Quick takes: Colombian Oropouche virus cases, orphan drug status for Ebola Sudan vaccine

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  • Colombia has reported two Oropouche virus cases, the fourth country in the Americas to report cases of the disease this year, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in an epidemiologic update. The infections were detected via retrospective case-finding from 187 samples collected in 2024 by Colombia's National Health Institute as part of dengue surveillance. The patients are from Amazonas and Meta departments. Amazonas is in the far south, and Meta is the central region. The disease is spread by midges and some mosquito species. Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru have also reported cases this year. 
  • Soligenix, a biopharmaceutical company based in New Jersey, recently announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation to the active ingredient in SuVax, its subunit protein recombinant vaccine as prevention and postexposure prophylaxis against Ebola Sudan, for which no vaccines or treatments currently exist. Ebola Sudan is the second most common cause of human Ebola infections. In 2022, Uganda experienced an Ebola Sudan outbreak that resulted in 164 cases, 55 of them fatal. Earlier this year, the company reported that a bivalent (two-strain) version of the vaccine in a nonhuman primate trial provided complete protection against Ebola Sudan and Marburg viruses.

US measles cases top 120 as LA County tracks case with multiple exposures

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Eight more measles cases have been reported, putting the nation's total at 121 so far this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest weekly update. The number of affected jurisdictions remained the same, at 18.

measles child
LeventKonuk/ iStock

Of the 121 cases, 86 were linked to seven outbreaks, including a large one at a Chicago migrant shelter. Last year at this time the CDC had received reports of 58 cases, 28 of them linked to four outbreaks.

Of the cases this year, 47% occurred in children younger than 5 years old. Young children also had the highest level of hospitalizations (65%). And. of people infected, 82% were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

LA County visitor was at Universal Studios

In related developments, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said state health officials have notified it of a measles case involving a resident from outside the county who had recently visited several locations in Los Angeles County, including Universal Studios.

The patient had also stayed at a hotel for 3 nights and visited several restaurants in the area. County health officials also said they are investigating more locations where exposure might have occurred. 

Even after successful TB treatment, evidence found of lasting lung damage

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tb child
Courtesy of the Stop TB Partnership

During this month's annual European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID Global) conference in Spain, UK researchers will present evidence that patients successfully treated for tuberculosis (TB) have lasting lung damage, including smaller lungs with narrower airways and slower air flow.

The findings are based on a meta-analysis of data collected on 75,631 people from 15 studies conducted in 17 countries with varying TB incidence and income levels from 2000 through 2023. Of the 75,631 study participants, 7,377 were TB survivors.

Four measures of lung functions were included in the analysis: Forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1, the volume of air that can be forcefully exhaled in one second); forced vital capacity (FVC, the volume of air that can be forcefully exhaled in a single breath); FEV1/FVC ratio; and FVC as a percentage of the predicted value (compares the volume to the average of a healthy person of the same age, sex, and height).

Lung injury poses public health challenge

"FEV1 was 230 millilitres lower compared to healthy controls, and FVC was 140 millilitres lower," said lead researcher Dr Sharenja Ratnakumar, of the University of London, in a press release from ESCMID Global. "A decrease in FEV1 of 100 millilitres is considered clinically significant and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease."

While the treatment of acute TB has been the main clinical focus for the past several decades, the authors said it's time to recognize the toll of post-TB lung disease. Between 2000 and 2020, an estimated 74 million lives were saved after successful TB treatment, with many patients under the age of 50. The burden of post-TB lung damages is not yet known, the authors said, and likely poses a significant public health challenge. 

Our study also provides compelling evidence that the long-term care of individuals with post-tuberculosis lung disease should be an explicit component of the WHO's End TB strategy.

"Our study also provides compelling evidence that the long-term care of individuals with post-tuberculosis lung disease should be an explicit component of the WHO's End TB strategy," Ratnakumar said. 

Household study shows dogs, cats share multidrug-resistant bacteria with their owners

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Woman with puppy and kitten
adogslifephoto / iStock

The results of new research to be presented later this month at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Global Congress suggest companion animals could play a role in the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

In a longitudinal study conducted among 65 pet-owning households in the United Kingdom and Portugal, researchers from the University of Lisbon collected and analyzed clinical and fecal samples from dogs and cats who had community-acquired skin and other soft-tissue infections (SSTIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs) and their healthy owners. They were looking to determine whether multidrug-resistant pathogens—specifically extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC– and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales—could be passed from pets to their owners.

Carriage of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales was observed in a single dog (1 of 43 companion animals, 2.3%) in Portugal and a single dog (1 of 22, 4.5%) in the United Kingdom, while 24 (55.8%) of 43 companion animals and 28 (35.9%) of 78 owners in Portugal were colonized by ESBL/AmpC-producing Enterobacterales at at least one point. In the United Kingdom, ESBL/AmpC-producing Enterobacterales were isolated from 8 (36.4%) of 22 companion animals and 3 (12.5%) of 22 owners.

In five households in Portugal and two in the United Kingdom, whole-genome sequencing showed that both the pet and the owner were carrying the same strain of ESBL/AmpC-producing Enterobacterales.

Understanding the direction of transmission

Although the researchers were not able to conclusively prove the direction of transmission, they say the timing of the positive tests for ESBL/AmpC-producing bacteria in three of the Portuguese households suggests the bacteria were being passed from the pets to their owners. 

All of the animals were successfully treated for their infections, and none of the owners developed infections.

The researchers say understanding and addressing the transmission of drug-resistant bacteria between pets and their owners could help inform the development of targeted interventions that safeguard both human and animal health.

"Our findings underline the importance of including pet-owning households in national programmes that monitor levels of antibiotic resistance," lead researcher Juliana Menezes, PhD, said in an ESCMID press release.

Analysis spotlights sperm defects in month after COVID infection, but not at 90 days

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In the 30 days after COVID-19 infection, total sperm count, sperm concentration, total sperm motility (movement), and progressive motility were significantly reduced in a cohort of Chinese men, with the most severe effects in those with moderate to high fever, researchers from Sichuan Provincial Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital report in Scientific Reports

The researchers tracked semen quality in 58 men for up to 109 days after COVID-19 diagnosis and used a linear mixed-effects model to analyze semen parameters at different time points before and after infection. They noted that previous studies suggest that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) facilitates SARS-CoV-2 entry into testicular cells, where it leads to testes injury and impairs sperm production.

Higher fever, worse impact

While there was no significant difference in semen volume before or after COVID-19 diagnosis, median total sperm count and concentration were lower after infection. Total sperm motility and progressive motility were significantly lower after diagnosis, and the percentage of non-moving sperm was higher. 

Rates of sperm survival and normal sperm form decreased, with greater head defects but similar numbers of sperm with neck, mid-piece, or tail defects. No differences were noted in the number of round cells, anti-sperm antibodies, semen liquefaction time, or viscosity before or after COVID-19 infection.

Fever severity during SARS-CoV-2 infection may constitute the main influencing factor in reducing semen parameters in patients after recovery, but the effect is reversible.

The greatest drop in sperm count and concentration occurred within 30 days, followed by a gradual recovery and normalization by 90 days. The percentage of normal sperm fell, and the percentage of sperm with head defects significantly increased from 30 to 60 days, followed by recovery. An initial drop in sperm survival returned to baseline by 30 days.

Patients with a moderate or high fever saw a statistically significant decline in semen parameters, while those with a mild fever did not.

"Fever severity during SARS-CoV-2 infection may constitute the main influencing factor in reducing semen parameters in patients after recovery, but the effect is reversible," the study authors concluded.

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