Saturday, July 27, 2013


In April of this year the RCMP announced that they had uncovered a bio-terrorist threat involving two Canadian scientists working for the innocuous sounding: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The agency itself had been in the news lately due to regulatory failures leading to a number of food poising cases from bacterial outbreaks in a packing plant in Alberta.

The two CFIA scientists were busted for attempting to sell Brucellis virus to China. In fact one of the scientists, herself Chinese, had gotten away to China.1 They were under investigation for two years when it became known that they were trying to commercialize the bacteria they had developed with CFIA. 3

Last October 24, RCMP and Ottawa police intercepted Nielsen, a well-respected scientist, on his way to the Ottawa airport. Officers found 17 vials of pathogens in Nielsen’s possession that “he was attempting to export in an unsafe manner.“These vials were analyzed by the PHAC and found to contain live brucella bacteria that can infect livestock and humans.”
University of Guelph Prof. Keith Warriner said humans who come in contact with the bacteria can develop flu-like symptoms “that go on and on for months and months.” Warriner told CTV’s Power Play Wednesday that brucella is what is known as a select agent, because it is “very nasty” and highly contagious.

This bacteria is common in domesticated animals, mammals in general and can impact human health. it was also the first bacteria to become weaponized in 1954 by the US army.2

"Three types of the bacteria that cause brucellosis – Brucella abortusBrucella melitensis andBrucella suis – are designated as select agents. This means that they have the potential to be developed as bioterrorism agents due to their ability to undergo aerosolization."     Center for Disease Control 

So we have a case where a world renowned specialist in the field of burcellosis, Dr. Nielsen  is busted for trying to smuggle weaponized potential bacteria out of Canada with his research partner in order to sell it to China.

Nielsen had been a seasoned researcher of the bacteria and was part of a team scientists that won a CFIA Technology Transfer Award in 2003 for developing a 15-second test for detecting brucellosis in cattle, the disease caused by brucella.
He is set to appear in a Canadian court on April 17, while Yu, a resident of Ottawa, is believed to be in hiding in China. Local police declined to confirm if extradition would be an option if Yu is apprehended overseas.

Now you would think this would be front page news; "Bio Terrorists Busted In Canada.", but it wasn't. In fact after barely a week in the press, as various news agencies picked up the story and repeated it in the inside pages, the story disappeared from the press. 

It is now three months later and there is no mention of these two lab coated terrorists in the Canadian press. Yet the press and the government have made a big deal over home grown terrorists, including the two complete losers who were set up for the alleged Canada Day bombing,  including this recent timeline by CBC which fails to include Nielsen and Yu.

In fact the RCMP charges themselves underplayed the importance of this as bio-terrorism, instead charging them with crimes around intellectual property. Nielsen was carrying 17 highly toxic vials of bacteria on himself, he was going to get on a plane, he was busted in a busy national airport. Had those vials broken or otherwise released their contents who knows what kind of serious bacteriological outbreak could have occurred. 

Backed up by its clandestine laboratory response team, the Ottawa Fire Services hazmat response team, and Ottawa Police Service first responders, RCMP "intercepted" Nielsen on Oct. 24. According to Rollings, Nielsen at the time was on his way to Ottawa's airport and was scheduled to leave Canada for China.
Upon arresting and searching Nielsen, RCMP said, they found in his possession 17 vials of pathogens which they allege he was "attempting to export in an unsafe manner." PHAC later analyzed the vials and found them to contain live brucellabacteria. Nielsen was then arrested for breach of trust and for "unsafe transportation of a human pathogen."
The other problem with this story has been the delay in releasing information, Dr. Nielsen was busted last October, yet the RCMP did not release any information about this until shortly before he was to go to trial April 17. Meanwhile his fellow accessory and partner had apparently gotten away to China. The investigation itself had been going on for two years. 

Now compare that with the instantaneous news about the Canada Day bombing plan, a bombing that never occurred, ( if it ever was even a real threat, it has all the makings of a  false flag operation) yet the B.C. couple busted for this were in the news for weeks, and still are in the news. Not so our two CFIA scientists.

Is it because of the lab coats? If you are a scientist does that make you special? Clearly in this case it does. First there is the fact that the charges do NOT explicitly deal with bio-terrorism,  or terrorism at all, they have to do with commercial property and breach of safety. 
Yet clearly this was a bacteria that could be weaponized. It was being sold to a foreign country in violation of the criminal code section on Treason.4  That's right the actions taken by Dr. Nielsen and his partner, could be construed as treason, let alone more serious charges around bio-terrorism, than what they have been charged with.

