News Scan for Sep 06, 2016

News brief

MERS case appears as Saudi Arabia prepares for Hajj

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS-CoV in Riyadh today. The case is not connected to a previously reported outbreak at King Khalid University Hospital in that city.

A 65 year-old Saudi man was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). He presented with MERS symptoms and is currently in stable condition. The man acquired MERS from indirect contact and exposure to camels, the MOH said.

The new case comes as Saudi Arabia and the World Health Organization (WHO) make preparations for the Hajj, when about 2 million Muslims will travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimage. Preventing a MERS outbreak during Hajj is a top priority for the MOH, the WHO said in a statement today.

Saudi Arabia's MERS case count has now reached 1,450, including 610 deaths and 3 patients still being treated, according to the MOH.
Sep 6 WHO news release


Only 290 more chikungunya cases reported

There were 290 new suspected or confirmed cases of chikungunya last week, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) weekly update, raising the total in the Americas this year to 252,444.

Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, and El Salvador are the only countries that reported new cases, with other countries not reporting any changes in total case numbers for the last several weeks. It's unclear whether transmission of the mosquito-borne illness is slowing down or if the slow pace is caused by countries not updating their case counts.

The previous week PAHO reported 1,428 new cases, but the previous reports indicated 32,492 and 3,100 new cases, respectively.

PAHO reported no new deaths; that number remains at 55.
Sep 2 PAHO report


WHO: Flu at inter-seasonal levels

In its biweekly global flu report, the WHO said that flu levels are typical for this time of year in temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere. But flu counts are rising steadily in southern Africa and Oceania.

In southern Africa, the WHO reports a new shift from influenza B to predominantly influenza A virus circulating, but it said pneumonia cases are down. Australia has seen increasing numbers of influenza A(H3N2) circulating, while New Zealand said flu rates are below the seasonal baseline level.

Countries in both the Caribbean and South America are reporting decreasing numbers of flu cases. Chile was an exception, reporting elevated influenza and respiratory syncytial virus activity. Influenza A dominated in Chile.

Flu activity in Europe and North America is low, with influenza B circulating. Between Aug 8 and Aug 21 WHO laboratories tested 2,173 specimens for influenza, of which 1524 (70.1%) were typed as influenza A and 649 (29.9%) as influenza B.
Sep 5 WHO flu update


Influenza D officially named

The International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses approved the name of influenza D, discovered by scientists at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in 2011.  Cattle are the primary reservoir for this virus, which is part of a new genus, Orthomyxovirdae.

When influenza D was first identified in 2011, it was thought to be a novel influenza C virus, because the first sample was obtained in a diseased pig. But researchers, including Feng Li, PhD, at SDSU, showed that influenza D was actually the first influenza virus identified in cattle and is endemic in many cattle populations. Influenza D is 50% similar to influenza C.

Since 2011, Li and his colleagues also showed that influenza D does not affect poultry, but can be found in blood samples from sheep and goats. Transmission occurs only through direct contact, and the virus at this time poses no threat to human health.

"From a science viewpoint, it's very exciting to work with a brand-new virus," said Li in an SDSU press release. "We have much to learn about this new virus."
Sep 1 SDSU press release

Antimicrobial Resistance Scan for Sep 06, 2016

News brief

Study finds resistant E coli common in UK poultry, pork samples

A new study out of England has found antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli bacteria in nearly a quarter of pig and poultry meat samples purchased at UK supermarkets.

The study, which was commissioned by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics and conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, analyzed 189 UK-origin pork and poultry samples bought at seven of the UK's largest supermarkets.

In their analysis, the researchers found that 24% of the chicken samples tested positive for extended spectrum beta-lactamase E coli, which are resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics. Cephalosporins are commonly used in the treatment of E coli infections in the urinary tract and the bloodstream.

The researchers also found that 51% of the E coli found in the pork and poultry samples were resistant to trimethoprim, which is commonly used to treat lower urinary tract infections, while 19% showed resistance to gentamicin, an antibiotic used in upper respiratory tract infections. No resistance to fluoroquinolones or colistin was found in any of the E coli isolates.

The authors of the study said it's the first comprehensive study of the levels of antibiotic resistance in E coli found in UK supermarket meat, and that the findings suggest some of the resistance to key antibiotics in human E coli infections is coming from farm animals. Trimethoprin is commonly used to mass medicate farm animals via feed and water. Cephalosprins and gentamicin, while not licensed for use in farm animals in the United Kingdom, are commonly used off-label to treat animal infections when no suitable antibiotics are available.
Sep 5 Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics/Cambridge University study


WHO: Asian nations see drop in malaria, but artemisinin resistance a concern

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the six countries of the Greater Mekong subregion—China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand—cut their malaria incidence by 54%, and saw an 84% drop in malaria deaths, from 2012 to 2015.

Myanmar achieved the greatest reduction (62%) in malaria cases, followed by Vietnam (52%). Significant declines were also recorded in Thailand (24%) and Cambodia (18%), while Laos and China's Yunnan Province saw spikes in cases and deaths.

The WHO attributes the declines to the targeted provision of core malaria tools to those populations that are most at risk for the disease. Those tools include long-lasting insecticide treated nets, rapid diagnostic tests, and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

The good news comes despite the development and spread of resistance to artemisinin, the core compound of the best available antimalarial medicines. The WHO report say that artemisinin resistance in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which accounts for most malaria cases and deaths, has now been detected in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

As a result of this increasing resistance, the agency says it's focusing on protecting ACTs as the front-line treatment for P falciparum malaria. One of the ways countries can do this is by phasing out the use of artemisinin-based monotherapies, the WHO says.

In addition, the report says that affected countries are shifting their malaria strategy from containment to elimination.

In related news, the WHO's South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) yesterday declared that Sri Lanka has been certified by the WHO as free of malaria.
September 2016 WHO Bulletin: "WHO's emergency response to artemisinin resistance"
Sep 5 WHO SEARO statement


Study notes high rates of ESBL E coli on Chinese swine farms

More than half of farm pigs and one in five workers on those farms harbor extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)–producing Escherichia coli, according to a small study in the Journal of Food Protection.

Researchers obtained rectal swabs from 60 pigs on four pig-fattening farms in Shandong province in eastern China and from 40 workers on the farms. The same number of animal and human samples was taken on each farm. They then characterized ESBL-carrying E coli isolates by genotype, antibiotic susceptibility, and other factors.

The investigators found that 34 of 60 pigs (56.7%) and 8 of 40 farm workers (20%) tested positive for ESBL-producing E coli. And the swine isolates had the same genotypes, antibiotic resistance profiles, and other factors as the human isolates.

They concluded, "These findings were suggestive for transfer of ESBL-producing E. coli between animals and humans."
September J Food Prot abstract

This week's top reads