News Scan for Jan 30, 2019

Saudi MERS case
Consumer food safety practices
Pandemic response innovation

Camel contact linked to new Saudi MERS case

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported another case of MERS-CoV today, this time in a man who had contact with camels.

In an update to its epidemiologic week 5 report, the MOH said the patient was a 65-year-old man from Buraydah. He is hospitalized for his MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection.

In the World Health Organization's most recent MERS-CoV update, it said that, as of Dec 31, it had received reports of 2,279 MERS-CoV cases since 2012, at least 806 of them fatal.

Saudi officials have now reported 12 MERS cases this month.
Jan 30 MOH report


USDA: Only 14% of American home cooks use food thermometers

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveyed Americans on home cooking practices and found only 14% used a food thermometer when preparing meals with meat, poultry, or seafood, and about 2% of cooks consumed raw milk in the past 7 days.

The information is gathered in a new report that aimed to assess how many Americans follow two standard USDA food recommendations: use a food thermometer when preparing meat and avoid consumption of raw milk. Responses were collected from 2014 to 2016 as part of the American Time Use Survey–Eating and Health Module.

The USDA found that 3.2 million people (1.3 % of US adults) consumed raw milk, and 19.5 million people (7.9% of adults) had used a food-grade thermometer in the last 7 days.

"At-home meal preparers whose occupation is related to food preparation were more likely to use a food thermometer, suggesting a potential link between mandatory on-the-job food safety training and food safety behavior at home," the USDA said.

Undercooked meat and poultry is tied to foodborne illnesses, including salmonellosis. Raw milk can contain serval pathogens, including Brucella.
Jan 29 USDA report


Groups launch new tool for jump starting new pandemic drugs

In a step designed to speed the development of new treatments for pandemic diseases, two groups have launched the Pandemic Response Box to provide researchers with free access to 400 compounds, according to an announcement yesterday. The groups include the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).

The box is a collection of structurally diverse compounds that were selected by disease experts. It includes 201 antibacterials, 153 antivirals, and 46 antifungals. All are either already on the market or are in development. The compounds' biological activity hasn't been confirmed by the two groups, and their selection was based on information in the scientific literature.

According to a press release yesterday, in return for receiving the drug-like molecules free of charge, researchers agree to make their screening results public and to publish their findings in an open-access within 2 years of generating the data.

Timothy Wells, PhD, chief scientific officer of MMV, said in the statement, "Open innovation is one of the keys to unlocking new potential for drug discovery and tapping into existing expertise to kickstart new research efforts. The hope is that these efforts will contribute to the discovery and development of next generation therapies to manage a future pandemic as well as existing threats such as the Zika virus and Ebola."

The groups also said that the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens further increases the frequency and seriousness of epidemics.

Graeme Bilbe, PhD, research and development director at DNDi, said a deeper understanding of disease pathogenesis and research into new effective treatments could help prevent the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens. "The goal is to help shorten the time between the emergence of a new pandemic and the availability of new drugs to treat it. History has repeatedly shown that saving time, saves lives."
Jan 29 DNDi press release
MMV Pandemic Response Box link

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