Is it because this had to do with China rather than AL-Qaeda? And while Chinese corporate or state espionage may be involved, that seems to have been deemed less of threat to Canada than supposed Al-Qaeda sympathizers, actually no proof of this allegation ever surfaced after it was made by the RCMP,  who lived in a hovel in B.C. and planed to supposedly make pressure cooker bombs, 

Is it because the media can't make an issue of two scientists being home grown 'Muslim' terrorists, because they aren't.

While the media went into great detail about the lives of the B.C, couple, no such story ran about Dr. Nielsen and his female Chinese assistant. Were they more than just lab partners?
Why would he risk his entire career? Was it  for love? How did she get away, was she a plant, did she seduce him as is common in spying. No research, no details were ever released. Go ahead Google it, nothing, zip, nada, all you can find about her is the story in press about the bust.

University of Montreal professor Christian Baron says he and his colleagues are wondering why Nielsen would take the risk of transporting such a readily available bacteria on a plane.
“Brucella is actually a bigger problem in Chinese agriculture than here [in Canada],” said Baron, who is the director of the university’s biochemistry department.
“I really don’t see what the reason would have been.”
The Chinese could easily have found their own bacteria in cattle that are widely infected with the disease in their own country, he sai

Now this is more than just lazy journalism, this is a media blackout it is also being downplayed by the RCMP and the Government.  Why? Because of Harper's new friendly relationship with China? Because this is another embarrassment surrounding the  CFIA?

Perhaps. But I believe it's because it's about commercialization of public research, the privatization and  selling of public research as intellectual property, something that the neo-liberals have been promoting and continue to promote for universities and other science and research facilities. it is that dark murky world of scientific research paid for by you and me but profiting others, the scientists and their pharmaceutical company allies and sponsors.

This story cries out for in depth coverage, it has all the elements of an espionage thriller, the potential to expose foreign spying in Canada and corporate espionage ala the Constant Gardner, and yet it has effectively disappeared from the news.


1. RCMP intercepts dangerous pathogens from being exported out of the Country
OTTAWA – April 3, 2013 – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has charged Dr. Klaus Nielsen and Ms. Wei Ling Yu, both former researchers with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), with Breach of Trust by a Public Officer. These charges stem from a criminal investigation called Project SENTIMENTAL, which was completed with the assistance of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The matter was originally reported to the RCMP by the CFIA in March 2011. The investigation focused on Dr. Nielsen and Ms. Yu’s unlawful efforts to commercialize intellectual property belonging to the CFIA and a private commercial partner. 
On October 24, 2012, the RCMP with the assistance of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) first responders intercepted Dr. Nielsen as he was heading to the Ottawa airport.  The RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Response Team, accompanied by the Ottawa Fire Services Hazardous Materials Response Team, arrested and searched Dr. Nielsen.  In his possession, Dr. Nielsen had 17 vials of pathogens he was attempting to export in an unsafe manner.  These vials were analyzed by the PHAC and found to contain live brucella bacteria that can infect livestock and humans.   Dr. Nielsen was arrested for Breach of Trust by a Public Officer and the unsafe transportation of a human pathogen. 
This complex investigation drew on resources from a variety of federal departments, law enforcement agencies and first responders. The RCMP, in collaboration with their partners, were able to quickly and efficiently mobilize and respond to this threat which helped minimize the public’s risk of exposure to these contagious substances.
Dr. Nielsen faces one charge under the Criminal Code and several under the Export and Import Permits Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act. His next court appearance is scheduled on April 17, 2013 in Ottawa.
A Canada wide warrant has been issued for Ms. Yu.

Biological warfare[edit]

In 1954, B. suis became the first agent weaponized by the United States at its Pine Bluff Arsenal near Pine Bluff, ArkansasBrucella species survive well in aerosols and resist drying. Brucella and all other remaining biological weapons in the U.S. arsenal were destroyed in 1971–72 when the Americam offensive biological warfare (BW) program was discontinued by order of President Richard Nixon.[6]
The experimental American bacteriological warware program focused on three agents of the Brucella group:
  • Porcine Brucellosis (Agent US)
  • Bovine Brucellosis (Agent AB)
  • Caprine Brucellosis (Agent AM)
"Agent US" was in advanced development by the end of World War II. When the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) wanted a biological warfare capability, the Chemical Corps offered "Agent US" in the M114 bomblet, based on the four-pound bursting bomblet that was developed for spreading anthrax during World War II. Though the capability was developed, operational testing indicated that the weapon was less than desirable, and the USAAF designed it as an interim capability until it could replaced by a more effective biological weapon.
The main drawbacks of the M114 with "Agent US" was that it was an incapacitating agent, whereas the administration of the USAAF wanted deadly weapons. Also the stability under storange was too low to allow for storing at forward air bases, and the logistical requirements to neutralize a target were far higher than originally planned. This would have required an unreasonable amount of logistical support.
Agents US and AB had a median infective dose of 500 organisms/person, and for Agent AM it was 300 organisms/person. The time-of-incubation was believed to be about two weeks, with a duration of infection of several months. The lethality estimate was based on epidemiological information at one to two percent. Agent AM was believed to be a more virulent disease, and a fatality rate of three percent was expected.

