News Scan for Jan 13, 2016

Another Saudi MERS case
Brazil microcephaly update
NIH antibiotic funds

MERS infects another Saudi man who had camel contact

For the second day in a row, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new MERS-CoV case, and like yesterday the patient is a man who had contact with camels before he got sick.

The 50-year-old man is a Saudi citizen from Medina, located in the western part of the country. The man is hospitalized in stable condition for his MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection.

His illnesses boosts Saudi Arabia's total for the disease to 1,281 cases, 551 of them fatal, according to today's MOH statement. Five people are still being treated for their infections.
Jan 13 Saudi MOH statement


Brazil reports more microcephaly cases, shares new lab findings

Brazil's health ministry yesterday said that 3,530 microcephaly cases possibly linked to maternal Zika virus infections have been reported, an increase of 356 cases from the last report on Jan 5.

Health officials also confirmed Zika virus in four microcephalic infants, two who were stillborn and two who died within a day of birth, according to a ministry statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog.

The number of Brazilian states reporting microcephaly cases remained the same, at 21, but 724 cities are now reporting cases, a rise of 40.

Though the link between Zika virus and microcephaly hasn't been definitively proven, today's ministry statement highlights lab findings from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that seem to strengthen the connection.

Lab samples from the four microcephalic infants, all from Rio Grande do Norte state, were positive for Zika virus on polymerase chain reaction testing. Tissue samples from the two newborns were positive on immunohistochemistry testing, according to the report. Earlier investigations by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte had found that all of the mothers had fever and rash—both of which are Zika infection symptoms—during their pregnancies.

The ministry said that, taken together, the findings reinforce the suspected link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly, but further investigation is needed.
Jan 13 Avian Flu Diary post
Jan 6 CIDRAP News scan on microcephaly in Brazil


NIH awards $5 million for developing alternative antibiotics

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, this week awarded about $5 million for 24 research projects to develop "non-traditional therapeutics" for bacterial infections to help address antibiotic resistance.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said in an NIAID press release, "New strategies are desperately needed to treat patients with antibiotic-resistant infections that often are deadly. These new NIAID grants will provide funding to researchers developing unique, non-traditional therapies that could complement or even replace currently available antibiotics that are losing effectiveness.”

Advancing new therapeutic options to combat drug-resistant bacteria is a key goal of the President Barack Obama's National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Non-traditional therapeutics include good bacteria added to the human microbiome, bacteriophage or phage therapy, adding decoy targets to prevent harmful bacteria from producing disease, enhancing human immune responses to pathogens, and developing drugs that incapacitate the pathogen's ability to adapt and compete, the NIAID said.

The 24 innovation awards were made to 18 universities and 3 businesses. The awards provide support for 2 years, with the possibility of 3 additional years for the most accomplished projects.
Jan 11 NIH press release

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