgeries and intensive-care units, where patients often must be under anesthesia for days at a time.

However, future studies will have to test the therapeutic benefits of this technology.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Deadly bioterror threats: 6 real risks

Healthline.com
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Bioterrorism is back in the news with word of a dangerous new strain of botulism, for which there is no antidote. The strain is so powerful, the researchers who discovered it won’t release its genetic code until an antidote is found because they fear it will fall into the wrong hands.

U.S. agencies like the Centers for Disease Control keep lists of potential bioterrorism agents that have the highest risks of mortality and morbidity, and botulism is one of them.

However, according to national bioterrorism experts, these government lists may be based more on the deadliness of pathogens than on the true risks they pose. The feasibility of a potential delivery system should also be considered.

Margaret Kosal, an assistant professor of international affairs at Georgia Tech who has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense on these issues, told Healthline, “Most of those discussions are grounded or based in assessment of technical or physiological characteristics of the pathogen … rather than technical requirements to make an effective weapon and broader consideration of motivation. All that gets very complicated, which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued.”

She said she appreciates that the lists exist, but added that they should be reviewed periodically.

“These lists are not based on quantitative data that would assess threat levels in particular,” Richard Ebright of Rutgers University told Healthline. “These are lists that were put together hastily or put together at a time when anthrax was at the forefront of people’s minds. These are fossils of 9/11 that have not been re-reviewed or re-evaluated.”

The threat of bioterrorism is real, scientists say. Here’s what to watch out for, based on interviews with experts in the field.

Watch the Video: What’s the Difference Between a Pandemic and an Epidemic?

Untreatable Illnesses
The new, highly potent strain of botulism, called botulism H, is a serious threat, as is any other agent for which there is no treatment. Botulism is on the CDC list, but Ebright believes there needs to be an entire category dedicated to deadly, untreatable biological agents. These include lethal coronaviruses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and H5N1, a strain of avian flu.

Neither of these illnesses has yet been detected in the U.S. Avian flu is not contagious among humans, but because of its ability to infect poultry, Ebright believes it could be introduced into the food system. “These viruses easily could fall into the wrong hands, even in their present form,” he said.

Learn About the 10 Worst Disease Outbreaks in U.S. History

Antibiotic-Resistant Agents
Antibiotic-resistant agents should also be on the watch list, Ebright said, pointing to the CDC’s warning in September that antibiotic resistance is growing in the U.S. Every year, more than two million Americans are infected with some form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in 23,000 deaths annually.

A couple of days after the CDC announcement, researchers funded in part by the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA), an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, announced they had found a way to make a rapid blood test that can distinguish between viral and bacterial infections, even among unknown strains. The goal is to help curb the inappropriate use of antibiotics, which leads to resistance.

With its Rapid Threat Assessment program, DARPA is encouraging researchers to develop technologies that can map a biological threat’s molecular mechanism in 30 days or less. The idea is to speed up the development of antidotes so that potential terrorists might think twice before an attack.

Anthrax
Anthrax, and any other substances hardy enough to survive shipping, should also be monitored. “Nobody really anticipated that the U.S. Mail would be as effective of a delivery system as it was,” Leonard Cole, author of The Anthrax Letters, told Heathline.

In addition to the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, he noted that anthrax has been a biological weapon of choice for many years. The British experimented with it during World War II on an island off the coast of Scotland. Cole said it wiped out the livestock used in the experiment in about 24 hours, and that the island remained contaminated and off-limits until the 1990s.

Know the Symptoms of Anthrax Poisoning

The CDC, via its Cities Readiness Initiative, has already developed a plan for mobilizing America’s biggest cities in the event of an anthrax attack. The U.S. has a stockpile of medications for its citizens in the event of various bioterrorism attacks.

Foodborne Illnesses
Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses may not be deadly, but an attack could sicken many people. “[These are] things we recover from, but they are more easily accessible and historically have been used, either for some sort of revenge or lower-level kind of attack,” Kathleen Vogel, a bioterrorism expert at Cornell, told Healthline. In 1984, a cult sickened more than 750 people in a food-borne bioterrorrism attack in Oregon.

“It’s very difficult to work with any of these agents and have them survive dissemination,” Vogel said of bioterrorism threats. “They’re living organisms.” She said simple environmental conditions such as sunlight and rain could degrade them. “You’d have to know what you’re doing if you’re working with these materials and know how to keep them stable and viable.”

Smallpox and Plague
In the 20th century, 300 million people died from smallpox, Cole said. The good news is that the U.S. government is extremely well prepared for a smallpox attack, with vaccinations on hand for every American.

And because it can be widely released in aerosol form, the CDC considers the bacterium Y. pestis, which causes pneumonic plague, a major bioterrorism threat. If patients are not treated with 48 hours, the fatality rate is close to 100 percent, Kosal said. The plague exists in nature and could easily be grown in a laboratory.

