NEWS SCAN: Ag antibiotics in China, FDA food safety meetings, H5N1 in Nepal, polio in Niger

Feb 12, 2013

High levels of antibiotic resistance genes found in Chinese pig manure
Chinese and US researchers found high levels of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in manure on commercial pig farms in China, suggesting that the unregulated use of antibiotics in farm animals is allowing the spread of such genes, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The scientists, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Michigan State University (MSU), studied the types and concentrations of ARGs at three stages of manure processing on three large swine farms. All major classes of antibiotics except vancomycin were used as feed supplements or to treat sick pigs on the farms. Using polymerase chain reaction, the authors detected 149 unique resistance genes in their samples. The 63 most common ARGs were a median of 192 times more common in the samples than in antibiotic-free manure or soil controls. Antibiotics and heavy metals used as feed supplements were elevated in the manures, and the abundance of ARGs correlated directly with antibiotic and metal concentrations, indicating their importance in selection of resistance genes, the report says. In an MSU press release, coauthor James Tiedje, PhD, an MSU microbiology professor, said, "Our research took place in China, but it reflects what's happening in many places around the world. The World Organization for Animal Health and the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] have been advocating for improved regulation of veterinary antibiotic use because those genes don't stay local." The release said antibiotics are weakly regulated in China, and the amount of veterinary antibiotics used in China is four times that in the United States.
Feb 11 PNAS abstract
Feb 11 MSU press release

FDA sets meetings to air rules implementing food safety law
The FDA announced it will hold public meetings in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Portland in coming weeks to discuss two of the major rules it has proposed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The sessions, each a day and a half long, will focus on the proposed rules on produce safety and on good manufacturing practice and risk-based preventive controls, which were unveiled in early January. The Washington meeting is scheduled for Feb 28 and Mar 1 at the US Department of Agriculture's Jefferson Auditorium. The Chicago session will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue on Mar 11 and 12, and the Portland session will be at the Crown Plaza Downtown Convention Center on Mar 27 and 28. "The meetings are . . . designed to solicit oral and public comments from stakeholders on the proposed rules, inform the public about the rulemaking process (including how to submit comments, data, and other information to the rulemaking dockets), and respond to questions about the proposed rules," the FDA said in a Federal Register notice. The two rules at issue are the first of five that are expected to be established under FSMA.
Advance copy of Feb 13 FDA Federal Register notice

H5N1 turns up in another Nepal region
Livestock officials in Nepal have confirmed an H5N1 outbreak at a poultry farm in a village in Jhapa district, located in the far southeastern part of the country, The Himalayan Times, an English-language newspaper based in Nepal, reported yesterday. Tests at the Central Livestock Lab in Kathmandu in the wake of about 200 poultry deaths at the farm over the past few days confirmed the virus. A response team went to the farm to cull the remaining 30 birds. Nepal has reported several recent H5N1 outbreaks at poultry farms, with most of them occurring at locations in the Kathmandu valley.
Feb 11 Himalayan Times story

WHO: Niger polio case linked to Nigeria
A genetic analysis of a new wild poliovirus (WPV) 1 case in Niger, the country's first since December 2011, suggests that it was recently imported and closely resembles samples from Nigeria's Kaduna state, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. The patient, from the Tahoua region, started having paralysis symptoms on Nov 15, and the WHO received notification about the WPV1 case on Jan 3. Niger's government responded with a supplemental immunization activity on Jan 15 that targeted 2 million children with bivalent vaccine. Officials launched a nationwide campaign on Feb 2 with a goal of reaching more than 5 million children with trivalent vaccine. A second nationwide immunization push is slated for early March and will involve the bivalent oral polio vaccine, according to the statement. The WHO has deployed a national and international team of epidemiologists and public health experts to help with the response and look for additional polio cases. It added that the risk of further spread of polio from Nigeria is high and the spread from Niger is moderate to high. The risks in the region are magnified by large population movements due to political insecurity in Mali, the WHO said, adding that plans are under way to address the threat with additional vaccine campaigns in late April and May.
Feb 12 WHO statement
In other polio news, Nigerian police have arrested three radio journalists whom they say aired discussions about polio vaccine rumors that fueled the attack that recently killed nine female vaccination workers, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Kano state police commissioner said the journalists will be charged with "culpable homicide." The radio program described how one of the journalists was accosted by a government official while recording a man who refused to have his children vaccinated, according to the AP report.
Feb 12 AP story

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