News Scan for Jan 10, 2018

Ebola antibody findings
USDA egg product rule
1918 pandemic flu severity

DRC study shows evidence of Ebola exposure outside of outbreak zones

About 11% of a population sampled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had Zaire Ebola virus (EBOV) immunoglobulin G antibodies, providing serological evidence of Ebola prevalence in populations not currently experiencing an Ebola outbreak.

The data are contained in a new study published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. In 2007, researchers randomly selected 14 villages in central DRC where they collected serological samples from 3,415 participants.

At the time of the study, DRC had seen three Ebola outbreaks (1976, 1977, and 1995) and a small outbreak was taking in place in rural areas near the study sites. The researchers found that 11% of participants had antibodies to Ebola, and those who lived in villages near the current outbreak were 1.6 times more likely to test positive for antibodies to the virus.

Being older than 15 years of age and being male were positively associated with having Ebola antibodies, the study authors said. Hunting, visiting areas forests, and contact with rodents were also positively associated with serological evidence of Ebola.

"Because the symptoms can be nonspecific and range from flu-like symptoms to acute hemorrhagic fever, it is probable that there are many cases that go unrecognized, unreported, and attributed to other common illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, or influenza," the authors concluded. "Our analyses suggest that individuals outside known outbreak zones in central DRC may be exposed to EBOV."
Jan 10 J Infect Dis study


USDA proposes changes in egg product inspection rules

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) yesterday proposed a new rule aimed at modernizing the inspection of egg products, which would require processors to meet sanitation requirements that apply to meat and poultry regulations and require finished egg products to be free of detectable pathogens.

In a press release, the USDA said the rule proposes that plants that process egg products develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (Sanitation SOPs), as well as meet other requirements. The proposal would eliminate current rules that don't align with meat and poultry regulations.

It said the proposed rule changes would make egg products safer while removing unnecessary obstacles to innovations. Under the HACCP system, plants could tailor food safety systems to their facilities and equipment, and by removing other regulations, egg product plants could have the flexibility and incentive to develop new ways to enhance food safety.

With the new rules, FSIS would be taking over jurisdiction of egg substitutes, which pose the same risk as egg products and will be treated with the same level of scrutiny and care.

Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg, JD, said, "This proposed rule will ensure the same level of inspection and oversight of all regulated products as we carry out our public health mission."

Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 120-day comment period.
Jan 9 USDA press release


Ferret study reveals more clues about severity of 1918 pandemic flu virus

Experiments with ferrets to better understand the pathogenicity of the 1918 H1N1 pandemic flu virus found that it can spread to body tissues beyond the respiratory system, where it can trigger inflammatory cytokine responses. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., and Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands reported their findings today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Of all known flu pandemics, the 1918 pandemic was most severe, causing millions of deaths worldwide. Aside from viral pneumonia, which often led to secondary bacterial infections, one non-respiratory complication that stood out was encephalitis lethargica.

After intranasally inoculating the  ferrets with the 1918 pandemic virus, the researchers looked at virologic, histologic, and immunologic patterns in respiratory tract, nervous system, and other body tissues at 1, 3, 5, and 7 days after infection.

The team found high virus titers in respiratory tissues, and lower levels in most extra-respiratory tissues. They saw evidence of active virus replication in the respiratory tract, peripheral and central nervous system, and liver. Also, they detected cytokine upregulation in respiratory tissues, olfactory bulb, spinal cord, liver, heart, and pancreas.

The researchers concluded that the spread of 1918 virus outside the respiratory tract and its impact on cytokine response probably contributed to the severity of the disease. They also said their findings support a link between the virus and central nervous system complications.
Jan 10 J Infect Dis abstract

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