News Scan for Dec 07, 2016

News brief

Saudi Arabia reports new MERS case, 2 deaths

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS-CoV in Riyadh. Riyadh has been the site of a number of recent cases, including one yesterday.

The MOH said a 56-year-old man was in stable condition after presenting with symptoms of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). His infection is listed as primary, meaning it's unlikely he contracted the disease from another person.

A 29-year-old woman from Hafar Al Batin and 59-year-old man from Yanbu have also died from the respiratory virus, according to the MOH.

The new case raises Saudi Arabia's total from the disease to 1,502 since the first human infections were detected in 2012. So far 621 people have died from MERS. Sixteen people are still being treated for their recently announced illnesses.
Dec 7 MOH


Researchers find Plasmodium DNA in ancient Roman teeth

DNA extraction from 2,000-year-old molars dating to the 1st through 3rd centuries in Italy indicates the oldest known presence of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in humans, according to a new study in Current Biology.

An international team performed hybridization capture to analyze tiny DNA fragments from first and second molars from human remains obtained from three cemeteries in southern Italy that date to the earliest centuries A.D. They were able to extract, purify, and enrich the specimens specifically for the Plasmodium species known to infect humans.

"There is extensive written evidence describing fevers that sound like malaria in ancient Greece and Rome, but the specific malaria species responsible is unknown,” said Stephanie Marciniak, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University, in a McMaster University Daily News story.

"Our data confirm that the species was likely Plasmodium falciparum, and that it affected people in different ecological and cultural environments," she said. "These results open up new questions to explore, particularly how widespread this parasite was, and what burden it placed upon communities in Imperial Roman Italy"
Dec 5 Curr Biol study
Dec 5 McMaster Daily News

Avian Flu Scan for Dec 07, 2016

News brief

WHO details 2 recent cases of H5N6 in China

The World Health Organization (WHO) today provided details on two cases of H5N6 in China that were first reported last month by local authorities.

The first patient, a 47-year-old woman from Wugang prefecture in Hunan province, was diagnosed as having H5N6 on Nov 20. She had developed symptoms 3 days earlier and was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. An epidemiologic investigation is under way to determine her exposure to the virus.

Another woman, a 30-year-old from Guangxi province, developed symptoms on Nov 8 and was admitted to the hospital on Nov 18, also in critical condition. She was an agricultural worker and handled dead poultry before developing flu-like symptoms. According to the Chinese government, 127 close contacts are being monitored for H5N6, but so far none have been symptomatic.

So far, the WHO says the risk of human-to-human transmission remains very low, but urges travelers to avoid open-air poultry markets.
Dec 7 WHO update


Study suggests H5N1 from Egypt less transmissible than seasonal flu

Tests on ferrets to gauge the risk to mammals of recent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 isolates from Egypt found that they transmitted by respiratory droplets and caused disease, but not in all experiments. A team from Egypt, Japan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported its findings yesterday in Scientific Reports.

Though H5N1 is endemic in Egyptian poultry and has been detected in the country since 2006, the virus sparked an unprecedented surge of human infections in 2014 and 2015, sickening at least 173 people. Since then, scientists have been trying to determine if the surge was due to changes such as increased contact between people and poultry or if the virus has evolved to jump more easily to people.

In the new study, the researchers looked at nine H5N1 isolates collected from Egyptian household poultry in 2014 and 2015 to see how easily they transmit by respiratory droplets to ferrets. Three of the nine viruses were transmissible among ferrets, but the team wasn't able to reproduce the spread in three other transmission experiments.

The group wrote that the transmission efficiency of the H5N1 viruses in ferrets might be low enough that subtle changes in experimental conditions, such as air flow, animal health, or animal handling, may have influenced the outcomes. "Collectively, these data suggest that contemporary Egyptian HPAI H5N1 viruses may possess the ability to transmit among mammals, although not at the level of seasonal human influenza viruses," they said.
Dec 6 Sci Rep

This week's top reads