News Scan for May 16, 2017

Yellow fever mutations
Antibiotic-free grocery chicken

Brazil's outbreak yellow fever virus has mutated significantly

The yellow fever virus that has caused a large outbreak in Brazil has undergone substantial mutations, but these changes should not affect vaccine effectiveness, Brazilian investigators said, according to a story today in Brazil's O Globo newspaper.

A Google-translated version of the report says that scientists from the nation's public health research center, Oswaldo Cruz Institute /Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (IOC/Fiocruz) have sequenced the complete genome of the yellow fever virus from two howler monkeys from Espirito Santo state. They describe eight mutations never before reported in this lineage.

Espirito Santo is one of six affected states.

"These changes are mainly grouped into functional non-structural domains of the virus, so it's very unlikely that they will affect the effectiveness of the vaccine," says Myrna Bonaldo, DSc, head of the IOC's Flavivirus Molecular Biology Laboratory and one of the coordinators of the study. Seven of the mutations are in the portion of the virus's genome linked to replication, and the other is in the assembly of the virus capsid, which stores genetic material. The vaccine targets the virus envelope, or outer coating.

The IOC/Fiocruz scientists don't know what affect these mutations have on virus transmission and infection. They plan to study that next, the story said.
May 16 O Globo report


Grocery chains get poor marks for antibiotics policies

America's leading grocery chains are failing to address overuse of antibiotics in chicken, according to a report today from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report evaluates and grades the five largest grocery retailers in North America—Costco, Publix, Walmart, Albertsons/Safeway, and Kroger—on their offerings of chicken brands from producers with responsible antibiotics practices and their public commitment to appropriate antibiotic use in food animals. In addition, it examines store signage and informational material directing consumers to chicken raised without antibiotics or from producers who've committed to phasing the drugs out.

The five chains each averaged a "D" grade. While all five offered at least one brand of chicken reflective of responsible antibiotic use practices, and some offered several brands, the report found that none of the chains had made a public commitment to eliminating routine use of antibiotics in their chicken supply chains, few had signage to direct consumers to antibiotic-free or responsible-use options, and most antibiotic-use claims lacked third-party verification. Walmart had the largest proportion of chicken brand choices sourced from producers who've committed to eliminating antibiotics in their chicken supply.

In the last few years, large chicken producers like Perdue and Tyson Farms have committed to phasing out the routine use of medically important antibiotics in their chickens, and several fast-food chains have pledged to purchase chicken raised without antibiotics. Now, the report adds, grocery retailers need to step up and meet consumer demand by promoting responsible use of antibiotics in their supply chains.

"In the absence of action at the federal level, consumers have been driving the move toward meat raised with responsible antibiotics use," NRDC staff scientist Carmen Cordova, PhD, said in a news release from the organization. "The fast food industry has been leading the way—but people want to be able to eat better meat [at] home, too. Our report shows that grocery stores have a lot of catching up to do."

The report recommends that grocery chains develop responsible antibiotic use policies and communicate them to consumers, improve signage, and advocate for third-party verification.
May 16 NRDC report
May 16 NRDC news release

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