NEWS SCAN: Congress asks egg questions, deli meat recalled, Finland suspends H1N1 vaccine, H5N1 virulence mechanism

Aug 24, 2010

Congress members look for answers in egg recall
The national recall of 500 million eggs related to a surge in Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) illnesses has prompted some Congress members to demand answers from egg facility executives and federal regulatory officials. Yesterday leaders of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent letters to Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms that requested information on the contamination of their egg products, including when the companies first notified federal officials and customers about the contamination. The committee also requested inspection records, internal protocols and standards for monitoring and analyzing the products, and documents related to alleged health, safety, environmental, or animal cruelty violations. Meanwhile, Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, yesterday sent a letter to the heads of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA asking about the investigation into the Wright County Egg farms' safety record and oversight of its operations. She also asked if any of the contaminated eggs have been used by federal nutrition programs. In other outbreak developments, NuCal Foods, based in Ripon, Calif., on Aug 20 expanded the recall of its eggs to include supplies it received from Hillandale Farms. Its original recall on Aug 17 applied to eggs it received from Wright County Egg. The latest recall covers eggs that were distributed in California and Nevada under six brand names: Bayview, Becky, Cal Egg, Lucerne, Mi Pueblo, and Nulaid.
Aug 23 House Committee on Energy and Commerce press release
Aug 20 NuCal Foods press release

380,000 pounds of deli meat recalled
The USDA announced yesterday the recall of 380,000 pounds of deli meat products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Zemco Industries, of Buffalo, N.Y., a division of Tyson Foods, announced the recall after the state of Georgia reported a positive Listeria finding in a retail sample, according to a recall notice from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). No illnesses have been connected to the ham, beef, salami, pepperoni, and bacon products, which were distributed nationwide solely to Walmart outlets, according to an Associated Press (AP) story today. Although an FSIS spokesman said most of the meat is likely already consumed, it has been pulled from shelves nonetheless, according to the AP. A Walmart spokesperson could not say how widely the recalled products were distributed. The meat is in packages that bear the vendor number "398412808" and have "use by" dates ranging from Aug 20 to Sep 10, 2010. Complete details can be found in the FSIS notice.
Aug 23 FSIS notice
Aug 24 AP story

Finland suspends H1N1 vaccine over narcolepsy cases
Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) today recommended suspending GlaxoSmithKline's Pandemrix pandemic 2009 H1N1 vaccine as a precaution until a link to narcolepsy cases has been ruled out. "Indications of a time link between vaccinations and narcolepsy cases have been seen, but an actual link has not been established. In light of international information, a connection would even seem unlikely," said THL researcher Dr. Hanna Nohynek, according to YLE, Finland's public broadcasting company. The vaccine can be given to people traveling to areas experiencing novel H1N1 flu or for other exceptions. THL has received reports of 15 cases of narcolepsy, six of which "are more clearly associated with the vaccination than are the remainder," according to the story.
Aug 24 YLE story

Researchers identify another way H5N1 evades cell defenses
A research group from Texas that is exploring the pathogenicity of the H5N1 avian influenza virus has found another way that its NS1 proteins evade the body's protective response. The findings appear in the Journal of Virology. Their investigation focused on the role of four amino acids—called the PDZ binding motif—that hang off the end of the NS1 viral protein and are a known virulence factor. When they looked at the effect of the PDZ binding motif on a protein called Scribble that promotes apoptosis, or cell death, in order to limit viral replication in cells. They found that the PDZ binding motif enables the NS1 viral protein to bind to Scribble, which inhibits its ability to promote the death of infected cells. In the lab setting, the virus' ability in deactivating Scribble allowed the virus to replicate fourfold. The researchers plan to look at other protein targets of the PDZ binding motif to gauge the consequences of NS1 binding, according to a press release yesterday from Baylor College of Medicine. They will also study the proteins bound by human influenza viruses.
Aug 11 J Virol abstract
Aug 23 Baylor College of Medicine press release

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