NEWS SCAN: Avian flu, food safety funding, XDR-TB combo therapy, bioterror countermeasures, Salmonella

Feb 27, 2009

Vietnamese man dies from H5N1 infection
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed the death of a 32-year-old Vietnamese man from H5N1 avian influenza. The man, from Ninh Binh province, died on Feb 25. He was previously recorded as the country's 109th case, and his death raises Vietnam's H5N1 fatalities to 54. The WHO's global H5N1 count now stands at 408 cases, 256 of them fatal.
[Feb 27 WHO statement]

Japan finds H7 at quail farm, UK tests reveal H6N1 from turkeys
Japan today reported a low-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak at a quail farm in Aichi province, on the country's southeastern coast, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Authorities detected the virus in 10 birds during routine surveillance, and 280,000 birds were culled to control disease spread. Results on the exact strain of the virus are pending, though the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported today that testing has so far revealed an H7 strain. The findings signal Japan's first H7 avian flu outbreak in 84 years, the report said. Elsewhere, the avian influenza strain that struck two small turkey-breeding farms in the United Kingdom was identified today as H6N1, and further tests are under way to determine if the strain is highly pathogenic, according to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
[Feb 27 OIE report]
[Feb 27 DEFRA statement]

Obama proposes $1 billion for FDA's food safety efforts
President Barack Obama's proposed 2010 budget includes $1 billion to strengthen food safety oversight at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a Reuters report published yesterday. The money is for increasing and improving "inspections, domestic surveillance, laboratory capacity and domestic response to prevent and control foodborne illness," the report said. Earlier this month, Obama called for a complete review of the FDA's food safety program.

Combination therapy shows promise against XDR-TB
A combination of two older antibiotics that are already approved by the FDA for use against other diseases could have efficacy against extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, according to a paper in Science. The drugs, meropenem and clavulanate, killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro and will be used in a planned clinical trial.
[Feb 26 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases press release]
[Feb 27 Science abstract]

DOD funds vaccine to counter bacterial agents
The US Department of Defense  has given University of Georgia researchers a 3-year, $1.1 million grant to develop vaccines for glanders and melioidosis, two related diseases caused by strains of the bacterium Burkholderia that are considered potential biological weapons. The research focuses on creating a vaccine to protect mice against airborne infection.
[Feb 26 Atlanta Business Chronicle story]

Salmonella Saintpaul sickens 14 Nebraska women
Nebraska health officials are investigating a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that has sickened 14 women younger than age 50 since Feb 2 from four of the state's counties, according to an online report today from Omaha television station KETV. Though the serotype is the same as last year's outbreak that involved jalapeno and Serrano peppers, the genetic fingerprint is different, officials said, adding that they don't believe the outbreak is connected to peanut butter.

Water sources may yield Salmonella clues
Investigation of Salmonella illnesses should consider untreated surface water as a possible contamination source, researchers from the University of Georgia reported today in the March issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. After testing rivers and streams in southern Georgia for 1 year, they found Salmonella in 79% of water samples, and levels were highest after a rainfall. The diversity of strains was greatest in areas where livestock and growing areas were in close proximity and when temperatures rose.
[Feb 27 University of Georgia press release]
[March Appl Environ Microbiol abstract]

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