NEWS SCAN: H7N9 lab research, H5N1 death in Egypt, rinderpest samples, attacks on polio workers

Apr 17, 2013

Labs launching experiments with H7N9 samples supplied by China
A number of labs around the world have received samples of the H7N9 influenza virus and begun research in recent days to assess the virus' effects in animals and to develop diagnostics and vaccines, according to a ScienceInsider report yesterday. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Apr 12 that the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention had sent samples to all five of the WHO's collaborating centers for flu, in Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Atlanta, and Memphis. The US and UK centers received their samples last week. At the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), researchers working over the weekend inoculated the virus into hundreds of eggs, where it grew "very well," a spokesman said. CDC officials started sending samples to other labs on Apr 15. At the UK National Institute for Medical Research, researchers planned to infect ferrets with the virus to see how it affects them and to generate antibodies, which can be used to develop diagnostic tests and to find out if the antibodies cross-react with existing candidate vaccines for other H7 flu strains. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, virologist Ron Fouchier, PhD, also plans to infect ferrets to test whether the virus can spread between them via aerosols or tiny droplets. Also, he said he's interested in finding out which mutations might make it spread easily in ferrets—the type of research that sparked a major controversy when he reported it with H5N1.
Apr 16 ScienceInsider story

Egypt reports second H5N1 death this year
Egypt has reported its third H5N1 avian flu case this year, in a 26-year-old man who died yesterday, according to media reports. The country's Ministry of Health said today that the man, from Dakahlia governorate north of Cairo, died at a hospital in Dakahlia, according to Aswat Masriya, a Cairo-based news site. Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported that the man died yesterday. A 36-year-old woman from Beheira governorate died from the disease on Jan 26, and a 40-year-old woman from Menofia governorate was reported ill from H5N1 on Mar 21, according to previous reports. Since 2006 Egypt has confirmed 173 H5N1 cases, 63 of which have been fatal.
Apr 17 Aswat Masriya story

Too many labs still have rinderpest samples, OIE chief says
Two years after the eradication of rinderpest, too many laboratories still are keeping samples of the devastating cattle virus, said Bernard Vallat, DVM, director-general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). When rinderpest eradication was declared in 2011, OIE member countries promised to destroy their samples or pass them to a few high-security labs. But Vallat said 25 labs—which he didn't identify—still have samples of the virus, according to a Reuters report yesterday. "If you release these materials into the wild, they can touch sensitive species and re-trigger a global animal disease even more so that there are no animals vaccinated anymore," Vallat told Reuters. "It would be a disaster if it happened." Scientists say they need samples of the virus for research and to make vaccines in case of a bioterrorist attack with the pathogen, the story noted. Rinderpest and smallpox are the only diseases that have been eradicated.
Apr 16 Reuters story
Related Dec 20, 2012, CIDRAP News item

Pakistan reports four attacks on polio vaccine teams
Pakistani media today reported four separate attacks in the latest round of violence against polio vaccination teams. In Baldia Town, in the Karachi metro region, attackers fired on a vaccination team, but no one was injured, according to The News International today. Police arrested nine attackers. In a separate Baldia Town attack, the same story said, a lone gunman pulled a gun on two polio vaccination workers but likewise did not injure them. Police assigned to protect the workers arrested the man. In Khanewal in central Pakistan, two women were beaten while trying to immunize children, the Pak Tribune reported today. And in Nawabshah, 120 miles northeast of Karachi, assailants pelted vaccination workers with stones, injuring three, Independent News Pakistan (INP) reported today. The three were also held hostage for a time but were freed by police, INP said.
Apr 17 News International story
Apr 17 Pak Tribune article
Apr 17 INP report

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