New MERS case, 3 deaths reported in Saudi Arabia
A new case of MERS-CoV and three deaths in previously reported cases bring totals since June 2012 to 897 and 377, respectively in Saudi Arabia, according to a report today from the country's Ministry of Health (MOH).
The new case is in a 58-year-old man from Khobar in the east central part of Saudi Arabia, who has preexisting disease and is in critical condition. He is not a healthcare worker but reportedly had contact with confirmed or suspected MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) patients in a hospital or clinic setting. He had no apparent exposure to animals or to MERS patients in the community setting.
The deaths occurred in three men, 54, 65, and 60 years old. The first two were Saudis from Buraydah in the central part of the country and Tabuk in the northwest. The third was an expatriate living in Riyadh. None of the case-patients was a healthcare worker, and all three had preexisting disease.
The MOH report also notes that two men, 53 and 52, both in Dhahran, near Khobar, have recovered from the disease. Neither is a healthcare worker and both had preexisting disease. Their recoveries leave 32 active cases plus 2 case-patients on home isolation, according to the MOH.
Feb 18 MOH report
Study reports success with wide azithromycin use for yaws
Mass treatment with azithromycin—a central component of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) strategy to eradicate yaws—was followed by a drop in disease prevalence to one-eighth the previous level on an island where the disease is endemic, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine today.
Yaws is an infectious disease caused by Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue, a gram-negative bacterium closely related to T pallidum subsp pallidum, which causes syphilis. It is 1 of 17 neglected tropical diseases that the WHO has classified as disproportionately affecting economically disadvantaged areas.
Researchers administered one dose of azithromycin to 83% of 16,092 residents of Lihir Island in Papua New Guinea in 2013 and 2014. The prevalence of yaws dropped from 2.4% before treatment began to 0.2% 12 months later, which was statistically significant. The prevalence of high-titer latent yaws among children declined from 18.3% to 6.5%, "with a near-absence of high-titer seroreactivity in children 1 to 5 years of age."
Side effects were mild, and no drug resistance was detected, the authors noted.
An accompanying commentary in the same issue said that, although challenges to yaws eradication lie ahead, today's study shows that the WHO strategy of mass treatment with azithromycin "should result in the eradication of yaws, if it is implemented and sustained long enough."
Feb 18 N Engl J Med study
Feb 18 N Engl J Med commentary