News Scan for Apr 23, 2018

HHS anthrax antitoxin buy
Ebola lab exposure
Measles vaccine gaps, death burden

HHS buys more anthrax antitoxin for Strategic National Stockpile

The office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced that it will purchase $25.2 million worth of anthrax antitoxin from Elusys Therapeutics for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

Robert Kadlec, MD, who leads ASPR, said that protecting Americans from current threats such as anthrax remains a high priority for the department. "This procurement under Project BioShield ensures we continue to have treatment options for people exposed to anthrax and increases the number of courses available in an emergency."

The funds, from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of ASPR, cover continued manufacturing and purchase of the company's obiltoxaximab (Anthim). The drug can be used alongside antibiotics to neutralize toxins produced by Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. Eulasys developed the drug though a partnership with BARDA, which got early research funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In March 2016 the Food and Drug Administration approved Anthim for use in patients with inhalational anthrax, and the first delivery of the drug was made to the SNS the same year.
Apr 23 HHS press release


Hungarian lab worker isolated after exposure to Ebola

A Hungarian lab worker is isolated and under observation at a Budapest hospital a week after accidental exposure to Ebola virus, Reuters reported on Apr 20, citing the country's health officials.

The World Health Organization (WHO) told the news service that the patient was immediately isolated, based on standard procedures and hasn't shown any symptoms. The agency added that it sent an experimental vaccine and other treatments, which the patient has received.

The risk of spread from worker's exposure is negligible, the WHO said. Hungary's National Institute of Environmental Health said there was no threat to other workers or the public.

The vaccine is likely VSV-EBOV, which was shown to be highly effective in ring vaccine trials during Guinea's outbreak. The vaccine hasn't been licensed but is available for experimental and investigational use by the WHO and Doctors Without Borders.
Apr 20 Reuters story


ECDC reports teen, young adult vaccination gaps, threats to young kids

An analysis of measles activity in European countries in 2017 by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) found that up to 80% of teens and young adults who had the disease that year were unvaccinated. In a press release today, the ECDC went on to warn that there can be pockets of unvaccinated people, even in countries that have high overall coverage.

Andrea Ammon, MD, ECDC director, said in the press release, "It is essential that teenagers and young adults check their vaccination status, as we are seeing a recurring pattern in measles outbreaks where they are being affected." She added that countries may need to consider catch-up campaigns to close the vaccination gaps in those two groups.

For 2017, European nations reported 14,600 measles cases, more than triple the number reported in 2016. The hardest-hit countries were Romania, Italy, Greece, and Germany. Thirty-seven deaths from the disease were reported in eight countries, though most were in Romania.

In its most recent monthly monitoring report for measles and rubella, the ECDC said measles infections are on the rise in a number of countries, especially Romania, Greece, France, and Italy, which together have reported 13 deaths so far this year. The ECDC said it was especially concerned about cases in France, which tripled over the last month, and Italy, where infections more than doubled.

In a related development, a study by ECDC researchers of measles cases from 2013 through 2017 presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Barcelona this weekend found that, of 37,365 cases, 81% involved unvaccinated people. The greatest number of deaths were in the youngest patients, and 1-year-old children were six times more likely to die from the disease compared with those ages 2 and older. Babies younger than 1 year were seven time more likely to die.
Apr 23 ECDC press release
Apr 13 ECDC measles and rubella monitoring report for April
Apr 21 ECCMID press release

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