News Scan for May 30, 2018

Antibiotics and protein production
;
Nipah deaths in India
;
China scarlet fever

Investor index gives global food suppliers poor grades on antibiotic use

A new index that evaluates 60 global food companies on health, environmental, and social issues has found that more than three-quarters of those companies rank as "high risk" on antibiotic stewardship.

The Coller Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Protein Producer Index, launched today, is a comprehensive assessment of how the world's largest suppliers of animal protein for human consumption are managing critical sustainability issues, including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, animal welfare, water use, and antibiotics management. The goal of the index is to help investors evaluate how these companies—which supply meat for companies like McDonald's, Walmart, and Nestle—are performing on these issues.

The index found that antibiotics management is the most poorly managed of all sustainability risk factors, with 46 of the 60 companies (77%) having no policies or process in place to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in protein production. A summary of the report's findings notes that as antibiotic resistance continues to emerge, failure to manage antibiotic usage could pose a major risk to these companies.

"On antibiotics alone, FAIRR's research shows that three in four of these companies are ignoring the calls from regulators, health professionals and the financial community to manage and reduce their use of antibiotics," Abigail Herron, global head of investment for FAIRR member Aviva Investors, said in a FAIRR press release. "That failure puts both global public health and their business models at risk."
May 30 FAIRR Index summary of findings
May 30 FAIRR press release

 

Death toll rises in India's Nipah outbreak

India has reported more deaths in more patients with confirmed or suspected Nipah virus infections over the past several days, and scientists have released some preliminary genetic results on the strain involved in the outbreak, according to Indian media reports.

So far all of the deaths and confirmed cases are from Kerala state. According to a statement from Kerala's health department posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board, 16 Nipah infections have been confirmed as of yesterday, and another 8 cases are suspected. Of 161 samples tested, 145 were negative. So far at least 14 deaths have been reported, an increase of 2 since late last week.

In other outbreak developments, preliminary genetic analysis on a sample from a sick patient revealed that the virus is similar to the Bangladesh strain, the Times of India reported today, quoting scientists at the National Institute of Virology in Pune. There are two Nipah virus strains, the other being Malaysia, and both have high fatality rates.

The report also said tests on samples of bats found in the well in a house thought to be the epicenter of the outbreak were negative for the virus. A lab official said the bats found in the well and sampled were not fruit bats, the species known to harbor the virus.
FluTrackers Nipah virus thread
May 30 Times of India report

 

Study documents and probes China's scarlet fever surge

In the largest epidemiologic study to date on scarlet fever, Chinese researchers yesterday detailed the country's surge in scarlet fever infections that began in 2011, part of increased disease activity that has also been seen in Hong Kong, South Korea, and England. The team reported its observational findings based on epidemiologic data collected from 31 Chinese provinces between 2004 and 2016 yesterday in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

They found that the annual average incidence increased from 1.457 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 4.7638 per 100,000 in 2011, with scarlet fever activity peaking in 2015. Most cases were reported from the north, northeast, and northwest, and the team found two seasonal spikes, one between May and June and other between November and December. The median age at onset was 6 years, and the median time from symptoms to reporting was shorter after the surge in 2011.

Several factors could be contributing to the unusual increase in cases, they said. Examples are that Streptococcus pyogenes is expanding from a single clonal lineage to  multiclonal lineages, that the increase might be part of a natural cycle of scarlet fever activity seen in the middle of the 19th century before widespread antibiotic use, or perhaps an increase in susceptible children after China began relaxing its one-child policy in 2011. The team also said geographical differences might be related to climate or demographic factors, including school holiday timing.

In a related commentary, two experts, including one from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said scarlet fever has become a greater threat to public health as the population of children in China grows. They said China and other affected countries should strengthen their surveillance systems to include clinical characteristics including lab results, especially since there is no vaccine for scarlet fever, though several candidates have progressed to human clinical trials.
May 29 Lancet Infect Dis abstract
May 29 Lancet Infect Dis commentary

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