News Scan for Sep 16, 2016

Zika money in Florida
Saudi MERS case
Emerging pathogens in meat
Colistin resistance in France
Poor RSV vaccine data
Low-path H5N3 in France

Florida governor allocates more money to fight Zika

In the face of stalled federal dollars to fund the fight against Zika, Florida Governor Rick Scott said he would be allocating an additional $10 million in funds from the state’s General Revenue fund to fight the mosquito-borne illness. Florida has now spent $36.2 million on Zika.

Scott's announcement came after he travelled to Washington DC, to convince Congress that urgent action was needed to successfully fight Zika. Florida has been the epicenter of Zika virus in the United States, with local transmission of the virus currently taking place in Miami-Dade County.

"Zika is non-partisan and I have been very clear that something had to get done this week," Scott said on his website. "While it doesn’t look like that is going to happen, I will not wait on the federal government to protect Floridians and our visitors."

The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that some congressional aides are hinting at possible progress on a Zika funding bill. Aides said Republicans would allow "Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics share in new funding to fight the virus."

Efforts to pass Zika funding have failed three times since President Obama first requested $1.9 billion in February. Lawmakers have until Oct 1 to pass legislation and prevent a government shutdown.
Sep 16 Governor Scott statement
Sep 15 AP story


First new Saudi MERS case reported in 5 days

The Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS today, the first in nearly a week.

A 70-year-old man from Hail was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) after presenting with symptoms. He is currently in stable condition, and the MOH listed his exposure to the virus as primary, which means he did not acquire it from another patient.

On Sep 14, the World Health Organization said Saudi Arabia mitigated any MERS threat during the Hajj pilgrimage, which brought 2 million people to Mecca.

Saudi Arabia's MERS case count since 2012 has now reached 1,452, including 613 deaths. Three patients are still being treated, according to the MOH.
Sep 16 MOH report


Pew report: Better effort needed to prevent foodborne pathogens

The Pew Charitable Trust published a report earlier this week detailing the ways US food producers can limit the risk of novel foodborne pathogens, including MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), as well as established pathogens which are showing emerging strains, like Listeria

To protect consumers, the report outlines several recommendations, including expanded testing of retail meats for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus. The report also recommends increasing funding for basic food safety research and limiting antibiotic use in agriculture.

The 77-page report concludes by emphasizing that foodborne disease is not a static threat. "New risks will continue to emerge, and it is important to improve and integrate surveillance to be able to detect and assess emerging hazards of both newly recognized EPs [emerging pathogens] and emerging strains of known pathogens. Surveillance should span food, humans, food-producing animals, and the environments in which they live."
Sep 13 Pew Charitable Trusts report


French researchers report non-MCR-1 colistin resistance in CRE

In analyzing samples from a French national database of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) from patients, Swiss and French scientists found that from 6% to 8% of Klebsiella and Enterobacter isolates were resistant to collagen without carrying the MCR-1 colistin-resistance gene that has now been reported in more than 30 nations.

In their report in Eurosurveillance yesterday, the investigators note that the rate is markedly lower than in other southern European countries.

Their analysis included 972 consecutive CRE isolates from 2014. Included were 577 Klebsiella (59%), 236 Escherichia coli (24%), 108 Enterobacter (11%), 50 Citrobacter (5%), and 1 Salmonella isolate (0.1%). Of 561 K. pneumoniae isolates, 35 (6.2%) were found to be resistant to colistin. And of 91 Enterobacter cloacae isolates, 7 (7.7%) were resistant to colistin and produced different types of carbapenemases.

Surprisingly, the researchers reported none of the E coli or Citrobacter isolates demonstrated resistance to colistin. They also note that the colistin resistance rate in the CRE K pneumoniae isolates was much lower than in Spain (20%) and Italy (43%).

The authors conclude, "No plasmid-encoded mcr-1 gene was identified here. Therefore it seems that it is still possible to control the spread of those multidrug-resistant isolates based on accurate identification of colistin resistance and isolation of plasmid-encoded MCR-1 producers. Amikacin and fosfomycin remained the antibiotic agents most effective against those isolates which were resistant to polymyxins and produced a carbapenemase."
Sep 15 Eurosurveill report


Results of Novavax trial of RSV vaccine in seniors disappoint

Novavax, Inc., yesterday reported disappointing phase 3 trial results in seniors for its candidate vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to a press release from the company.

The company said goals of the trial of it recombinant F-protein nanoparticle candidate, conducted at 60 sites in the United States in 11,856 adults age 60 and older, were to show efficacy against moderate-to-severe RSV-linked lower respiratory disease and efficacy against all respiratory symptoms related to RSV. The vaccine failed to meet both end points.

Gregory Glen, MD, president of research and development at Novavax, said in the statement that that there doesn't appear to be problems with the trial's execution or the quality of the vaccine. One problem, though, could be that the trial took place during a mild RSV season in older adults. During the trial, investigators saw an attack rate of 2% for any RSV-linked respiratory disease, with the attack rate at 0.4% for lower respiratory disease caused by RSV. The levels were much lower than the 3% to 7% attack rates historically seen in older adults.

"We are continuing to investigate potential root causes that could have impacted the outcome of this trial," Glen said. "We continue to believe that there is a path forward for our RSV vaccine and that there is an important unmet need for an RSV vaccine in older adults."

Novavax also described early results from a phase 2 trial designed to test the efficacy of a second annual dose of the vaccine. That trial, which enrolled 1,329 older adults from 10 centers, also took place during the same low-attack-rate year, but it hints that second-season immunization was protective, even in a year with a very low attack rate. The company said it would know more after it fully evaluates the immune responses.

Stanley Erck, Novavax's president and chief executive officer, in the statement called the results unexpected, but added that the company still believes in its product. He added that the company will provide a more detailed update at an investor and analyst meeting on Oct 11.
Sep 15 Novavax press release


Low-path H5N3 avian flu found on French farm

The same day that France said it will lift restrictions in the southwestern area of the country that has been hit by at least 81 highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks, French officials report finding the low-pathogenic version of the virus, which is not as deadly to poultry.

Low-path H5N3 avian flu was detected by surveillance efforts in a flock of 6,000 poultry on a farm in Athos-Aspis in Pyrenees-Atlantiques department in the far southwest, officials said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) yesterday. Samples taken on Sep 6 tested positive by both sequencing and polymerase chain reaction on Sep 13.

France has now reported eight detections of low-path H5N3 avian flu in less than a year, with the most recent previous one last month.
Sep 15 OIE report
Sep 15 Reuters story on end to restrictions

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