News Scan for Sep 03, 2015

Pentagon biolab moratorium
New antimalarial combo

Pentagon announces moratorium at nine military biolabs

The Pentagon today announced a moratorium on work with dangerous pathogens such as the bacterium that causes anthrax at its nine biodefense labs, USA Today reported. The action comes in the wake of the discovery of live anthrax spores outside of containment at a military lab in Utah and an ongoing investigation by USA Today into problems at the nation's high-containment labs.

Earlier this year the Army's Dugway Proving Ground lab in Utah was found to have mistakenly sent live anthrax to numerous labs in the United States as well as abroad for several years.

In a press release today, the Department of Defense (DoD) said Army secretary John McHugh has directed immediate safety reviews at all nine labs and facilities that play a role in producing, shipping, and handling live and inactivated select agents and toxins.

The DoD said contamination at the Utah lab was reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that the facility commander ordered full decontamination of the biosafety area, which was retested with no detection of Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax. The DoD added no employees were exposed and that the event didn't pose a threat to the public.

Today's action was taken out of an abundance of caution, and the moratorium will remain in place until reviews and investigations are completed, the DoD said.
Sep 3 USA Today story
Sep 3 DoD press release


Africa study shows new malaria drug combo safe, effective

Varied doses of the newer antimalarial drug ferroquine in combination of the established drug artesunate were safe and effective against Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Africa, according to a study yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The study, by a large international team, involved patients at eight hospitals in four African nations in 2009 and 2010. The Sanofi-funded phase 2 trial involved 326 patients randomly assigned to receive artesunate plus either 2, 4, or 6 mg/kg of ferroquine per day or ferroquine alone at 4 mg/kg/day. Artesunate was delivered at 4 mg/kg/day for all three combination-therapy groups. Treatment was once a day for 3 days for all patients.

Cure rates after 28 days for the three combination-therapy groups were 97%, 99%, and 99% from the lowest to highest dose, respectively. The cure rate for the ferroquine-only patients was 79%.

The authors conclude, "Ferroquine combined with artesunate was associated with high cure rates and was safe at all doses tested, and could be a promising new drug combination for the treatment of P falciparum malaria. Ferroquine could also partner [with] other drugs to establish a new generation of antimalarial combinations, especially in regions that have developed resistance."

A related commentary says the drug could "play an important part in the future of antimalarial therapy."
Sep 2 Lancet Infect Dis study
Sep 2 Lancet Infect Dis

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