NEWS SCAN: Global flu activity, novel flu vaccine, H1N1 attack rate, antimicrobial resistance, cruise ship outbreak

Oct 21, 2010

Flu activity remains low worldwide
Global influenza activity has yet to heat up in the Northern Hemisphere and is tailing off in the Southern Hemisphere, according to a report on global flu activity posted yesterday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Canada and Europe are reporting low flu levels, with only 2 of 161 respiratory samples (1.2%) testing positive in Europe. Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand are reporting sharp drops in flu activity, and Australia and Thailand are reporting declining activity. More than two thirds of influenza in Australia is pandemic 2009 H1N1.
Oct 20 CDC update

Phase 1 trial results reported for novel flu vaccine
A novel influenza vaccine generated a functional antibody response and was generally well tolerated in a phase 1 clinical study, according to a study in Vaccine. The vaccine consists of the globular head of the flu virus's hemagglutinin molecule fused to flagellin, a bacterial protein, and is produced in Escherichia coli culture. The trial, by a team from the University of Rochester in New York, was divided into three stages. In the first stage, six groups of eight volunteers each received vaccine doses ranging from 0.3 to 8 micrograms (mcg). Second, groups of 16 volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either 1.0 or 2.0 mcg of the vaccine. Finally, 24 participants received a 0.5-mcg dose in the third stage. There were no serious adverse events, though two volunteers who had high-end doses had "moderately severe systemic symptoms." Hemagglutination-inhibition and microneutralization tests showed that most of the participants had functional immune responses, which were generally dose-dependent. The authors say that the immune responses to relatively low doses of antigen suggest that the addition of flagellin to the vaccine had a "substantial adjuvanting effect."
Oct 20 Vaccine study abstract

One tenth of Beijing population infected with pandemic H1N1
Chinese researchers, using a multiplier model, estimated that Beijing experienced between 1.5 million and 2.3 million pandemic 2009 H1N1 infections, affecting from 9% to 14% of the population. The researchers took the 10,844 lab-confirmed H1N1 infections reported in the city and, using a multiplier based on the Monte Carlo approach, extrapolated the total cases in the city of 17 million people. The authors pointed out that their estimate squares with seroprevalence data, which found that about 14% to 15% of Beijing's population had antibodies to the H1N1 virus by early December 2009, including from vaccination. "We conclude that the multiplier model based on the Monte Carlo approach should be considered a useful and simple method for estimating the true number of infections during a pandemic," they write.
Emerg Infect Dis study posted Oct 21

NIH funds 4 trials to counteract antimicrobial resistance
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced funding for four new clinical trials to address antimicrobial resistance. The NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said in a press release that new contracts were awarded for large-scale clinical trials designed to evaluate treatment alternatives for some of the most common diseases treated with antibiotics: otitis media (middle-ear infections), community-acquired pneumonia, and diseases caused by Gram-negative bacteria. The clinical trials will last 5 to 6 years. Two of the contracts were awarded to University of Pittsburgh researchers. The other two were awarded to scientists at Wayne State University in Detroit and the Ordway Research Institute in Albany, N.Y. "Many infectious diseases are increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria and other microbes have developed resistance to commonly used antimicrobial drugs," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, said in the news release. "With these new contracts, NIAID now supports a total of eight large clinical trials in this arena."
Oct 19 NIH news release

Infections sideline Canadian cruise ship passengers
In what might be a norovirus outbreak, Canadian officials have quarantined about 40 cruise ship passengers and 3 crew members who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, with "stomach flu," the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) reported yesterday. John McCann, New Brunswick's port manager, told the CBC that sickness in 3% of a ship's passengers triggers a notice to Health Canada. The boat had 3,100 passengers. He said the ship has basic lab facilities to identify the virus, which can help the crew more quickly isolate infections.
Oct 20 CBC story

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