NEWS SCAN: Pool-linked E coli outbreak, malaria R&D boom, smallpox drug contract changed, polio in Pakistan

Jun 29, 2011

E coli infections linked to pool exposure
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is investigating an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak in people who played and swam at an Opelika water park. In a news release the agency said it has received 15 illness reports, including 13 in children and 2 in adults. Lab tests confirmed E coli O157:H7 infections in five of the children. Four children were hospitalized, and two have been released. The ADPH said lab tests on the water were negative for E coli, but the finding doesn't rule out the presence of the bacteria. Samples were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further testing. The city has treated the water park facility, which is open. Though E coli infections from recreational water aren't unusual, cases linked to pool water are relatively rare, because the pathogen is usually readily controlled by chlorine and other disinfectants when the products are used at optimal levels, according to background information from the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2010 a CDC survey of pool inspection records from 15 health agencies in four states found that disinfectant and pH-level violations were reported in 10.7% and 8.9%, respectively.
Jun 28 ADPH news release
WHO background information
May 21, 2010, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report survey

Pipeline of potential malaria treatments at all-time high
Yearly research and development (R&D) funding for potential malaria treatments has quadrupled over the past 16 years, reaching US$612 million in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, says a report issued yesterday. The report, commissioned by the group Roll Back Malaria (RBC) and several partners, notes that work is in progress on almost 50 drug-development projects, one vaccine in late-stage testing, and dozens of other candidate vaccines and that impressive advances have been made in mosquito control and diagnostic tests. In a press release RBC's executive director, Awa Marie Coll-Seck, said, "This robust product pipeline gives us hope that eradication of malaria is possible." To reach that goal, however, momentum must not be lost and funding levels need to be maintained with some increases for several more years, according to the report. Coll-Seck is quoted as saying that cutting funding now would be "a foolish waste of a historic opportunity." The largest donors to malaria R&D are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US government.
Jun 28 Reuters story
Jun 28 Eureka Alert release

HHS modifies smallpox drug contract in response to protest
In response to a protest from a competing firm, the US government has dropped a contract option to buy millions of extra doses of SIGA Technologies' smallpox drug, ST-246, SIGA announced this week. In May the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded SIGA a $433 million contract to provide 1.7 million treatment courses of the antiviral drug. The contract included an option for BARDA to buy up to 12 million additional courses, which could have increased the contract value to $2.8 billion. Chimerix Inc. of Durham, N.C., maker of another experimental smallpox drug, protested the contract award to SIGA, based in Corvallis, Ore. SIGA announced Jun 27 that BARDA deleted the option from the contract and that Chimerix then withdrew its protest, which had caused BARDA to suspend work under the contract. SIGA said the contract change does not bar BARDA from buying more courses of ST-246 in the future. Chimerix won a $24.8 million BARDA contract in February to develop its own drug, called CMX001.
Jun 27 SIGA press release
Feb 16 CIDRAP News item about Chimerix's BARDA contract

Polio surfaces in Pakistan area free of disease since 1998
A confirmed case of polio in a 2-year-old in the Diamer District of Bilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan is the first case there since 1998 and raises fear that the disease may have spread to areas thought to be free of it, according to an IRIN report this week. Pakistan, one of the four remaining polio-endemic countries, reported 32 cases in 2007 but 144 cases in 2010, the highest number in the world. Pakistan launched a national polio-prevention campaign in January, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has instituted aggressive vaccination measures to help limit disease spread. The affected child missed her oral polio vaccine dose because of her family's refusal. This is a frequently reported problem, partly due to "irresponsible" media reports, according to the IRIN article.
Jun 27 IRIN story

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