NEWS SCAN: Cheese recall over E coli, H5N1 in Egypt, adjuvanted flu vaccine, UK flu worries, lab biosecurity in India

Dec 17, 2010

Cheese recalled in E coli probe
An investigation into an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened eight people in Washington state has led to a recall of Sally Jackson brand cheeses made from raw cow, goat, and sheep milk, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said today in a recall notice. Cheese products from the Oroville, Wash., company were distributed nationwide to restaurants, distributors, and retail stores. An investigation by the FDA and its Washington and Oregon health partners found that the cheese was processed under conditions that created high risks of contamination and is one possible source of illness in the ongoing investigation, the FDA said in a separate statement today. The FDA said it completed its inspection and issued a Form 483 inspection report, which pointed to problems related to the sanitation of the facility and its employees, equipment, and utensils as well as problems with facility construction and maintenance. Of seven patients for whom food histories were available, one reported consuming Sally Jackson cheese and four others said they might have consumed it. Three of the four who might have consumed it ate the cheese in restaurants, while the fourth may have sampled it along with other brands. All three types of cheese subject to the today's recall are soft and in pieces of various sizes. The cow and sheep milk cheese is wrapped in chestnut leaves, and the goat cheese is wrapped in grape leaves and tied with twine. The packages may have an outer wax paper wrapping.
Dec 17 FDA recall notice
Dec 17 FDA news release

Egyptian woman hospitalized with H5N1
Egypt's health ministry announced yesterday that a 25-year-old woman from Beheira governorate was hospitalized with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported. If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the woman's illness, her case will be listed as Egypt's 114th, of which 37 have been fatal. Health ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahin told MENA that the woman came down with a high fever and other flu symptoms after she had been exposed to sick household birds. She was treated with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and is in stable condition, Shahin said. Egypt reported its last human H5N1 case, in a 30-year-old woman who died from her infection, on Dec 8.
Dec 16 MENA story

Adjuvanted H1N1 vaccine found more immunogenic than nonadjuvanted
In a head-to-head comparison, a low-dose, adjuvanted 2009 H1N1 vaccine induced a stronger immune response in adults than did a higher-dose vaccine with no adjuvant, according to a report published online today by Lancet Infectious Diseases. The trial, funded by the United Kingdom Department of Health, pitted GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK's) split-virion vaccine (Pandemrix) with the oil-in-water adjuvant AS03 at a dose of 3.75 micrograms (mcg) against Baxter's whole-virion vaccine (Celvapan) at a dose of 7.5 mcg. The researchers recruited 347 volunteers and divided them into three age-groups: 18 to 44, 45 to 64, and 65 and older; each volunteer received two doses 21 days apart. By day 21, seroconversion was observed in 88% of the 18- to 44-year-olds with the adjuvanted vaccine, versus 63% of that age-group with the nonadjuvanted vaccine. The seroconversion rates for adjuvanted and nonadjuvanted vaccines for the older age-groups were: 45 to 64 years, 74% and 36%; 65 and older, 51% and 29%. Because of the lower response in older people, the authors suggest that a two-dose strategy should be considered for them. In an accompanying commentary, Geert and Isabel Leourx-Roels of the Ghent University Centre for Vaccinology says the study clearly shows that the adjuvanted vaccine is more immunogenic and confirms similar earlier findings in children. But they said it is not yet known if the higher antibody responses found in the study signify better protection from flu.
Dec 17 Lancet Infect Dis study abstract
Dec 17 Lancet Infect Dis commentary preview

Flu worries, activity reported in UK, Israel
British general practitioners (GPs) are "deeply concerned that a major flu crisis is brewing this winter and are calling on the government to step up the public awareness campaign for seasonal flu immunization," the British Medical Association (BMA) said today. Physicians are concerned about a low immunization rate in their high-risk patients and that this could make this year's flu season worse. Dr. Laurence Buckman, chair of the BMA's GP Committee, wrote to the Department of Health's immunization director to urge an increase in publicity about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Meanwhile, 30 Israeli soldiers who were taking an officers' course in Jerusalem were hit by the H1N1 virus this week, Israel National News reported yesterday. They were said to be in good condition. In other developments, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today posted a global flu surveillance update for the week that ended Dec 4. It says flu activity was still low in most regions that week, but Russia had "medium intensity activity." The report also says that most of the flu viruses tested in Canada and China so far were H3N2 strains. In contrast, 2009 H1N1 and type B have predominated in the United Kingdom and other European countries so far.
Dec 17 BMA statement
Dec 16 Israel National News report
Dec 17 CDC global flu update

Leaked documents show US worry over Indian labs' biosecurity
A Wikileaks document published today by the British newspaper The Guardian shows that in 2006, US Embassy officials in New Delhi raised concerns about lax biosecurity conditions at India's labs, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. One diplomatic cable marked "confidential" said international terrorists could exploit India's biotechnology industry and research labs as potential sources of biological agents. The leaked cables suggested the security was loose and scientists could be recruited for money or out of ideological sympathy. US officials also said India was not well prepared for a biological attack. An Indian official called the US assessments "far-fetched and fanciful," but Suman Sahai, a biotechnology expert, told the AP that security conditions are still poor, regulatory systems are porous, and employees are easily influenced.
Dec 17 AP story

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