NEWS SCAN: Rapid H5N1 test, alleged H5N1 vaccine fraud, Japanese test prepandemic vaccines, new strategy for malaria

Apr 7, 2009

FDA approves rapid H5N1 test
In a move to speed the diagnosis of avian influenza, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today cleared for marketing a new, more rapid test for detecting the deadly H5N1 subtype. The test, called AVantage A/H5N1 Flu Test, detects H5N1 in patients' throat or nose swabs, the FDA said in a press release. The test takes less than 40 minutes to identify a specific protein (NS1) that indicates the presence of H5N1. Previous tests cleared by the FDA can take 3 or 4 hours. "The clearance of this test represents a major step toward protecting the public from the threat of pandemic flu," said Daniel G. Schultz, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
[Apr 7 FDA release]

Polish health workers charged with H5N1 vaccine fraud
Nine healthcare workers in Poland are facing charges that they tested a banned H5N1 avian influenza vaccine in 196 patients without their consent, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported yesterday. According to the allegations, the workers led patients, many of whom were poor and homeless, to believe that they were receiving a seasonal flu vaccine. Poland's news agency reported that the patients were paid to receive the vaccine.

Japanese test prime-boost strategy for pandemic preparedness
The use of two vaccines made from different strains of H5N1 avian flu virus may be a promising prepandemic vaccination strategy for dealing with a potential H5N1 pandemic strain, according to a news report about a vaccine trial in Japan. In the trial, conducted by Japanese government researchers, 210 volunteers were first given a vaccine based on an H5N1 strain from Vietnam, the Mainichi Daily News reported today. Three years later, the volunteers were given one of two other H5N1 vaccines, based on strains from Indonesia and China. Three weeks after the second vaccination, 67% to 96% of the volunteers were found to have immunity to the strain for which they had not been vaccinated, according to the story. Also, the volunteers showed improved immunity within a week of the second vaccination.
[See also Oct 31, 2007, CIDRAP News report on prepandemic vaccination]

Researchers say killing only older mosquitoes may stall malaria
Targeting older mosquitoes with insecticides might save millions of dollars in controlling malaria while reducing the chance of resistance, according to researchers who reported their findings today in PLoS Biology. Using data on malaria transmission and mosquito lifespan, they calculated that killing only mosquitoes that have completed four egg-production cycles might reduce the number of infectious bites by 95%. Late-acting insecticides, such as a fungal version that the researchers are working on, could dramatically reduce the selection of pesticide-resistant mosquitoes, they wrote.
[Apr 7 PLoS Biology report]
[Apr 6 PLoS press release]

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