NEWS SCAN: Hand gel underwhelms, intradermal flu vaccine, bioweapon-detection contract, Tamiflu for H5N1, public health grants, no thimerosal-autism link

Sep 13, 2010

Study suggests hand gel doesn’t prevent rhinovirus or flu
Using an alcohol hand disinfectant that contains a virucidal doesn't significantly reduce rhinovirus or influenza infections in a natural setting, according to University of Virginia researchers who presented their findings yesterday at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) meeting in Boston. The study was conducted during the first months of the second pandemic H1N1 wave, from Aug 25 through Nov 9, 2009, and was funded by Dial Corp., according to a press release from the University of Virginia. Investigators randomly assigned 212 study subjects to use either a hand sanitizer with enhanced antiviral activity or no intervention. Volunteers assigned to the hand sanitizer group were asked to use hand sanitizer every 3 hours while they were awake for the 10-week study period, and both groups were tested each week for rhinovirus and flu. Researchers weighed the hand sanitizer bottles each week to gauge compliance. People who used hand sanitizer had 42 rhinovirus infections and 12 flu infections per 100 subjects, while those who didn't had 51 rhinovirus and 15 flu infections per 100 subjects. Researchers also found that using hand sanitizer did not reduce the frequency of the infections. They said the findings suggest that hand transmission may play a smaller role in rhinovirus transmission than previously thought and that virus prevention efforts should perhaps focus more on aerosol transmission than hand transmission.

Sanofi submits intradermal flu vaccine for FDA approval
Sanofi Pasteur announced a key step today in bringing its intradermal influenza vaccine to the US market, which would make it the first US flu vaccine delivered just under the skin instead of into the muscle. Sanofi, based in France, said it has filed a Supplemental Biologics License Application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Fluzone Intradermal influenza vaccine, with an anticipated FDA "action date" in the first half of 2011. "We believe that Fluzone Intradermal Vaccine could be an important tool in increasing adult immunization rates due to its ease of use for health-care providers and the high-level of interest expressed by patients for this immunization option," said Sanofi Pasteur President and CEO Wayne Pisano in a press release. The vaccine is delivered using a very thin needle only 1.5 mm long, or one-tenth the length of a standard vaccine needle. The delivery system also employs only one-fifth the amount of vaccine. Europe approved a version of the intradermal vaccine, called Intanza, last year.
Sep 13 Sanofi Pasteur press release
Feb 26, 2009, CIDRAP News story on European approval

General Dynamics to make bioweapon detectors for US Army
General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, part of General Dynamics Corp., announced it has won a $30 million US Army contract to make and support equipment for rapidly detecting and identifying biological warfare agents. The contract is for making Joint Biological Point Detection Systems, described as self-contained sets of instruments that are available in various sizes and configurations, from human-portable to ship-based and trailer-mounted. In a Sep 10 announcement, the company said the contract is for 6 years and does not list definite quantities or delivery dates. It is worth up to $300 million if all options are exercised. Production of the units will begin in April 2011 at a company facility in Charlotte, N.C., employing 120 people.

Study: Tamiflu reduces death rates in H5N1
A multinational team of researchers has determined that oseltamivir (Tamiflu) significantly reduces death rates in people infected with the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus when started up to 8 days after symptoms begin. In studying records of 308 H5N1 patients from 12 countries (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam), the researchers found an overall survival rate of 43.5%. However, survival rates varied from 24% in those who had no antiviral treatment to 60% in those receiving oseltamivir, a mortality reduction of 49%. The authors conclude, "Oseltamivir significantly reduces mortality when started up to 6-8 days after symptom onset and appears to benefit all age groups." An accompanying commentary states that the findings reinforce similar data in other studies, but it also cites some methodological weaknesses of the current study, saying the findings "can be considered to be reasonable, based on other evidence and plausibility, but not definitive."
Sep 10 J Infect Dis study abstract
Sep 10 J Infect Dis commentary

HHS announces public health training grants
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that the department has awarded $16.8 million to train the public health workforce. The awards, which come mostly from funds included in the recent healthcare reform legislation, will go to 27 Public Health Training Centers PHTCs across the country. In a press release, Sebelius said the funding represents a dramatic increase in support for the PHTCs, and investing in prevention and public health is a key to improving the nation's health. The groups that were funded support goals established by HHS in preventive medicine, health promotion, and disease prevention or improve the access and quality of health services to underserved communities.
Sep 13 HHS press release

Another thimerosal study shows no autism link
A case-control study found that exposure to the vaccine preservative thimerosal during the prenatal period through 20 months of age did not increase the risk of autism. The study, of 256 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 age-matched controls, looked at the incidences of autism disorder, ASD, and ASD with regression and found none of them elevated in children who had received thimerosal-containing vaccines. Thimerosal is an ethylmercury preservative used in some vaccines, including much of the influenza vaccine currently used. Previous studies have similarly shown no link, and last February the US Court of Claims determined there is no causal link.
Sep 13 Pediatrics abstract
Feb 12, 2009, CIDRAP News story on Court of Claims ruling

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