News Scan for Mar 26, 2015

H5N2 in Wyoming
A probiotic for meningitis
Global health funding
HIV emergency in Indiana

H5N2 virus found in Wyoming wild bird

An infected Canada goose has put Wyoming on the growing list of US states that have recently detected the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 virus, while Bulgaria reported today that the HPAI H5N1 virus has surfaced in pelicans.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said today the H5N2 virus was found in a wild Canada goose in southeastern Wyoming's Laramie County. A sample from the goose, which was sick, was tested by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory and by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.

Referring to the H5N2 and H5N8 viruses circulating in the United States, the USDA said the find is the first discovery of "the Eurasian lineage avian influenza viruses in wild birds in the Central flyway" for migratory birds.

The H5N2 virus surfaced earlier this month in a backyard poultry flock in northeastern Kansas, which also lies in the Central flyway. Other H5N2 outbreaks have occurred this month on turkey farms in Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas, which are along the Mississippi flyway.

These were preceded by a number of H5N2 findings in wild birds and backyard poultry flocks in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, starting in December with an infected wild duck in northwestern Washington. No human infections with the H5N2 virus have been reported.
Mar 26 USDA statement

In Bulgaria, the H5N1 virus killed 21 Dalmatian pelicans in the northeastern province of Silistra, according to a report the government submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak began 3 days ago.

The latest finding comes about 2 months after H5N1 was reported in wild birds and a backyard poultry flock in southeastern Bulgaria's Burgas province.
Mar 26 OIE report


Study: Harmless bacteria may help prevent meningitis

Using nasal drops containing a harmless relative of Neisseria meningitidis, the bacterium that causes meningitis, reduces carriage of the pathogen and therefore may limit its spread to others, according to a study published yesterday in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The researchers note that meningococcal vaccines provide herd protection by limiting carriage of N meningitidis in the nose and throat. Because there is an inverse relationship between colonization by the harmless species Neisseria lactamica and meningococcal disease, they decided to study whether inoculation of volunteers with N lacatamica would prevent N meningitidis carriage.

The team gave nose drops containing low doses of N lactamica to 149 British university students and administered saline solution to a control group of 161 students. The students were tested regularly over 6 months.

At baseline, natural N meningitidis carriage in the control group was 22.4% (36/161); this increased to 33.6% (48/143) by week 26, the report says. In the treatment group, colonization by N lactamica reached 33.6% (48 of 143) at 2 weeks after inoculation. Meningoccal carriage in this group dropped from 24.2% (36 of 149) at baseline to 14.7% (21 of 143) at 2 weeks, a significant decline. This decrease was seen only in carriers of N lactamica and persisted for at least 16 weeks.

At the end of 6 months, the controls were given N lactamica drops, and tests 2 weeks later showed similar inhibition of N meningitidis in them.

"It's the first time that anyone has taken a bug—a friendly bacterium—and has shown that it changes the way that you can become colonized by the meningitis bacterium," study author Robert C. Read, MD, of the University of Southampton, UK, said in a press release from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

He described the study as a proof of principle. More research is needed, he said, to confirm that N lactamica is entirely harmless and that it does not evolve while living in the airway.
Mar 25 Clin Infect Dis abstract
Mar 25 IDSA
press release


US group decries spending cuts for global health R&D

A health technology alliance warned in a report today that budget battles in Washington are eroding preparedness at home and abroad as the nation combats Ebola, drug-resistant pathogens, malaria, tuberculosis, and a host of other health threats.

"Since 2009, we've seen declining, or at best stagnating, support for global health research and development, with politics trumping prudent investments that could protect the US and the world from an array of threats," said Erin Will Morton, director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), in a GHTC news release. GHTC is an alliance of 25 nonprofit organizations that seeks new tools to address existing challenges like AIDS, emerging problems like dengue, and neglected diseases like river blindness.

A GHTC analysis detailed in the report notes that recent budget cuts have reduced annual US government spending for global health research and development by $185 million, or 11% below 2009 levels.

The report includes a long list of critical innovations now under development that could be slowed or derailed by poor funding, such as new treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria parasites, and drug-resistant bacteria and new diagnostic tools to help fight outbreaks like Ebola. The GHTC is particularly concerned about how budget cuts could affect work at the National Institutes of Health, which powers much research.

The prospect of additional cuts is alarming disease experts, who warn that the next global health crisis could already be smoldering in places like Syria and Iraq, which have seen increases in polio, measles, and other diseases, the GHTC said. It added that inadequate health systems that aided the spread of Ebola are not particular to West Africa.
Mar 26 GHTC news release
Mar 26 GHTC


Indiana governor declares HIV emergency in southeastern county

Indiana Governor Mike Pence today declared a public health emergency in Scott County because of an outbreak of at least 79 cases of HIV linked to injection drug use. His executive order calls for a coordinated multi-agency response and provides resources to combat the epidemic, the state said in a news release today.

So far this year the Indiana State Department of Health has confirmed 79 HIV cases originating in the southeastern Indiana county, which is home to about 24,000 people. Typically Scott County averages fewer than five new HIV cases a year.

Governor Pence met with the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control on Mar 23 and visited Scott County officials, health professionals, and residents yesterday and informed them that he would be declaring the public health emergency.

"This is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” said Gov. Pence. "The people of Scott County are working hard to address this crisis, and with additional state resources and new tools provided by this emergency declaration, I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks."
Mar 26 Indiana news release

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