FLU NEWS SCAN: Feds open DURC policy comments, H5N1 death in China, H5N1 in Cambodia, flu antiviral candidate

Feb 22, 2013

Federal officials open comments for draft DURC biosafety policy
The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy today posted a Federal Register notice asking for public comments on a draft policy that outlines roles and responsibilities of institutions and researchers who conduct work on certain types of pathogens, including H5N1 viruses that can spread by aerosol droplets. Federal officials have said the draft policy, one of two announced yesterday related to H5N1 research, supports a new policy on the oversight of life-sciences dual-use research of concern (DURC) that the National Institutes of Health released in March. The proposed policy applies to facilities that receive federal funding, requiring them to review their current DURC pathogen or toxin programs and work with funding agencies to develop risk-mitigation plans. The comment period is open for 60 days, with feedback due by Apr 23.
Feb 22 Federal Register notice
Feb 21 CIDRAP News story "Feds unveil new policies for 'dual-use' H5N1 research"

Man dies of H5N1 avian flu in China
The second of two recently reported H5N1 avian flu patients in China died today, according to Xinhua, the country's state news agency. The patient, a 31-year-old man, died of multiple organ failure at Jinyang Hospital in Guizhou province, provincial health department sources said. On Feb 13 a 21-year-old woman from the same province died from the disease. Both had been confirmed to have H5N1 flu on Feb 10 and had close contact with birds, officials said. The man became sick on Feb 3 and was hospitalized on Feb 8. A total of 110 close contacts with the patients have been released from quarantine after having no abnormal symptoms, the story said. If the two Chinese deaths and a Cambodian H5N1 death reported yesterday are confirmed by the World Health Organization, the global H5N1 death toll will reach 370.
Feb 22 Xinhua story
Feb 13 CIDRAP News story on woman's death
Feb 11 CIDRAP News first report on the two cases

H5N1 strikes poultry in three more Cambodian villages
Cambodia's agriculture ministry today reported three new H5N1 avian flu outbreaks in village poultry, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Two of the villages are in Kampong Cham province and the third is in Kampot province. Both are in south central Cambodia. The outbreaks came to light when farmers sick and dying poultry and contacted authorities. Of 2,632 susceptible birds in the three villages, the virus killed 854 poultry, and 1,778 more were culled to control the spread of the virus.  So far this year Cambodia has reported eight human H5N1 cases, seven of them fatal. Three of those patients have been from Kampot province, including the two most recent.
Feb 22 OIE report

Scientists identify new flu antiviral candidate
Based on the results of preliminary studies in cells and animal models, Canadian, UK, and Australian researchers have reported a flu antiviral drug candidate that represents a new class of drug, according to results published yesterday in Science. The candidate acts against neuraminidase, one of the flu virus's main proteins that it uses to move from one infected cell to spread to other cells. The drug candidate stops neuraminidase from dissolving sialic acid on the infected cell's surface, which prevents the virus from escaping the infected cell and spreading. (Current drugs like oseltamivir [Tamiflu], called neuraminidase inhibitors, also act on that protein.) "Our drug agent uses the same approach as current flu treatments—by preventing neuraminidase from cutting its ties with the infected cell," said senior author Stephen Withers, PhD, of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in a UBC press release. "But our agent latches onto this enzyme like a broken key, stuck in a lock, rendering it useless." The candidate would have to go extensive further testing in animals and humans before it could become a marketable drug.
Feb 21 Science abstract
Feb 21 UBC press release

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