NEWS SCAN: USDA misses meat residues, pneumococcal strain shift, H5N1 in donkeys

Apr 14, 2010

Auditors: USDA program to find harmful residues in meat is failing
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) program to monitor the meat supply for traces of veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals is failing, says a recent report by the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG). The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) tests meat samples from slaughter plants and compares the results with tolerances set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent adulterated meat from being sold. The report says the residue program "is not accomplishing its mission," adding, "Together, FSIS, FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (eg, copper or dioxin), which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce. Additionally, FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its tests have confirmed the excessive presence of veterinary drugs," such as antibiotics. The report says that the agencies should test for more substances, improve their sampling methods, find more efficient ways to approve new methods of testing for drug residues, and collaborate to set tolerances for more residues. The report says the FSIS agreed with the OIG's recommendations.
March 2010 USDA OIG report

Research groups track shift in pediatric invasive pneumonia
Use of the heptavalent pneumococcal vaccine (PCV7) in children is linked to a shift in the bacterial strains that are causing invasive disease in this group, two research groups reported in the April issue of Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal (PIDJ). One study documented the shift in Massachusetts, and the other detected similar findings in Texas children. The Massachusetts group found that from 2001 to 2007, the number of infections from the strains covered by the vaccine went down, but disease caused by serotype 19A and antibiotic-resistant pneumococci went up. Texas researchers found that overall pneumococcal infections decreased after the PCV7 vaccine was introduced, but started rising again between 2006 and 2008. They also found a rise in serotype 19A and antibiotic-resistant strains. An accompanying editorial by Steve Black, MD, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital, wrote that the studies' findings, consistent with global patterns, don't signal a failure in the PCV7 vaccination programs. Since the vaccine was introduced, invasive pneumonia disease in children has dropped almost 80%, he said. Instead, patterns in antibiotic use have probably been more of a factor in the shift toward serotype 19A. In February the vaccine advisory committee of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which covers the 19A serotype, for children under 5 years old and the 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine (PPVSV) in adults older than age 65, children ages 2 and younger who have underlying medical conditions, and adults ages 19 to 64 who smoke or have asthma.
Apr PIDJ Massachusetts study abstract
Apr PIDJ Texas study abstract
Apr PIDJ editorial link
Apr 12 Williams & Wilkins press release

Researchers find H5N1 in donkeys
Egyptian researchers have isolated the H5N1 avian influenza virus from donkeys who had respiratory symptoms. They reported their findings today in the Journal of Biomedical Science. The group's findings suggest the virus spread from poultry. Their analysis of the H5N1 lineage that they isolated from the donkeys showed that the virus clustered within the Egyptian lineage and was closely related to 2009 isolates. When compared with H5N1 isolates in birds and humans, the virus found in the donkeys had few genetic changes and lacked the oseltamivir-resistant mutation. The H5N1 virus has been detected in several other animals before, such as cats, pigs, tigers, and stone martens, but the new report appears to be the first known H5N1 finding in donkeys.
Apr 14 J Biomed Science abstract

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