“The bug (aka the pathogen) itself is not a weapon,” Kosal added. “That frequently gets lost in political, policy, and popular discussions. Transforming a pathogen into a weapon can be a very different skill set.”

Read More: The 13 Worst Foodborne Illness Outbreaks in U.S. History

Woman who never aged dies at 20

news.com.au

 

 

Baffling: Teenager Resembles Toddler

 

Brooke Greenberg weighs 16 pounds and stands 2 feet, 6 inches tall. She can’t walk or talk, but doctors hope she may be the key to the fountain of  youth

 

A woman who never aged has died.

Brooke Greenberg, of Reisterstown, Maryland, looked and behaved like a toddler until her last breath.

Brooke was eventually diagnosed by her physician with “Syndrome X”, an unidentifiable and unexplained rare disease – which is known to affect only about six people in the world – where they do not age physically or mentally since early childhood.

“While the outside world may have noticed Brooke’s physical stature and been puzzled by her unique development state, she brought joy and love to her family,” Rabi Andrew Busch, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral yesterday, told the New York Daily News. “Her parents, three sisters and extended family showered her with love and respected her dignity throughout her entire life.”

Brooke and her family appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show in the US in January.”

They said Brooke could not talk, had baby teeth and still had to be pushed about in a chair.

“From age one to four, Brooke changed. She got a little bit bigger. But age four, four to five, she stopped,” her father told Couric.

Click for more from news.com.au.

Researchers discover new gene linked to obesity

FoxNews.com
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Researchers have discovered a new genetic mutation that may be linked to obesity in humans, Medical Daily reported.

In a study published in the journal Cell, researchers analyzed the genetic makeup of 2,201 adults with severe early-onset obesity. Overall, researchers discovered that 1 percent of the obese patients had a mutated version of the gene KSR2, which has been previously associated with regulating energy balance and metabolism in mice.

Patients who had a mutated version of the gene demonstrated increased appetites during childhood, lower heart rates and basal metabolic rates, and strong insulin resistance. Furthermore, patients with the mutated gene were more likely to become obese at a very young age.

“You would be hungry and wanting to eat a lot. You would not want to move because of a slower metabolism and would probably also develop type 2 diabetes at a young age,” lead researcher Sadaf Farooqi, a professor of metabolism and medicine at Cambridge University, told the BBC.  “It slows the ability to burn calories, and that’s important as it’s a new explanation for obesity.”

The researchers hope to someday develop targeted therapies that could help treat people with genetic mutations that predispose them to obesity.

“This work adds to a growing body of evidence that genes play a major role in influencing a person’s weight and may be useful for developing new ways to treat people who are heavy and develop diabetes,” Farooqi said in the statement.

Click for more from Medical Daily.

Ouch! Dental implant ends up in woman’s sinus

LiveScience
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    A 57-year-old woman in Italy was found to have a dental implant in her sinus. Above, a CT scan showing the displaced implant.(THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE ©2013)

A 57-year-old woman in Italy who went to the doctor with inflamed sinuses and facial pain had an unusual diagnosis: a dental implant in the sinus.

The woman had undergone oral surgery about two years before to place an implant — a 2-centimeter long (0.79 inch) metal screw designed to hold in place a replacement for a missing tooth — in her upper jaw. But surprisingly, an inspection of her mouth revealed the implant was not there. Instead, the gums covering the area of her missing tooth were healed, and her remaining teeth were healthy.

A CT scan showed the implant to be in her sinus cavity, next to her left eye. The researchers performed surgery to remove the dental implant, after which the woman’s sinus symptoms went away. Eight months later, she remains healthy, according to the report of the case published Oct. 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine. [Chew on This: 8 Foods for Healthy Teeth]

 

MORE FROM LIVESCIENCE

5 Surprising Ways to Banish Bad Breath

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5 Experts Answer: Is Flossing Really Necessary?

 

The researchers said the implant may have been wound up her sinus because of improper positioning, or as a consequence of tissue around the implant eroding, as well as bone loss.

Study researcher Alberto Schreiber, of the University of Brescia in Italy, said that he suspects the implant had been in the woman’s sinus for at least a year, and perhaps even since the patient’s surgery two years before.

Previous cases of dental implants ending up in the sinus have been reported, he said. In one case, an implant ended up in the base of the skull, Schreiber told LiveScience.

Dr. Eric Cohen, an ear nose and throat specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said that dental implants can migrate if they do not properly integrate into the jawbone. “The bone may have been too thin” for the implant to properly integrate, said Cohen, who was not involved with the woman’s case.

Because the roots of upper teeth can extend up into the floor of the sinus, dental implants (which are designed to act as tooth roots) can push into the sinus, and allow bacteria to enter, he said.

