NEWS SCAN: H1N1 vaccine lessons, H1N1 immune response, cholera update, gene sharing, virus-fighting finding

Nov 3, 2010

Study looks at lessons learned from H1N1 vaccine campaign
In a survey to identify and solve challenges faced during the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine campaign, researchers from the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center identified several themes when they interviewed 19 officials who were involved in the response. The most successful public health approaches featured preexisting relationships with healthcare providers and different jurisdictions. When vaccine was late and available in scarce quantities as flu levels were rising in the fall of 2009, health officials said they struggled with how to distribute the vaccine to priority groups, especially since quickly locating and communicating with high-risk groups was difficult. Other factors that complicated the process were poor communication from federal officials about the vaccine delays and underfunded and understaffed health departments. The survey group's suggestions for improvement included better vaccine technology, better vaccine priority-group guidance, more support for public health infrastructure, and a permanent program to meet the government's universal flu vaccination recommendation.
Nov 2 Biosecur Bioterror abstract

Seasonal flu vaccine produces immune response to novel H1N1
Researchers found that seasonal influenza vaccines produced both antibody and T-cell immune responses to pandemic 2009 H1N1 flu, but that the response varied depending on the vaccine type. Fifteen volunteers received the inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV, administered as a shot), and 15 received the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV, or nasal spray). Antibody response to 2009 H1N1 occurred only in samples from the TIV group, not in those from the LAIV group. In contrast, both vaccines boosted pre-existing T cells to 2009 H1N1, but the T-cell immune response was significantly greater in the LAIV group. The results show that cross-reactive T cells to 2009 H1N1 "existed in some people before the circulation of the virus and were boosted by seasonal vaccination," according to the authors. They conclude that their results, if verified in larger studies, could help in developing vaccines in years of poor antigenic match to circulating viruses, as well as vaccines against emerging pandemic flu strains.
Nov 2 Vaccine abstract

Cholera tests negative for UN's Haitian compound water
United Nations (UN) officials yesterday announced that tests on the water supply behind its peacekeeping base in Mirebalais, Haiti, were negative for cholera, Xinhua, China's state news agency reported. Leaking sewer water behind a building housing Nepalese soldiers was suspected by some as a possible source of the outbreak, but UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that an independent lab found no evidence of the pathogen. He also said none of the soldiers had diarrhea or other cholera symptoms. Investigators have not pinpointed a contamination source. In other developments, Florida's health department has sent a letter to doctors in the state, urging them to prepare to see possible cholera cases, due to its large Haitian-born population and increased travel between Florida and Haiti since the earthquake in January, the Palm Beach Post reported today. The letter said some travelers returning from Haiti may get sick during or shortly after arrival in Florida, and it asked doctors to contact the health department about suspected cases and to collect samples to send to the state laboratory. Meanwhile, Haiti and international responders are bracing for a possible hurricane to make landfall on Friday. The latest forecast reports say Hurricane Tomas has been downgraded to a tropical depression and is not very likely to regain hurricane status, the Miami Herald reported today. However, sustained winds of 35 mph could hit the country, along with 5 to 10 inches of rain.
Nov 3 Xinhua story
Nov 3 Palm Beach Post story

Gene-sharing agreement finalizes biodiversity pact
A last-minute agreement on sharing genetic resources helped seal a final international pact on preserving biodiversity, EUObserver.com, a nonprofit news organization based in Brussels, reported yesterday. The discussions were held from Oct 18 through Oct 29 at the UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, and attended by 193 countries that participate in the Convention on Biodiversity, according to an Oct 29 UN press release. An earlier media report said conflicts over gene sharing had threatened to scuttle the biodiversity negotiations. Parties at the conference adopted a protocol on access to genetic resource and equitable sharing of benefits. The press release said the agreement creates a framework that balances genetic resources based on informed consent with fair and equitable sharing of benefits. The protocol also proposes a global mechanism that would operate in transboundary areas or in situations in which informed consent can't be obtained. EUobserver.com reported that the protocol didn't include many details but established that past and present use of genetic material must include royalties. In previous H5N1 avian influenza response discussions and at the biodiversity conference, developing nations have insisted they should share benefits with, for example, drug companies that use shared virus samples to make vaccines, drugs, or diagnostic tests that the countries have difficulty affording or accessing.
Nov 2 EUObserver.com story
Oct 29 UN press release
Oct 29 CIDRAP news scan

Researchers find intracellular virus-fighting mechanism
In a study that reveals new clues about how the body fights viral infections, researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC), based in Cambridge, England, found that antibodies can fight viruses from inside cells, which they say might pave the way for a new class of antiviral drugs, according to a Nov 1 MRC press release. The study appeared yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). It's known that antibiodies can attack viruses outside cells and as they're entering them, but the new report shows that antibodies can remain attached when viruses enter healthy cells, triggered by a protein that pulls the virus into a system that disposes of the virus before it can do any damage. The protein is called tripartite motif-containing 21 (TRIM21). Researchers, who studied adenovirus, said the intracellular process provides a last line of defense against infections. Lead author Dr Leo James said in the press release that it's unclear if all viruses are cleared by the mechanism, but the findings are promising, because they may lead to the development of new antiviral drugs. The lab's director, Dr Greg Winter, said, "This research is not only a leap in our understanding of how and where antibodies work, but more generally in our understanding of immunity and infection."
Nov 1 MRC press release
Nov 2 PNAS abstract

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