Laura Kahn

Laura H. Kahn

Articles by Laura H. Kahn

8 August 2008

Biosecurity lessons from the Bruce Ivins case

Laura H. Kahn

We'll never know if Bruce Ivins, a former U.S. government microbiologist, perpetrated the 2001 anthrax letter killings, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing. The DNA of the anthrax strain used in the killings matched the anthrax strain in his laboratory. Searches of his home in Frederick, Maryland, turned up "hundreds" of letters similar to those used in the terrorist attacks.

16 July 2008

Food-borne illness: Attack of the killer tomatoes

Laura H. Kahn

Imagine sitting down at a restaurant and enjoying a delicious meal that includes fresh tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Then, 12 to 72 hours later, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and a fever develop that can last up to a week--possibly, from those tomatoes and/or jalapeno peppers.

16 June 2008

How evil can prevail in state-sanctioned biowarfare research

Laura H. Kahn

Some people consider physician Wouter Basson South Africa's Josef Mengele. During the 1998 Truth and Reconciliation hearings on Project Coast, South Africa's apartheid-era chemical and biowarfare programs, Schalk Janse van Rensburg, a veterinarian, stated that Basson, the program's head, wanted to devise a way to kill individuals that would appear undetectable to a forensics laboratory.

13 May 2008

The furor over genetically modified foods

Laura H. Kahn

The United Nations estimates that world population will top 9 billion people by 2050. Combined with the anticipated consequences of global warming such as drought, this could lead to devastating food shortages.

16 April 2008

In pursuit of international biosecurity oversight

Laura H. Kahn

Without a doubt, the implementation of bioresearch oversight must be an international effort. The United States has tried to take the lead in this area by mandating its National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to foster international collaboration when reviewing dual-use bioresearch.

5 April 2008

An interview with Laura H. Kahn

Laura H. Kahn
16 March 2008

The potential dangers in medical isotope production

Laura H. Kahn

The medical isotope metastable technetium 99 emits gamma rays that physicians heavily rely upon to examine how organs such as hearts, lungs, and kidneys function. Technetium 99 is so beneficial to the medical community that it's used in approximately 80-85 percent of the world's diagnostic imaging procedures (cardiac perfusion scans and bone scans among them) and 12 million procedures in the United States alone. The size of the global nuclear imaging and therapeutics market is estimated at $3.7 billion per year.

3 February 2008

Stethoscopes belong in museums

Laura H. Kahn

A common criticism of today's high cost of medicine is that physicians rely too often on advanced technologies such as CT scans and MRI machines to make diagnoses. Much of the overuse is blamed on perverse insurance-industry incentives that pay for these costly services.

13 January 2008

Public health lessons from virtual game worlds

Laura H. Kahn

It's challenging to model disease spread during epidemics. Simple mathematical models such as the "general epidemic" model make assumptions about constant population size, homogeneous mixing, and constant recovery rates, but can only go so far in predicting an outbreak's severity (See "Mathematical Modeling of Epidemics").

6 January 2008

The growing number of immunocompromised

Laura H. Kahn

It's estimated that about 10 million people in the United States (3.6 percent of the population) are immunocompromised. But that's likely an underestimate because it only includes those with HIV/AIDS (diagnosed and undiagnosed), organ transplant recipients, and cancer patients; there's a sizable population that takes immunosuppressive drugs for other disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.