NEWS SCAN: More fungal infections, BSE and beef imports, H5N1 vaccine production license, cholera efforts in Haiti

Dec 31, 2012

Fungal meningitis cases continue to rise
Fungal infections linked to tainted steroid injections in the United States have reached 656, up from 620 the previous week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week, while deaths remained at 39. Of the 656 cases, 372 involved meningitis, 250 were spinal or paraspinal infections without meningitis, 6 involved stroke without lumbar puncture, 27 were peripheral-joint infections, and 1 involved both a spinal or paraspinal infection and a peripheral-joint infection. Cases have been confirmed in 19 states, with Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, and Virginia all reporting more than 50 cases. The cases have been linked to contaminated injectable methylprednisolone acetate from New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass
Dec 28 CDC update

Peru added to BSE-related import ban list, Egypt taken off
Peru said it will ban Brazilian beef imports for 90 days after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) was detected in a Brazilian cow earlier this month, while officials now say Egypt never banned such imports, according to media reports. Officials from Peru's National Service for Agricultural Health (Senasa) said the country will prohibit beef products like offal and small intestine for about 90 days but could adjust the timeframe as it gathers more information, according to a Meatingplace report today. Through October, Peru was the largest importer of Brazilian beef by volume and second only to the United States by value of imported beef. South Africa, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia have also banned Brazilian beef imports over BSE fears.
Egypt, meanwhile, has not restricted Brazilian beef imports after the BSE detection, Brazil's agriculture ministry said last week, retracting an earlier statement, Reuters reported. The ministry said on Dec 17 that Egypt had suspended imports from the state of Parana, where the BSE case was confirmed, but Brazilian officials on Dec 27 said the statement was based on a misunderstanding. They said the country had never banned beef imports from Brazil because of the case.

VaxInnate licenses Emergent to produce its H5N1 vaccine candidate
Emergent BioSolutions Inc. of Rockville, Md., recently announced its acquisition of a license to produce a candidate pandemic H5N1 influenza vaccine developed by VaxInnate Corp. of Cranbury, N.J. In a Dec 28 press release, Emergent said the license fulfills the requirement to secure a pandemic flu vaccine candidate under its contract with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The agency designated Emergent, which makes the only US-approved anthrax vaccine, as a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing in June 2012. Vaxinnate's candidate vaccine is a recombinant product that has the potential to be produced quickly, cost-effectively, and in large volumes, according to Emergent. In June, VaxInnate announced the launch of a phase 1 clinical trial of its VAX161 H5 vaccine. The product is a recombinant protein that consists of the head of the hemagglutinin from an Indonesian H5N1 strain, fused to Salmonella Typhimurium flagellin type 2.
Dec 28 Emergent press release
Jun 12 Vaxinnate press release about clinical trial

Harvard physician tapped to fight cholera in Haiti
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Harvard's Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, to "help galvanize support" for cholera-elimination efforts in Haiti, where the disease has infected more than 600,000 people and killed more than 7,700, according to the UN. He was named special advisor for community-based medicine and lessons from Haiti just weeks after Ban launched an initiative to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to the UN News Service. "As Special Adviser, Dr. Farmer will work closely with all key partners to help galvanize support for the elimination of cholera in Haiti," a UN news release said. "He will also use the data gathered from the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti to advise on lessons learned and how those can be applied in Haiti and other settings. Farmer served as the UN deputy special envoy for Haiti from 2009 to 2012, under special envoy and former US President Bill Clinton. Farmer, who is also founding director of the nonprofit Partners In Health, pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies in resource-poor settings, the agency said.
Dec 28 UN News Service report
Dec 28 UN news release


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