NEWS SCAN: 'Older' flu drivers, EU mass-gathering advisory, anthrax signaler

Jun 17, 2011

Study says teens, young adults may drive flu epidemics
Adolescents and young adults—rather than younger children—may play a lead role in driving community flu epidemics, according to Canadian researchers who explored 10 seasons worth of lab-confirmed influenza cases. To identify age-specific epidemic curves, they analyzed records of confirmed influenza A cases from September 1995 to August 2005 obtained from Canada's FluWatch program and data on hospital admissions for lab-confirmed 2009 H1N1. They determined the epidemic midpoint for each season and geographic area and characterized each season based on year-end summaries. Then they created epidemic curves for the age-groups. They found that seasonal flu peaked 1 week earlier in the 10-to-19- and 20-to-29-year-old groups compared with other groups, and during the fall wave of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic infections peaked earlier only in the 10-to-19 age-group, by 3 days. During H3N2 seasons, infections peaked nearly 4 days earlier in the 20-to-29 group compared with the next-youngest group. Researchers concluded that flu interventions in younger children are still likely to blunt the size of epidemics, but they added that the role of youths and young adults should also be considered in flu mitigation.
Am J Epidemiol abstract

Measles outbreaks prompt EU mass-gathering advisory
Measles outbreaks in several European counties prompted a warning today that European Union citizens who plan to attend mass gatherings be vaccinated against infectious disease, especially measles. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today that France, Spain, and Germany are reporting the most measles cases, but eight other EU countries are also reporting more cases than last year. It said mass gathering such as concerts, sports events, and religious gatherings pose the threat of exposure to measles and other diseases, which travelers can bring back to their home countries. For example, the ECDC said World Youth Day, scheduled for Aug 16 to 21 in Madrid, is expected to draw more than 350,000 young people from across the globe. It advised travelers that vaccinations should be administered according to their country’s recommendations.
Jun 17 ECDC statement

Scientists find ATP key in alerting body to anthrax invasion
Scientists have found that a key molecule involved in signaling a survival response to infection by Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which all organisms use in energy transfer, according to a study in the journal Immunity. In a series of experiments using genetically altered mice and inhibitor drugs, scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) sought to clarify how B anthracis invades immune cells called macrophages. The invaders release toxins that paralyze key biochemical pathways, causing rapid cell death and, if unchecked, launch a process that leads to septic shock and a high fatality rate, according to a UCSD news release. The researchers found that invaded macrophages immediately communicate with other immune cells to sound the alarm and develop a survival strategy. The key signaling molecule in this survival response, they said, is ATP. Said coauthor Victor Nizet, MD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy, "We hope these findings can be exploited for the design of new treatments to help the body combat serious bacterial pathogens."
Jun 16 Immunity abstract
Jun 15 UCSD press release

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