NEWS SCAN: Early disease detection, pigeon-produced pathogens, malaria diagnostics

Jun 22, 2010

Researchers test model for early disease threat detection
North Carolina officials yesterday launched a new human health data-based system to provide an early warning about a bioterror attack, foodborne illness outbreak, or other disease threat. The model, called the North Carolina Bio-Preparedness Collaborative (NCB-Prepared), uses several sources of health data such as physicians' clinical notes, electronic hospital records, school nurse logs, prescription databases, and over-the-counter medicine sales to detect public health events earlier than traditional surveillance systems, according to a press release from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. The $5 million federally funded 1-year project is a cooperative agreement between the US Department of Homeland Security and UNC Chapel Hill. Other collaborators include North Carolina State University and SAS Institute. The North Carolina Division of Public Health, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, and other private and public groups will also participate.
Jun 21 UNC Chapel Hill press release

Spanish study finds pigeon droppings pose health threat
Analysis of droppings of pigeons on the streets of Madrid, Spain, revealed two bacteria that cause illness in humans, Chlamydophila psittaci and Campylobacter jejuni, according to a study published today in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. The Spanish team of researchers tested the blood and enema samples of 118 pigeons caught with gun-propelled nets. Though they found extremely high levels of the zoonotic pathogens in more than half of the birds, the pigeons didn't appear to show clinical signs, and researchers suspect that the birds are asymptomatic reservoirs for the two bacteria. Though few reports of disease transmission between humans and pigeons have been reported, the researchers pointed out that the pigeons pose a health threat, because the pathogens can be transmitted through aerosolization, direct contact, or indirectly through food or water contamination. They added that in some countries such as England, Canada, and Australia, C jejuni infection causes more cases of acute diarrhea than do Salmonella species.
Jun 22 Acta Vet Scand abstract
Jun 22 BioMed Central press release

US-funded Kenyan lab at front of East Africa's malaria battle
A research lab in Kenya is at the forefront in improving malaria diagnostics in Africa, according to a news story on the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Web site. For more than 40 years, the US Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya (USAMRU-K)—also called the Walter Reed Project—has studied diseases in East Africa in partnership with the Kenya Medical Research Institute. USAMRU-K's Malaria Diagnostics and Control Center of Excellence in Kisumu has trained more than 650 laboratory specialists since 2004 to improve their skills at diagnosing malaria using microscopes. It also monitors area labs to ensure the most current diagnostic techniques are employed. Most of the center's $450,000 annual budget comes from the US President's Malaria Initiative, with additional funding from the DoD, non-governmental organizations, and pharmaceutical companies.
Jun 21 news story

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