News Scan for Oct 18, 2013

MERS patient owns camels
More Salmonella cases
Polio vaccination in Sudan
Gene-silencing antibacterial

WHO says Qatari MERS patient had contact with camels

The 61-year-old Qatari man who has Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) had contact with farm animals, including camels, before his illness, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in confirming his case.

"The patient owns a farm and has had significant contact with the animals, including camels, sheep and hens," the WHO statement said. "Some of the animals in his farm have been tested and were negative for MERS-CoV. Further investigations into the case and the animals in the farm are ongoing."

The agency didn't specify which animals were tested. Recent studies showed that camels in Egypt, Oman, and the Canary Islands carried antibodies to MERS-CoV or a closely related virus, which stoked the suspicion that camels may have spread the virus to humans.

The WHO said the Qatari patient is hospitalized and in stable condition. The man had not traveled outside Qatar in the 2 weeks before he got sick, the agency said. His case is the sixth reported in Qatar.

With the new case, the WHO raised its MERS-CoV count to 139 cases and 60 deaths. Other groups, such as the FluTrackers online infectious disease message board, show slightly higher counts.
Oct 18 WHO statement


CDC says chicken-related Salmonella outbreak has reached 338 cases

A Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak associated with Foster Farms brand chicken has expanded to 338 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today, marking an increase of 21 cases since the last update on Oct 11.

Three quarters of the cases have occurred in California, but the outbreak now includes cases in 20 states and Puerto Rico, the CDC said. Forty percent of the patients have been hospitalized, but none have died.

The update notes that Costco's El Camino Real store in South San Francisco, Calif., issued a second recall of chicken products yesterday. The recall involves 14,093 "units" of ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken because of potential Salmonella contamination after cooking, the agency said. On Oct 12 the store had recalled 9,000 units, or about 40,000 pounds, of rotisserie chicken because of possible Salmonella Heidelberg contamination.

The Salmonella strains involved in the outbreak are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, the CDC noted.
Oct 18 CDC update


Sudan to halt hostilities to allow polio vaccination

Following a recent call from the United Nation's Security Council for warring Sudanese groups to pave the way for an urgent polio vaccination campaign, Sudan's government has unilaterally agreed to halt hostilities in South Kordofan for the first 2 weeks of November, the Sudan Tribune reported yesterday.

Ali Al-Zatari, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said he hopes the Sudan People's Liberation Movement–North will also cease activities to allow the campaign to move forward, according to the Tribune. South Kordofan, the only oil-producing state in Sudan, has been the site of civil unrest due to many factors, including South Sudan's transition to independence in 2011.

Besides stopping hostilities, the two groups would need to agree on how the vaccines will be transported and which humanitarian workers will participate in the campaign, the story said.

In view of the recent wild poliovirus 1 (WPV 1) outbreak in the Horn of Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers South Sudan at high risk for reinfection, and immunization campaigns are under way in the area to help protect the region's children.
Oct 17 Sudan Tribune story


Gene-silencing DNA analogs look promising for treating Acinetobacter

Synthetic molecules that can "silence" bacterial genes improved the survival of mice infected with two Acinetobacter species, which often cause nosocomial infections, according to a report published online this week by the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The trial by scientists at Oregon State University involved PPMOs (peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers), described as synthetic oligomers that mimic the structure of DNA and RNA but are resistant to enzymes that disrupt nucleic acids.

The report says the team developed PPMOs that target essential genes in A baumannii, the most common cause of nosocomial infections, and A lwoffii, an emerging opportunistic pathogen. Both pathogens often have an "impressive" number of antibiotic- and toxin-resistance genes, the authors say.

The PPMOs were tested in vitro and in mice with lung infections. In vitro, a "clinically relevant" dose of the most promising PPMO reduced the viability of both pathogens by more than 1,000 colony-forming units per milliliter. Mice that were treated intranasally with this same PPMO survived longer and had less bacterial lung burden than mice that were treated with a scrambled-sequence PPMO or saline solution, even when initial treatment was delayed up to 18 hours.

"Given the dramatically increasing rate of multidrug resistance in Acinetobacter throughout the world, urgent new approaches to therapeutics are needed, the authors write. "PPMOs and their gene-specific silencing attributes could be a viable approach to developing novel antibacterials for these emerging pathogens."
Oct 14 JID abstract

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