Nielsen K., Yu WL. 

Ottawa Laboratories (Fallowfield), Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 

Nepean, Ontario, Canada 

Review of Detection of Brucella sp. by Polymerase Chain Reaction

 discloses, without lawful authority, military or scientific material to agents of a foreign state, if he or she knows or should know that the material may be used to impair Canada's safety or defence, 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Climate Change and Super Bugs

It appears that climate change/global warming is causing an outbreak of opportunistic infectious diseases from microbes, bacteria and fungi. Traveling with the dust clouds raised by desertification and air pollution, they rain down on us and begin to take up residence in our built environment.. The dangers of these infectious bacteria and fungi is that they collect in the indoor environment and are adapting. 

The result is increasing outbreaks of super bugs, fed by over use of antibiotics as well as improper disinfection. They originate in the dust clouds produced by industrial pollution, these clouds of dust rise into the higher earth atmosphere where bacterial and fungal microbes  collect and continue to mutate. These dust clouds return to earth to spread new mutated microbes into the air we breath. 

The super-bugs continue to mutate as they build resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants. I will go into more detail on this problem in a later blog post.

In the study below  Cryptococcus is a form of fungi that is mutating as a result of living in the earth atmosphere in dust clouds.

Unlike diseases transmitted strictly via an animal vector or from person-to-person, the ubiquity of opportunistic pathogens like Cryptococcus presents a new and daunting set of challenges for scientists and medical professionals. Any organism small enough to be lifted into the air has the potential to achieve a cosmopolitan distribution, provided it can survive where it lands. In the cool climates of a temperate zone, untold numbers of potentially pathogenic bacteria and fungi may subsist—but fail to thrive—just below the level of detection. Microbial ecologists have a saying for this: Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.

Biologists now recognize that this dogma is only partly true, particularly in the face of Earth's warming climate. For example, over 50% of Kazakhstan's croplands have been sucked dry, while the Sahara expands into Nigeria and Ghana at a rate of 3,500 km2 per year. This global process of desertification is increasing the number of dust storms that ferry microbes across continents and oceans.

Meanwhile, in the temperate zone, rising temperatures have rendered some regions more hospitable to colonization by microbial hitchhikers arriving on soils from tropical climes. This new fungal strain cropping up in people and other animals with healthy immune systems may have been a new arrival to Vancouver Island, or it may have always been tucked away in some hidden valley for many years, until one balmy summer triggered its unfortunate bloom. And there are hints that it is steadily furthering its progress. "The question we've been asking over the last 10 years," Hoang says, "Is it going to get to the mainland and will it spread across the Pacific Northwest?"

A key moment in aeromicrobiology, or the study of airborne microbes, came in 1933, when Fred Meier of the US Department of Agriculture convinced Charles Lindberg to collect samples during an arctic flight from Maine to Denmark. Upon finding everything from fungal spores to algae and diatoms, Meier wrote, "the potentialities of world-wide distribution of spores of fungi and other organisms caught up and carried abroad by transcontinental winds may be of tremendous consequence."

We now know that particles of dust, organic matter, and aerosolized water droplets support hardy communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses—a mere 0.08% of which have ever been cultured.Some 10,000 bacteria are present in every gram of airborne sediment, and the atmosphere contains at least one billion metric tons of dust.That translates to a quintillion dust-borne bacteria—enough, according to Dale Griffin of the USDA office in St. Petersburg, Fla., "to form a microbial bridge between Earth and Jupiter."

Over the course of five days in 2001, NASA tracked a large dust cloud that originated in the Gobi Desert as it moved east across the Pacific, North America, and the Atlantic, before petering out over Europe. Frequently, during African dust storms, a smoke-like strand is visible in satellite photos swirling off the continent, and looming over Italy, Spain, and southern France.

One of the most surprising new findings about airborne microbes is that far from being passive passengers of the wind, some are truly adapted to life in the mesosphere—70 km above the earth's surface—where they must constantly repair their DNA following bombardment by direct UV radiation. Or take a 2008 study that found that airborne microbes haunting Singapore shopping malls are not a random sample of what's outside, but are specialized for survival in the indoor air environment.


My Return To Blogging

I have updated the look of the blog thanks to the new template designs that are now available, one of the reasons I have not been updating my blog, was the clumsy design I made years ago and had to live with. 

So now that I am home with tales to tell and analysis and articles to write. 

Pithy commenting on Facebook is not enough, I have longer analysis and comments to make which blogging allows me to do.

So for the moment let me say that starting now, the summer of 2013, I am returning to blogging.

You have been warned.