News Scan for Jun 11, 2013

MERS-CoV genetic data
Steroid-injection infections
Dengue in Singapore and Thailand

Saudis provide more MERS-CoV genetic sequences

Saudi Arabian officials have deposited in a public database four MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) genetic sequences from the recent hospital cluster of cases in the Al-Ahsa region, increasing the number of available sequences for the virus to nine, according to a blog entry from virologist Andrew Rambaut, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh.

The new data come amid complaints that the Saudis have released too little information about MERS-CoV cases.

The sequences were deposited in GenBank, Rambaut noted on his blog, called Epidemic: Molecular Epidemiology and Evolution of Viral Pathogens.

He used one of the new sequences to update a previous analysis based on the earlier sequences. From it, he concludes that the available data suggest it is likely that MERS-CoV jumped from animals to humans multiple times, not just once.

Rambaut also comments that the genetic distance between MERS-CoV and the most closely related animal virus, a 2008 pipistrelle bat isolate from the Netherlands, suggests that the most recent common ancestor of the isolates existed about 40 years ago.

He speculates, as have others, that there was an intermediate animal host for the virus between bats and humans.
Rambaut's Jun 10 MERS-CoV analysis

In other developments, several media reports in France today said medical authorities reported two new suspected MERS-CoV cases there.

A story from Expatica, a news service for international residents of several European countries, said the two patients are men who recently spent time in Saudi Arabia and are now hospitalized in Tours, a city in the Loire region south of Paris.

France has had two confirmed MERS-CoV cases, the first one in a man who had vacationed in Dubai in April and the second in a man who shared a hospital room with the first patient.
Jun 11 Expatica story


Suspected infections from tainted steroid shots rise to 25

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has so far linked 25 suspected infections to injectable steroids produced by Main Street Family Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy in Newbern, Tenn.

The number of infected patients is one more than reported in the last CDC update on Jun 6. The number of affected states remained at four: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina.

Most patients have skin and soft tissue infections that occurred after intramuscular injection of the methylprednisolone acetate suspected as the source of the outbreak.

On Jun 6 the CDC said tests on unopened vials found microbial contamination, including bacteria and fungi. Further tests on the samples are under way, and state and local health officials are working to verify the pharmacy's distribution records.

Also, health providers are contacting patients to determine if they were infected after receiving the recalled steroids.
Jun 10 CDC outbreak update


Singapore and Thailand face onslaught of dengue cases

Singapore and Thailand are both facing major increases in dengue virus infections this year, according to media reports.

Singapore has had more than 9,000 cases so far, which is twice the total for all of last year, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story today said the weekly case count surged to 820 last week, an all-time record.

Health officials said factors behind this year’s outbreak include lower population immunity, thanks to intensive dengue-vector controls that have resulted in fewer infections in recent years.
Jun 11 AP story
Jun 11 WSJ story

In Thailand, the health ministry said an average of 570 people per day contracted dengue last week, the first week of the rainy season, the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT) reported today.

The story said almost 40,000 people have had dengue this year in that country, half of them under age 15, and 44 have died.

Narong Sahametapat, permanent secretary for public health, said he expects a total of 100,000 to 120,000 dengue cases this year, compared with 74,250 cases last year, according to a Jun 9 Bangkok Post story.
Jun 11 NNT story
Jun 9 Bangkok Post story


Newsletter Sign-up

Get CIDRAP news and other free newsletters.

Sign up now»


Unrestricted financial support provided by

Bentson Foundation Unorthodox Philanthropy logo and text 'Leading Underwriter'3M logoGilead 
Grant support for ASP provided by


  Become an underwriter»