NEWS SCAN: Haiti cholera efforts, orf virus infections, dengue in Sri Lanka and Brazil, drug-resistant cave bacteria

Apr 12, 2012

Cholera vaccination campaign begins in Haiti
Health workers are beginning to vaccinate Haitians today after numerous delays, National Public Radio (NPR) reported. The workers aim to reach 50,000 people living in the slums of Port-au-Prince today and the same number over the weekend in the low rice-growing areas of the Artibonite River valley with the first of two vaccine doses. The goal is to prove that it's possible to give the required two doses within 2 weeks to very poor and hard-to-reach populations and convince donors to support a much bigger campaign to reach millions of the highest-risk Haitians. This week the country's health ministry finally gave approval for use of Shanchol, a vaccine made in India, after weeks of debate over the ethics of the project. Because the manufacturer produces the vaccine only when orders are placed, the campaign will use up the world's supply of Shanchol, the NPR story said.
Apr 12 NPR report on vaccinations
In related news, the American Red Cross yesterday said it has contributed $1 million toward the Haitian cholera vaccination campaign, according to a news release. The funding helps support a $1.3 million project led by Boston-based nonprofit Partners in Health, part of an ongoing effort to slow the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 7,000 people in the last year and a half. To date, the American Red Cross has contributed more than $17 million to fight cholera in Haiti, including providing medical specialists and supplies, running treatment centers, and aiding efforts for clean water and sanitation, the agency said. A separate NPR story today highlighted the country's ongoing difficulties in providing access to clean water.
Apr 11 Red Cross news release
Apr 12 NPR story on clean water

Case reports spell out home butchering orf virus risk
Animal slaughtering and home butchering, including lambs during spring religious holidays, can pose a risk of human orf virus infections, and healthcare providers should consider the possibility when patients have skin lesions with a history of meat processing exposure, according to a report today in the latest issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The report describes four orf virus infections that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed between 2009 and 2011. All were in adults. Two patients were immigrants who were preparing meat for traditional recipes, and two were slaughtering animals for religious observations. Orf is caused by a dermatotropic parapoxvirus, and lesions can resemble bacterial infections or other conditions. Most infections resolve without treatment in 4 to 8 weeks, but complications can occur.  The CDC said rapid diagnosis can prevent psychological stress, unneeded surgery, and inappropriate antibiotic use. It added that people at risk for exposure to the virus should be urged to wear nonpermeable gloves and practice good hand hygiene.
Apr 12 MMWR report

Sri Lanka sees dengue surge; Brazil fights disease with modified mosquitoes
Sri Lanka saw a tripling of reported dengue fever cases in the first quarter of this year over last year, a surge that officials are attributing to the weather, according to an IRIN report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Sri Lankan health ministry reported 9,317 cases with 38 deaths in the first quarter, compared with 3,103 cases a year ago. Sudath Peries, the health ministry's deputy chief epidemiologist, said the country has had intermittent rains but not the kinds of heavy rains that tend to wash away mosquito breeding spots where stagnant water accumulates. The World Health Organization classifies Sri Lanka as a "category A" country for dengue, meaning dengue is a major public health concern and a leading cause of hospitalization and death in children.
Apr 11 IRIN report
Meanwhile, Brazilian scientists are reporting favorable early signs in an experiment to fight dengue by releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes whose offspring die before reaching adulthood, according to a report from SciDev Net, a news service that covers science and technology in the developing world. More than 10 million of the modified mosquitoes were released in the city of Juazeiro, starting a year ago. Aldo Malavasi, the project's coordinator, called the early results very positive. "From samples collected in the field, 85% of the eggs were transgenic, which means that the males released are overriding the wild population," he said. "This [should result] in the decrease of Aedes [aegypti] mosquitoes, and in the decrease of dengue transmission." But he said it would take time for lower mosquito populations to lead to a decrease in dengue cases. Malavasi is president of Moscamed, the Brazilian firm that produced the mosquitoes, using technology originally developed by a British firm. The altered mosquitoes also have been tested in Malaysia and the Cayman Islands, but the Brazilian trial is believed to the largest one in the wild so far, the story said.
Apr 10 SicDev Net story

Drug-resistant bacteria found in untouched New Mexico cave
Researchers have discovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a section of a New Mexico cave untouched by humans for more than 4 million years, according to a report yesterday in PLoS One. A team from McMaster University in Ontario and the University of Akron in Ohio collected more than 500 unique bacterial isolates, 93 of which (63% Gram-negative, 33% Gram-positive) were screened for resistance to a broad spectrum of 26 antimicrobial agents, including natural products, their semi-synthetic derivatives, and completely synthetic molecules. Among the Gram-positive strains, 70% were resistant to three to four different antibiotic classes, and three strains—all Streptomyces species—were resistant to 14 antibiotics. Because Gram-negative bacteria are naturally resistant to many classes of antibiotics, they were tested against only antibiotics known to be effective against them. Still, 65% of the Gram-negative strains showed resistance to three to four antibiotic classes. "This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient, and hard wired in the microbial pangenome," the authors conclude. Lead author Gerry Wright, PhD, of McMaster University, said in a McMaster news release that the findings suggest that "there are far more antibiotics in the environment that could be found and used to treat currently untreatable infections."
Apr 11 PLoS One report
Apr 11 McMaster news release

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