News Scan for Oct 11, 2013

News brief

USDA says Foster Farms poultry plants can stay open

Foster Farms has taken adequate contamination-control steps at three of its California plants linked to a multistate Salmonella outbreak to have the plants remain operational, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, according to an NBC News report yesterday.

On Oct 7 the agency had threatened to pull its inspectors, a step that would effectively shutter the plants, if Foster Farms didn't properly address food safety problems. In a statement yesterday, the USDA said officials from its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would continue "intensified" sampling for pathogens.

"Foster Farms has submitted and implemented immediate, substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations," said FSIS spokesman Aaron Lavallee in the statement, according to NBC. "FSIS inspectors will verify that these changes are being implemented in a continuous and ongoing basis."

In a statement yesterday, Foster Farms President and CEO Ron Foster said, "This officially validates our progress, but we are not stopping here. We are putting every resource and all of our energy toward food safety."

No Foster Farms products have been recalled because of the outbreak, but some retailers have pulled the company's poultry products off shelves.

The outbreak involves 278 cases of salmonellosis in 17 states, the lion's share in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Oct 8. Seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been implicated, some of them drug resistant. About 42% of the case-patients have been hospitalized, which is about twice the usual rate for Salmonella, the CDC said.
Oct 10 NBC News story
Oct 10 Foster Farms statement

Peruvian bats found to harbor novel influenza virus

Discovery of a novel influenza virus, H18N11, in several species of Peruvian bats lends credence to New World bats being an important reservoir for a diversity of influenza viruses, says a study yesterday in PLoS Pathogens.

The researchers, several from the CDC, tested rectal swabs from 114 bats captured in the Amazon rainforest region of Peru. Eighteen species were represented, with most falling within six species. The flat-faced fruit bats (Artibeus planirostris) were positive for influenza on reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. After full-length genomic sequencing, the novel virus was designated as A/bat/Peru/10.

A flu subtype designated H17N10 was recently discovered in yellow-shouldered fruit bats in Guatemala. Phylogenetic analysis in the present study showed that all genes of the A/bat/Peru/10 virus were related to those of the Guatemalan virus but formed a distinct lineage justifying its classification as H18N11, the authors said.

Indeed, their analysis indicated that "bat populations from Central and South America have as much influenza virus genetic diversity in certain gene segments as all other mammalian and avian species combined."

With bats' global distribution, abundance, population density, and large number of species (more than 1,200), further research should be focused on them as potential reservoirs of novel influenza viruses and as vessels for reassortment and species jumps, the authors wrote.
Oct 10 PLoS Pathog study


Protein Sciences says its flu vaccine will be available in November

A cell-based influenza vaccine made by Protein Sciences Corp.of Meriden, Conn., will be available in time for pre-Thanksgiving vaccinations, the company said in a press release yesterday.

The company had said earlier that it expected to provide about 250,000 doses of the trivalent vaccine, Flublok, in September and October. Yesterday it said it expects the first doses to be released "in time for vaccinations to occur prior to Thanksgiving."

The vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January, is made by using a baculovirus to infect insect cells and cause them to produce the flu protein hemagglutinin. It is one of two cell-based flu vaccines on the US market this year; the other is Flucelvax, made by Novartis.
Oct 10 Protein Sciences press release
Aug 5 CIDRAP News story on flu vaccines available this season

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