News Scan for Sep 08, 2016

Prize for drug-resistance tests
Anthrax-like illness in Africa
H7N9 vaccine trial results

HHS offers $20 million for innovative antimicrobial resistance tests

The US government is awarding $20 million in prizes for innovative ideas for the development of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic lab tests to quickly identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) press release today.

The Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge is sponsored by the NIH and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), both parts of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). "The diagnostic tests being sought are those that identify and characterize antibiotic resistant bacteria and those that distinguish between viral and bacterial infections to reduce unnecessary uses of antibiotics, a major cause of drug resistance," the NIH said in the release.

The goal is to be able to identify pathogens and resistance factors within hours, rather than the 2 to 3 days or longer that the standard culture tests require.

Concepts must be submitted by Jan 9, 2017, for the first phase of the competition, when up to 20 semifinalists will be chosen to receive up to $50,000. In the second phase, on Dec 3, 2018, up to 10 finalists will receive up to $100,000.  These funds can be used to develop prototypes for evaluation by two independent laboratories, which will be considered when final winners are selected and announced on Jul 31, 2020.  The competition specifies that up to three winners can be selected, and winners will share an amount equal to or greater than $18 million.

"The growing incidence of serious infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria presents a critical risk to the public health of our nation," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. "My hope is that this competition will spur exceptional innovators to rise to the challenge and deliver effective tools to help manage this significant problem."
Sep 8 NIH news release
Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge home page


Researcher report Bacillus cereus that causes anthrax-like illness

Researchers have identified a new distinct strain of Bacillus cereus isolates causing anthrax-like illness in animals in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a paper published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

According to researchers, these atypical B. cereus bacterium are part of a clade distinct from B anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. But like B anthacis, the new strain causes severe illness and death in both wild and domestic animals. The researchers said the distinct clade has only been found only in Africa, leading them to believe the bacteria only thrive in warm, humid climates.

While no human infection with B cereus has been described, the authors warn that consuming animals infected with this clade could result in animal-to-human transmission.
Sep 8 PLoS Negl Trop Dis study


Two-dose adjuvanted H7N9 vaccine shows promise in clinical trial

Two doses of an AS03-adjuvanted H7N9 avian influenza triggered a robust antibody response and was well tolerated, a GlaxoSmithKline-led team reported yesterday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Since the novel H7N9 virus emerged in China in 2013, researchers have been testing several vaccine strategies, given that earlier vaccines developed against H7 subtypes haven't yielded strong immune responses.

In the phase 1/2 trial, investigators administered two doses 21 days apart of different vaccine formulations, as well as a placebo. They tested four versions containing the AS03 oil-and-water emulsion adjuvant: low and medium levels of antigen and two different adjuvant potencies. They also measured participants' response against the nonadjuvanted vaccine and placebo.

They found that all of the adjuvant versions met regulatory acceptance criteria, including the lower antigen-sparing dose. Subjects who got the higher-potency adjuvant had a stronger immune response.

All adjuvanted versions led to higher than 85.7% seroconversion, greater than 91.1% seroprotection, and geometric mean titers of 92.9 or higher. For the non-adjuvanted vaccine, by contrast, those numbers were 23.2%, 28.6%, and 17.2, respectively. None of the 20 serious adverse events reported were vaccine related, the investigators said.

They concluded that the vaccine candidate could be helpful if the H7N9 virus gains the capacity for sustained human-to-human transmission or to protect those at risk.
Sep 7 J Infect Dis abstract

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