NEWS SCAN: Environmental E coli, patient safety partnership, NDM-1 surveillance, call for flu apps, H5N2 in ostriches, Bangladesh border controls

Apr 12, 2011

E coli findings raise question about coliform test for water monitoring
Scientists say they have found strains of Escherichia coli that live in the environment, independent of warm-blooded hosts, which raises questions about the standard fecal coliform test used to monitor water quality. Fecal pollution of surface water is assessed by checking the level of E coli in it, because the bacterium is believed to live only in the intestines and waste of warm-blood animals, according to a press release from the Georgia Institute of Technology. E coli in water is also seen as a sign of potentially more harmful microbes that may accompany it. But Georgia Tech researchers, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), report that they identified and sequenced the genomes of nine E coli strains that have adapted to living in the environment. The strains look like typical E coli strains on traditional tests and yield a positive fecal coliform test result, even though they may not represent an environmental hazard, according to the report. "These results suggest the need to develop a new culture-independent, genome-based coliform test so that the non-hazardous environmental types of E coli are not counted as fecal contamination," said Kostas Konstantinidis, senior author of the study. The researchers said their findings suggest that the environmental E coli strains represent a distinct species from the typical gut-dwelling strains.
Apr 11 Georgia Tech press release
Apr 11 PNAS abstract

HHS announces national partnership to improve patient safety
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced an initiative called the "Partnership for Patients" with the aim of slashing the rate of preventable injuries and complications, including infections, in patient care over the next 3 years. HHS said the program has two goals: (1) lowering the annual rate of hospital-acquired conditions 40% by 2013, which would mean 1.8 million fewer patient injuries and more than 60,000 lives saved, and (2) reducing complications during transitions from one care setting to another, with the aim of lowering hospital readmissions 20% by the end of 2013. The program will ask hospitals to focus on nine types of medical errors and complications, including surgical site infections, adverse drug reactions, pressure ulcers, and childbirth complications. HHS plans to invest up to $1 billion in the program, using funds made available under the Affordable Care Act. More than 500 hospitals, as well as physicians' and nurses' groups, consumer groups, and employers, have pledged to participate in the partnership, HHS said. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) praised the initiative today in an e-mailed statement. "We applaud the initiative's emphasis on greater patient engagement so that patients will be better equipped to advocate for quality care and raise questions when it is lacking," SHEA said. "Additionally, we see support of major collaborative networks as key to sharing and replicating innovative models across the country." SHEA urged HHS to think beyond measures that past practice suggests are effective and to invest in research and technology to learn how medical errors can be avoided.
Apr 12 HHS announcement

India to look for NDM-1 in New Delhi hospitals, water supply
India's National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will look for carbapenem-resistant bacteria in New Delhi hospitals and the city's water supplies, the Times of India reported today. The report comes a few days after a study in Lancet Infectious Diseases said bacteria with NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1), an enzyme that makes gram-negative bacteria resistant to nearly all antibiotics, was found in drinking and seepage water in New Delhi. The newspaper said the NCDC yielded to pressure after days of denying the existence and public health importance of the NDM-1 gene. The agency will initially test for carbapenem-resistant infections in the intensive care units of three New Delhi hospitals, the story said. If any are found, water samples from the hospital localities will be tested for NDM-1–carrying bacteria. NDM-1 first made headlines in August 2010, when British researchers reported finding cases in India and Pakistan and in British people who had traveled to India for medical treatment. The naming of the resistance enzyme after New Delhi has caused resentment in India.
Apr 12 Times of India story
Apr 7 CIDRAP News item on NDM-1 in New Delhi water

CDC launches flu app challenge
In a move to spur the creative and accessible use of its flu data, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched a competition to develop mobile phone or Web applications. The CDC said data visualization, system, tool, and game applications are other examples of entries that software designers can submit for its $35,000 challenge, which closes May 27. The winning entries will have the chance to be featured on the CDC's Web site. The entries will be judged by a panel that includes global health, software, and communications experts and by a public vote.
CDC flu app notice

H5N2 hits South African ostrich flocks
South African agriculture officials yesterday announced that a highly pathogenic H5N2 virus has been detected in five commercial ostrich flocks in two cities in Western Cape province, the country's first such outbreaks since 2006, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Though the H5N2 virus is highly pathogenic, it isn't currently considered a health threat to humans. The virus was detected through routine surveillance, and only one of the five sites reported illnesses and deaths, losing 100 ostriches. About 14,800 birds will be culled to control the outbreak, the report said. Western Cape province is in the southwestern part of the country. South Africa also reported H5N2 outbreaks in ostriches in 2004 and 2006.
Apr 11 OIE report

Bangladesh plans more animal quarantine stations
Bangladesh's health ministry recently announced a plan to establish 24 quarantine stations near its borders with India and Myanmar to help control H5N1 avian influenza and other animal diseases, the Gulf Times, a newspaper based in Doha, Qatar, reported yesterday. The stations will be located at entry points such as airports and seaports. The stations are part of a 3-year project to prevent and control livestock diseases. Bangladesh has reported dozens of H5N1 outbreaks at poultry farms so far this year, and India and Myanmar have also reported a few, according to the OIE's outbreak database.
OIE H5N1 outbreak database

This week's top reads