NEWS SCAN: Suspected cholera in Haiti, Subway Salmonella outbreak, evolving malaria vectors, Ebola vaccine contract

Oct 22, 2010

Suspected cholera in Haiti would be first in a century
True to the worst predictions of health workers in Haiti after the devastating Jan 12 earthquake, cholera has apparently broken out in Haitian refugees living in settlements with poor sanitation. Some 1,500 cases of diarrhea and vomiting, with at least 150 deaths, have occurred in the rural Artibonite region, which is hosting thousands of displaced persons. Rapid diagnostic tests have indicated the disease to be cholera in some cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO); samples have been taken to the national laboratory in Port-au-Prince for confirmation. Haiti has not had an outbreak of cholera, a waterborne bacterial disease that can cause severe dehyration leading to early death, for more than a century, the WHO reported at a press briefing this morning. More than a million people in Haiti are homeless after the earthquake, living in conditions without waste disposal and limited access to clean water, according to an Associated Press (AP) story today. Health workers have been mobilized to the region, assessing needs and bringing supplies. The WHO has expressed concern over how fast the outbreak is spreading.
Oct 22 AP story

Subway Salmonella outbreak in Illinois: final report
The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued its final report on the Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 100 people in that state between late April and June of this year. The causal organism, S Hvittingfoss, is rare, with only one or two cases in Illinois and only 44 in the United States in a typical year. A total of 109 cases were confirmed, with at least 90 additional probable or suspected cases. The source of the outbreak is thought to have been consumption of foods from Subway restaurants in Illinois. The report says this conclusion was based on epidemiologic analyses, multiple cases occurring in patrons of individual Subway restaurants, identification of S Hvittingfoss in food handlers at multiple Subway restaurants, and temporal and spatial clustering of cases consistent with the distribution area of one of Subway's suppliers, Sysco Central Illinois out of Lincoln. The organism was most likely contained on or in produce (lettuce, tomatoes, and olives) distributed by Sysco, although it was not possible to link a single specific food item to the illness. Follow-up tests of food items from Subway restaurants in June were negative for Salmonella.
Full final Illinois report (69 pages)

Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are evolving, complicating disease prevention
The Anopheles gambiae mosquito, which is the main source of malaria transmission, is evolving into two separate species, say two National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded studies from Imperial College London that were published today in Science. Malaria-control measures are based on the mosquitoes' patterns of behavior and their vulnerability to insectisides, says an NIH news release. As the emerging species develop their own traits and behaviors, control efforts will be complicated and new methods of disease prevention may be required. The studies, which examined the genomes of the two A gambiae strains, found that although the mosquitoes are physically identical, they have substantial genetic differences. Further research, which should inform future prevention efforts, will focus on how the two mosquito species compete with each other and on the molecular basis of their evolution.
Oct 21 NIH news release
Oct 22 Science articles [Abstract] [Abstract]

Company gets Army contract for work on Ebola, Marburg vaccines
Paragon Bioservices, a Baltimore-based contract research firm, announced yesterday that it received a $4.99 million contract to help the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) develop vaccines against Ebola and Marburg viruses. In a press release the company said the USAMRIID project will utilize Paragon's virus-like protein vaccine production and purification expertise with the goal of developing a large-scale mammalian manufacturing process. Currently there are no vaccines or therapies against the Ebola and Marburg viruses, which as considered to be bioterror threats.
Oct 21 Paragon Bioservices press release

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