News Scan for Feb 05, 2014

Funds for bioterror drug
Salmonella policy for chicken
New porcine epidemic diarrhea virus

HHS funds drug to fight bioterror agents, drug-resistant infections

The federal government will provide up to $90 million to develop a new drug to treat two potential bioterror threats and possibly to combat antibiotic-resistant infections, the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS's) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced today.

The ASPR's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will support the development of the drug Carbavance under a 5-year cost-sharing agreement with Rempex Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, a subsidiary of The Medicines Company, HHS said in a news release.

The drug has shown promise against both melioidosis and glanders, diseases caused by different types of Burkholderia bacteria. Both diseases are considered category B bioterrorism agents, meaning they are moderately easy to disseminate and can cause moderate rates of morbidity.

With existing antibiotic treatments, about 40% of people who fall ill from these bacteria die, and up to 90% die if not treated, HHS said.

In addition, Carbavance could be used to treat complicated urinary tract infections, hospital-acquired pneumonia, ventilator-acquired pneumonia, and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), all of which are or can be resistant to existing antibiotics, HHS said in the release.

"By partnering with industry to develop novel antimicrobial drugs against biothreats that also treat drug-resistant bacteria, we can address health security and public health needs efficiently," said BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD, in the release. The agreement with Rempex involves an initial commitment of $19.8 million from BARDA but can be expanded to $90 million over 5 years.
Feb 5 HHS news release
CIDRAP's newly updated overview on glanders and melioidosis


Experts debate 'zero tolerance' for Salmonella in chicken

Is a "zero tolerance" policy on Salmonella on raw chicken possible in the United States? Food Safety News (FSN) today explored that question, with experts landing on both sides of the debate.

Urvashi Rangan, PhD, a toxicologist with Consumer Reports, said Europe's zero-tolerance policy for Salmonella on chicken has cut contamination significantly there, possibly to less than 1% in Denmark and Sweden. Zero-tolerance proponents also cite the example of the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) longstanding zero-tolerance policy on Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground beef, which has successfully curbed contamination.

Others, including some microbiologists and USDA officials, said zero tolerance cannot work on the scale of the US food system.

One such opponent is Michael Doyle, PhD, microbiologist and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. He said that comparing the European and US poultry industries, or E coli in beef to Salmonella in US chicken, is complicated.

Methods of Salmonella testing differ by country, and, by "using the right methods, you'd likely find Salmonella in [European] products as well," Doyle said. He added, "The Scandinavian countries probably produce as much chicken in a year as we do in a week in Augusta, Georgia." He also said the cost of a pound of chicken in nations that report less than a 1% Salmonella contamination rate is often three to five times the US cost.
Feb 5 FSN story


New strain of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus detected

A new strain of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has been identified by Iowa State researchers as the pork industry faces huge losses from the disease, which does not affect humans, according to media reports.

Rodger Main, DVM, of Iowa State, said the novel strain was identified in samples from Illinois and Missouri. "We found that there is a variant out there that appears to be quite different than the original," Main told Reuters. He said a "tremendous amount" of sequencing has been done on the new strain, but more work needs to be done to understand its origins.

PEDv is highly contagious in pigs, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and severe hydration. It kills 80% or more of piglets and a lower percentage of older pigs, the story said. Officials said pork from pigs that survive the virus is safe to eat.

Industry analysts have estimated that up to 4 million pigs may have died from the virus, the story said.
Feb 3 Reuters report

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