NEWS SCAN: BARDA broad-spectrum antibiotic contract, PFCs and immune response, Listeria at salmon plant

Jan 25, 2012

BARDA awards broad-spectrum antibiotic contract
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded an initial $11.4 million contract to develop a new broad-spectrum antibiotic that could be used against a range of biological threats, including anthrax, plague, bacterial pneumonia, and other life-threatening infections. In a Jan 20 news release the HHS said the contract for the new drug, known as TP-434, went to CUBRC, Inc., of Buffalo, N.Y., in partnership with Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, based in Watertown, Mass. Managed by the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the contract amount of $11.4 million in the first year but could be extended to $67.2 million over 5 years. Tetraphase's TP-434 is a tetracycline antibiotic that has been developed to treat complex intra-abdominal infections, but early research suggests it could also fight bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics, including other tetracyclines, according to the release. BARDA's contract will cover clinical and animal studies, manufacturing issues, and oral and intravenous formulations. Robin Robinson, BARDA director, said in the release that the development of TP-434 is an example of a countermeasure approach initiated in 2010 that calls for multipurpose products and the expansion of the antibiotic options for national preparedness planning. "Protecting the nation against biological threats requires a wide variety of countermeasures, and we've found that an efficient way to develop such countermeasures is to focus on products that have both commercial and biodefense uses," he said. The drug is the fourth such product to be funded under BARDA's broad-spectrum antibiotic program.
Jan 20 HHS press release

Study: PFCs lower tetanus, diphtheria immune response in kids
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in fast-food packaging, non-stick cookware, and waterproof clothing, were associated with lowered immune responses to two childhood vaccines, according to a study today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). US and Danish researchers analyzed data on 587 children recruited at birth in Torshavn, Faroe Islands (a self-governing dependency of Denmark), from 1999 through 2001. The team tested the children for immune response to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations at 5 and 7 years old and measured PFCs in maternal pregnancy serum and in the children's at age 5. Analysis showed that PFC exposure was associated with antibody responses lower than needed for long-term protection. Doubling of concentrations of three major PFCs was associated with a 49% lower level of serum antibodies in children at age 7 (95% confidence interval, 23%-67%). "We were surprised by the steep negative associations, which suggest that PFCs may be more toxic to the immune system than current dioxin exposures," said lead author Philippe Grandjean of the Harvard School of Public Health in a Harvard news release. PFCs have thousands of industrial uses, according to the release, and the concentrations in the children studied were similar to or slightly below levels in US women and lower than in US 3- to 5-year-olds.
Jan 25 JAMA abstract
Jan 24 Harvard press release

Maine firm destroys salmon after Listeria found at plant
A food processing and storage company in Maine destroyed its cold, ready-to-eat smoked salmon under supervision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes in the firm's facility and on processing equipment, the FDA reported yesterday. Mill Stream Corp. of Hancock, Maine, destroyed an unspecified amount of salmon after FDA investigators ordered an administrative detention of the product. No illnesses linked to the product have been reported. A detention order may remain in place for up to 30 days, according to the FDA.
Jan 24 FDA news release

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