News Scan for Aug 12, 2014

New Saudi MERS case
Synthetic malaria drug batches
Hepatitis C epidemic
Neuro arbovirus cases in kids

Saudi Arabia reports another MERS case

For the second time in as many days, Saudi Arabia has reported a new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case after a month-long hiatus, its Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

The hospitalized patient is a 59-year-old man from Wadi ad-Dawasir in the southwestern part of the country. As usual, little information is given about the man, but the MOH said he is not a healthcare worker and has an unspecified underlying medical condition.

The MOH reported no new deaths or recoveries from the disease.

The country has now confirmed 723 MERS-CoV cases, by far the most of any country. Of those cases, 299 have proved fatal. The World Health Organization so far has confirmed 838 MERS-CoV cases and 292 deaths.
Aug 12 Saudi MOH statement
MOH MERS page with case count


Sanofi starts shipping 1.7 million doses of synthetic malaria drug

Paris-based drug company Sanofi started shipping more than 1.7 million doses of its synthetic alternative to botanically derived artemisinin to combat malaria in Africa, the company announced today in a press release.

The drug, called ASAQ Winthrop, is made in Morocco using semisynthetic artesunate. Both artesunate, the active ingredient produced from semisynthetic artemisinin, and semisynthetic artemisinin itself have been shown to be identical to artemisinin derived from the sweet wormwood plant, the company said.

Last year, Seattle-based PATH—a nonprofit that promotes vaccines—and Sanofi launched commercial production of semisynthetic artemisinin at Sanofi’s Garessio site in Italy. The synthetic alternate does not rely on an often unpredictable, changing supply of sweet wormwood.

The company's first large-scale batches of ASAQ Winthrop are being shipped to Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, and Nigeria over the next few months.

"This shipment represents a critical step in improving access to effective treatments and combatting malaria in some of the most affected countries in the world," said Robert Sebbag, MD, vice president of Sanofi's Access to Medicines.

The company said it can currently produce 50 to 60 metric tons of ASAQ Winthrop, enough to supply a third of the global need.
Aug 12 Sanofi news release


Study shows hepatitis C epidemic among non-urban drug users

Seven years of US data show an emerging epidemic of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in non-urban, predominantly white, young injection drug users, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published yesterday in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Data on HCV cases in people 30 years old and younger reported to the CDC from 2006 through 2012 showed the incidence of HCV increased 13% a year in non-urban counties compared with 5% annually in urban counties—a statistically significant difference.

Thirty (88%) of 34 states observed a higher HCV incidence in 2012 than in 2006, most notably in non-urban counties east of the Mississippi River. Of 1,202 newly reported HCV-infected young persons, 52% were female and 85% were white, the authors noted.

From 635 interviews, 75% of respondents reported injection drug use. Of those, 75% had abused prescription opioids.
Aug 11 Clin Infect Dis abstract


La Crosse, West Nile cause most pediatric neuro arbovirus cases

La Crosse and West Nile viruses lead the list of pathogens responsible for neuroinvasive arboviral infections in US children, a study yesterday in Pediatrics revealed.

CDC and University of Colorado researchers reviewed data on 1,217 cases and 22 deaths involving meningitis, encephalitis, or acute flaccid paralysis in children reported from the lower 48 states to ArboNET, the national arbovirus surveillance system, from 2003 through 2012.

They found that La Crosse virus (665 cases, 55%) and West Nile virus (505 cases, 41%) caused by far the most cases, while Eastern equine encephalitis virus (30 cases, 2%) accounted for 10 deaths.

The team also noted that La Crosse virus primarily affected younger children, whereas West Nile virus was more common in older children. And cases of West Nile occurred throughout the country, whereas La Crosse and the other arboviruses were more localized.

The authors conclude, "Decreasing the morbidity and mortality from these agents depends on vector control, personal protection to reduce mosquito and tick bites, and blood donor screening."
Aug 11 Pediatrics study


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