NEWS SCAN: More fungal infections, thimerosal in vaccines, malaria efforts tapering

Dec 17, 2012

Cases of fungal infection top 600
Fungal infections linked to tainted steroid injections in the United States have reached 620, up from 590 a week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. Deaths held steady, at 37. Of the 620 cases, 368 involved meningitis, 192 were spinal or paraspinal infections without meningitis, 8 involved stroke without lumbar puncture, 21 were peripheral-joint infections, and 1 involved both a spinal or paraspinal infection and a peripheral-joint infection. States with the most cases are Michigan, 223; Tennessee, 124; Indiana, 68; and Virginia, 51. The infections have been linked to contaminated injectable methyprednisolone acetate from New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
Dec 17 CDC update

AAP supports SAGE effort to keep thimerosal in vaccines
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) today endorsed the recommendation of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization that the mercury-based preservative thimerosal not be banned from vaccines, contrary to the efforts of a UN environmental program. The SAGE said in May that evidence points to no danger from thimerosal in vaccines, that replacing it would add huge costs and endanger safety and efficacy, and that eliminating it would make some vaccines—such as for tetanus—unavailable, particular in developing nations. The SAGE response was triggered by a 2009 treaty draft from the UN Environment Program (UNEP) to eliminate the preservative in vaccines to help reduce environmental mercury. Governments are set to finalize the UNEP treaty next month, and the WHO, AAP, and other groups say that, while they support reducing environmental mercury, they advise dropping the recommendation to eliminate thimerosal, which is an organic form of mercury, from vaccines. The AAP statement said that the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the International Pediatric Association also support thimerosal in vaccines. The AAP statement itself is very brief, but Pediatrics also published three commentaries that underscore the academy's stance.
Dec 17 AAP statement
May 25 SAGE statement (see p. 214)
Pediatrics landing page for three Dec 17 commentaries

Malaria efforts waning, says WHO report
Funding for global malaria-control efforts has leveled off in recent years, stalling progress against the disease, the WHO said today in its World Malaria Report 2012. After rapid expansion of efforts from 2004 to 2009, global funding has leveled off in recent years, which has slowed dissemination of life-saving measures, the agency said. As an example, the number of long-lasting insecticidal nets shipped to malaria-endemic sub-Saharan African nations dropped from a peak of 145 million in 2010 to about 66 million in 2012. Fifty countries around the world are on track to reduce malaria case incidence rates by 75% by 2015, in line with World Health Assembly targets. However, these 50 countries account for only 3%, or 7 million, of malaria cases. "Global targets for reducing the malaria burden will not be reached unless progress is accelerated in the highest burden countries," said Dr Robert Newman, director of the WHO Global Malaria Program in Geneva, in a WHO press release. Fourteen countries account for about 80% of malaria deaths, according to the WHO.
Dec 17 WHO report
Dec 17 WHO press release

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