NEWS SCAN: Smuggled H5N1 birds in Taiwan, anthrax in Europe, sabotaging malaria

Jul 17, 2012

Taiwan finds H5N1 in smuggled pet birds
Pet birds smuggled from southern China into Taiwan have tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. The region's animal health inspectors said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today that 38 smuggled birds were intercepted at Taiwan's international airport on Jul 7 from a passenger who was traveling from Macao. Officials euthanized the birds on the spot and sent them to the national animal health laboratory, where the H5N1 virus was identified. Authorities cleaned and disinfected the facilities on the same day, and health workers monitored for 10 days staff who were in contact with the birds. All were found healthy, according to the OIE report. The AFP story said that Taiwan hasn't had any domestic H5N1 detections, but in 2005 it found the virus in eight pet birds smuggled from China.
Jul 17 OIE report
Elsewhere, veterinary officials in Vietnam said an H5N1 outbreak has struck ducks in three communes of Quang Bihn province, Viet Nam News Service (VNS) reported today. The province's animal health department said poultry movements in the area have been curbed and workers have sprayed the affected areas with disinfectants. Quang Binh, located on Vietnam's north-central coast, borders Laos on the west and the South China Sea to the east.
Jul 17 VNS story

ECDC reports more anthrax cases linked to drug injection
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) yesterday reported two new cases of anthrax in injecting drug users (IDUs) in Denmark and France, bringing the total of such cases in June and July in Europe to five. The previous three cases were all in Germany. The first two of those, in Bavaria, were linked through exposure to heroin contaminated by a "most likely identical" strain of Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax, the ECDC said in a risk assessment. "For the third German case there is also some laboratory evidence that the strain could be identical with the outbreak strain, but due to the limited amount of DNA, further typing is not possible," the agency said. "The link of the remaining two cases, though probable, needs to be confirmed through molecular typing." The third German case is from Berlin. One of the Bavarian case-patients and the one from Denmark died. "As anthrax cannot normally be transmitted from person to person, the risk to the general population following these five cases is negligible," the ECDC said. It added, however, that the cases highlight "the importance of clinical awareness in healthcare settings of the risk of injection-related infection with rare pathogens among the IDU population."
Jul 16 ECDC risk assessment
Jul 16 ECDC press release on the assessment

Genetically modified bacteria kill malaria parasites in mosquitoes
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Institute say they have found a way to modify a type of bacterium found in the gut of malaria-carrying mosquitoes so that it kills Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest human malaria parasite. The bacterium, Pantoea agglomerans, was genetically modified to secrete proteins toxic to the parasite, but the toxins do not harm the mosquito or humans, according to a press release from the institute. The researchers reported their work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The report says the modified bacteria reduced P falciparum and the rodent malaria parasite P berghei by up to 98%. "In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach," Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, PhD, senior author of the study, commented in the press release. "The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people."
Jul 17 Johns Hopkins press release
Jul 16 PNAS abstract

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