News Scan for Apr 15, 2014

Lab loses SARS virus pieces
Caribbean chikungunya surge
Diarrhea treatment gap in Africa

Pasteur Institute loses 2,300 vials containing pieces of SARS virus

Officials at the Pasteur Institute in Paris say the laboratory's loss of 2,349 "tubes" containing fragments of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus does not pose an infection risk, but they call the lapse an "unacceptable mistake," according to media reports.

The institute revealed on Apr 13 that the vials have been missing since January, according to a report today from Euronews, a French-based television news network. A routine inventory led to the discovery of the samples' disappearance.

"We knew from the beginning that the samples were not infectious, as the MSNA's independent experts confirmed," Christian Brechot, president of the institute, was quoted as saying. The MSNA is the National Agency for the Safety of Medicine and Health Products.

The story said experts dismissed any possibility of misuse of the samples because none of the tubes contained a complete virus. But Brechot commented, "Losing the samples is an unacceptable mistake. . . . It is the first time that the institute has lost samples in this manner and it is entirely inadmissible."

The institute has asked French authorities to investigate the loss of the samples, the story said.

The tubes were stored in a high-security laboratory with limited access, according to an International Business Times story. It said Brechot suggested that the vials, which were moved from one freezer to another in March 2013, might have been destroyed by a staff member who forgot to document the procedure.

The SARS virus, a coronavirus, sickened about 8,000 people and killed around 800 when it spread internationally from China in 2003.
Apr 15 Euronews story
Apr 15 Business Times story


Chikungunya cases in the Caribbean approach 25,000

The Caribbean chikungunya outbreak grew by 5,149 cases in the past week, reaching 24,831 cases, according to an update yesterday from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). That's up from 19,682 cases a week ago.

Martinique continues to report the largest numbers, with 13,500 suspected (up from 11,400) and 1,284 confirmed or probable cases, the ECDC said. Guadeloupe for the first time reported the second-most cases, with 3,690 suspected and 942 confirmed or probable cases. The French side of St. Martin is third, with 2,910 suspected and 791 confirmed or probable cases.

Also reporting cases are Dominica, 764 suspected and 81 confirmed cases; St. Barthelemy, 444 suspected and 135 confirmed or probable cases; the Dutch side of St. Martin, 224 confirmed cases; French Guiana, 25 confirmed locally acquired and 15 imported cases; Anguilla, 14 confirmed cases; British Virgin Islands, 7 confirmed cases; and Aruba, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts/Nevis, each with 1 confirmed case. Of those areas, Dominica reported the heftiest increase, up from 487 cases last week.

The chikungunya outbreak is the first known in the Americas and began in December 2013 on the French side of St. Martin. So far 6 related deaths have been confirmed, 3 on the French side of St. Martin, 2 on Martinique, and 1 on Guadeloupe.

The ECDC also said that the Dominican Republic has reported confirmed cases but has not given exact numbers.
Apr 14 ECDC update


Study finds diarrhea treatment gap in African kids

In the first large study of childhood diarrhea treatment practices in sub-Saharan Africa, researchers reported that kids are less likely to receive vital oral rehydration treatment if they receive care at a private, for-profit clinic, compared with a public clinic.

California researchers published their findings yesterday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH).

According to the study, children younger than age 5 who were treated in private facilities were 22% less likely to receive oral rehydration, considered an effective and inexpensive treatment. They were, however, 61% more likely to receive other treatments in those settings, such as herbal remedies or other medications, some of which are not recommended and can be harmful.

Zachary Wagner, study coauthor who is a public health doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley, said in a press release from AJTMH that the findings are worrisome, because private healthcare providers are increasingly filling gaps in underserved parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The team found that private providers ranged from mobile clinics to small pharmacies to clinics that are sometimes located in substandard facilities, where regulations aren't often enforced.

When the researchers looked at patterns in rural areas, they found that poor children with diarrhea were less likely to receive rehydration treatment at both private and public clinics, though the effect was most pronounced at private clinics.

They calculated that closing the gap between private and public care for the youngsters could save the lives of 20,000 children under age 5 in the region each year.
Apr 14 AJTMH abstract
Apr 14 AJTMH press release

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