NEWS SCAN: Broad-spectrum antibiotic, training for food testing, H5N1 in ducks, malaria control

Sep 7, 2011

HHS awards $94 million to develop broad-spectrum antibiotic
The federal government yesterday awarded a contract to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for up to $94 million for advanced research and development of a broad-spectrum antibiotic that researchers hope can be used against both bioterror agents and Gram-negative bacteria. The contract, awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS's) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is for advancing GSK2251052, which GSK has been developing to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia, complicated urinary tract infections, and complicated postoperative intra-abdominal infections. If approved for its designed purpose it would become the first new class of antibacterial to treat Gram-negative infections in 30 years. The contract is for $38.5 million for the first 2 years and can be extended for a total of 4 years and $94 million. Under the contract, BARDA will provide technical and financial support for GSK2251052 development. The funds support studies to evaluate efficacy against bioterror threats such as plague and tularemia, phase 2 clinical trials for ventilator-associated pneumonia, and phase 3 clinical trials involving complicated intra-abdominal infections. In addition, the funds will support initial lab testing to determine if the drug also protects against multidrug-resistant pathogens, including those containing the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1) resistance gene.
Sep 6 HHS news release

FDA collaboration trains foreign lab workers on food-testing methods
The University of Maryland and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are launching a program on Sep 12 to teach foreign laboratory workers who test food about US lab methods, standards, and technology, as well as what acceptable alternatives they can use if they don't have the same high-technology lab equipment. The program, called the International Food Safety Training Laboratory, is based at the University of Maryland's Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The Waters Corp. is helping build, equip, and design the new lab. Janie Dubois, PhD, who directs the new lab, said in a press release, "The more we can get foreign food facilities to harmonize their procedures and their work with US requirements, the greater the likelihood of safe imported foods reaching American consumers." The program aims to enable about 200 foreign lab technicians each year to learn microbiological and chemical analysis methods directly from regulators from the FDA and other federal agencies. The first class is made up of Chinese students who will learn methods to test for pesticide contamination in fresh produce.
Sep 6 University of Maryland press release

Indonesian backyard poultry survey finds H5N1 differences in ducks
A study today profiling H5N1 avian flu viruses in Indonesia's backyard farms found that ducks were more likely than chickens to survive their infections. Also, the Australian and Indonesian researchers found no evidence of major antigenic variants. They conducted the longitudinal survey between March 2007 and March 2008 at 96 small duck farms in four Java province districts. Every 2 months they collected oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs from individually banded ducks and from chickens they were in contact with on the farms. Viral samples were also collected from dead and live birds during the investigation of outbreaks at the study farms. Researchers ran molecular and virologic tests to explore relationships between the circulating viruses. Of 132 samples collected, the group found viable H5 viruses in 84. All belonged to clade 2.1 and fell into three virus sublineages. They found no major amino acid mutations of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase sites. Multiple variants were found on different farms and at different times on single farms. The proportion of virus isolated from surviving ducks was higher than that of chickens, suggesting that ducks may be more resistant to infection and may play a role in maintaining Indonesia's H5N1 lineages.
Sep 7 Virol J abstract

Two studies detail benefits of malaria-control efforts in Africa
Two recent studies illustrated the benefits of malaria-control efforts like insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) in Africa. In the first study, US and Zambian researchers analyzed data from seven surveys in seven sub-Saharan African nations and found that ITNs reduced the prevalence of malaria parasites in the bloodstream by 20% and death by 23% in children under 5 years old. Using data from six malaria indicator surveys and one demographic and health survey, the scientists used matched logistic regression to assess the association between household ITN ownership or use in children under 5 and the prevalence of parasitemia and death. They found a 20% reduction in parasitemia in households that owned an ITN and a 24% reduction in children who slept under one, as well as a 23% reduction in death in that age-group in ITN households. In a press release yesterday, the authors say, "These findings suggest that the recent scale-up in ITN coverage has likely been accompanied by significant reductions in child mortality and that additional health gains could be achieved with further increases in ITN coverage in populations at risk of malaria." In an accompanying editorial, two US malaria experts caution, however, that ITNs alone are insufficient to eliminate malaria transmission.
Sep 6 PLoS Med study
Sep 6 Public Library of Science press release
Sep 6 PLoS Med editorial
In the second study, Wellcome Trust researchers from Kenya, Britain, and Ghana found that measures such as ITNs to control malaria will also lower the incidence of bacteremia in children 3 months to 13 years of age. The researchers first conducted a matched case-control study involving 292 cases and 528 controls from a district hospital in Kilifi, Kenya, to determine that sickle cell trait, which is known to protect patients from malaria, was also associated with lower bacteremia incidence. To ascertain whether the lower incidence was due to genetics or to the lower incidence of malaria, they then conducted a 9-year longitudinal case-control study of 1,454 cases and 10,749 controls from the same hospital. During the study period, which coincided with increased malaria-prevention efforts such as ITNs, antimalarial drugs, and mosquito control, the incidence of hospitalization for malaria decreased from 28.5 to 3.45 cases per 1,000 child-years. In addition, hospitalizations for bacteremia fell from 2.59 to 1.45 cases per 1,000 child-years. The team found that 62% of bacteremia cases—including meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis—were attributable to malaria. They conclude, "Interventions to control malaria will have a major additional benefit by reducing the burden of invasive bacterial disease."
Sep 7 Lancet abstract
Sep 6 Wellcome Trust news release

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