On the other hand, Dr. Jack Caton, chair of the Division of Periodontics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, speculated that the implant became displaced during the original surgery to implant it. Caton pointed out that there was no crown attached to the implant, which doctors would have likely added at some point if the surgery was successful.

“The patient may not have been informed of this intraoperative complication by the surgeon, or may not have understood any information that was given,” said Caton, who also did not treat the patient.

In his own experience, Caton has seen a dental implant become displaced into the sinus during oral surgery, which doctors then had to surgically remove.

The case report is published Oct. 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Google exec’s plan to cheat death

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Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil devotes a lot of his life to postponing death.

Kurzweil, the brilliant 65-year-old inventor and futurist, is dead-set on living long enough to be immortal, although getting himself to that point has proven to be a lot of work in and of itself. In an interview with Maclean’s, Kurzweil reveals how he’s built himself a “bridge” to immortality by making sure his body holds together long enough for life-lengthening technology to really mature.

“In the last two health books I co-wrote, we talk about a bridge to a bridge to a bridge,” he explains “I can never say, ‘I’ve done it, I’ve lived forever,’ because it’s never forever. We’re really talking about being on a path that will get us to the next point. People sometimes ask me, ‘You take a lot of supplements. Do you really think it will make you live hundreds of years?’”

At this point, the Maclean’s interviewer asked Kurzweil how many supplements he takes a day and he replied “about 150.” Kurzweil says that all these supplements are keeping his body healthy enough for him to reach his ultimate goal of living long enough to reach the “nanotech revolution.” At this point Kurzweil says “we can have little robots, sometimes called nanobots, that augment your immune system” and can “be reprogrammed to deal with new pathogens.”

It should be noted that Kurzweil has also predicted in the past that by the late 2020s, we’ll be able to eat as much junk food as we want because we’ll all have nanobots injected into our bodies that will provide us with all the proper nutrients we need while also eliminating all the excess fat we’ll gain.

Taliban’s ban on polio vaccine in Pakistan puts global eradication at risk

Reuters
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    A female polio worker gives polio vaccine drops to a girl in Lahore December 20, 2012. (REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

A Taliban ban on vaccination is exacerbating a serious polio outbreak in Pakistan, threatening to derail dramatic progress made this year towards wiping out the disease worldwide, health officials say.

Health teams in Pakistan have been attacked repeatedly since the Taliban denounced vaccines as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims and imposed bans on inoculation in June 2012.

In North Waziristan, a region near the Afghan border that has been cordoned off by the Taliban, dozens of children, many under the age of two, have been crippled by the viral disease in the past six months.

And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country’s major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas.

“We have entered a phase that we were all worried about and were afraid might happen,” Elias Durry, head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Pakistan, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“The risk is that as long as the virus is still circulating, and as long as we have no means of reaching these children and immunizing them to interrupt virus transmission, it could jeopardize everything that has been done so far – not only in Pakistan, but also in the region and around the globe.”

CORNERING THE VIRUS

Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. A $5.5 billion global eradication plan was launched in April with the aim of vaccinating 250 million children multiple times each year to stop the virus finding new footholds, and stepping up surveillance in more than 70 countries.

The virus has been cornered to just a handful of areas in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the three countries where polio is endemic. Global cases have dropped by more than 99.9 percent in less than three decades, from 350,000 in 1985 to just 223 last year, according to the GPEI.

But so far in 2013, there have already been 296 cases worldwide. Forty-three were in Pakistan, the vast majority in children in the semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which include North Waziristan.

Accusations that immunization campaigns are cover for spies were given credence when it emerged that the United States had used a Pakistani vaccination team to gather intelligence about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was found and killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan in 2011.

The Taliban ban, and associated security threats, mean the polio virus could easily escape and spread back into previously cleared areas.

Tariq Bhutta of the Pakistan Pediatric Association said there was little prospect that the militant Islamist group would change its stance. He said attacks on health teams attempting to reach children to immunize them were becoming both more frequent and more violent.

“The vaccination teams are still going out, but at risk to their lives,” he told Reuters. “People can come up on motorbikes and shoot them, and they’ve also started attacking the police put there to protect the vaccination teams.”

A Taliban bomb that exploded earlier this month near a polio vaccination team in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two people and appeared to target police assigned to protect the health workers.

“This will only be solved if the polio teams can get access to those children – either inside FATA, or when the children move out into other areas,” Bhutta said. “Without that I don’t see how things can improve. Rather I think things might get more serious when the polio virus gets out into settled areas.”

The GPEI says the FATA is the area with the largest number of children being paralyzed by wild poliovirus in all of Asia.

Four polio cases in children in Pakistan were reported in the last week. Because the virus spreads from person to person, the World Health Organization says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk.