News Scan for Feb 27, 2019

Salmonella tahini outbreak
RNA printer for vaccines
Push for universal flu vaccine
Avian flu in 3 nations

CDC ends probe into multistate Salmonella outbreak tied to tahini products

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today it has wrapped up its investigation into a Salmonella Concord outbreak tied to tahini imported from Israel after eight cases were confirmed in four states.

The case count is up from five cases in three states in late November 2018, when the CDC first announced the outbreak. Illness-onset dates range from Apr 21, 2018, to Jan 3, 2019. No hospitalizations or deaths were reported.

Massachusetts reported its first case, and Hawaii and Michigan also had one. New York's case load grew from three to five.

On Nov 27, 2018, Achdut Ltd, of Ari'el, Israel, recalled tahini products because of the outbreak. Recalled products were sold under the following brands: Achva, Achdut, Baron's, Pepperwood, Soom, and S&F. "Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that tahini products from Achdut Ltd. were the likely source of this outbreak," the CDC said.

Officials detected no signs of antibiotic resistance in the outbreak strains they analyzed.
Feb 27 CDC update
Nov 28, 2018, CIDRAP News scan


CEPI awards funding for portable RNA printer for vaccine production

Today the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced a $34 million contract and new partnership with CureVac AG, a biopharmaceutical company developing mRNA-based vaccines, to create a transportable RNA printer that could be used to develop vaccines in outbreak scenarios.

"This innovative platform will provide a rapid supply of lipid-nanoparticle (LNP)-formulated mRNA vaccine candidates that can target known pathogens (including Lassa Fever, Yellow Fever, and Rabies) and prepare for rapid response to new and previously unknown pathogens (referred to by [the World Health Organization] as "Disease X")," CEPI said in a press release.

The device would be able to produce several grams of LNP-formulated mRNA—enough for more than 100,000 doses—within weeks of an outbreak, CEPI said. The technology could be encoded for multiple proteins and antigens, targeting different viruses.

The project is set to begin next month. CEPI is a partnership among public and private organizations that was launched in Davos, Switzerland, in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. It has committed to investing more than $350 million in 12 vaccine candidates and three vaccine platforms.
Feb 27 CEPI press release


Legislators reintroduce law to boost investment in universal flu vaccine

US lawmakers yesterday reintroduced legislation to support the development of a universal flu vaccine, calling for a total investment of $1 billion through fiscal year 2024.

Called the Flu Vaccine Act, the bill was reintroduced by Sen Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., according to a statement from Markey's office. The proposed law calls for $200 million for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Legislators have already secured a dedicated $100 million for fiscal year 2018 and $140 million for fiscal year 2019 for universal flu vaccine research at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

At a Congressional briefing yesterday, the Foundation for Vaccine Research updated lawmakers on the current flu season and progress on a universal flu vaccine.

In the statement, Markey said American scientists are heavy hitters in health and disease research, and it is up to the United States to take the lead in improving and enhancing the response to flu. "With increased research funding, hard-working health care providers, and brilliant scientific investigators, we are the [closest] we have ever been to ensuring a flu-free future. The bases are loaded, and the Flu Vaccine Act will help us knock this public health menace out of the park," he said.

Senate cosponsors are Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Angus King, I-Maine, Tina Smith, D-Minn., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. These are virtually the same senators who introduced a similar bill about a year ago.

In 2012, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which publishes CIDRAP News, led a group that published an in-depth analysis of problems with current flu vaccines and steps needed to develop a next-generation version with the capacity to minimize the impact of seasonal flu as well as a future pandemic. One of the report/s recommendations was to declare flu vaccines a national priority and dedicate substantial investment and leadership on the scale of the Manhattan Project, a massive effort that brought about the first nuclear weapons during World War II.
Feb 26 Sen Markey statement
Feb 19, 2018, CIDRAP News story "Senate bill would jump-start universal flu vaccine efforts"
Oct 15, 2012, CIDRAP News story on flu vaccine report


High-path H5 outbreaks hit birds in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Taiwan

In the latest highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak developments, Nigeria and Pakistan reported H5N8 detections and Taiwan reported more H5N2 events in poultry, according to the latest notifications from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Nigeria's H5N8 outbreak began on Jan 28 in backyard birds, which were 16-week-old pullets, in Bauchi state in the central part of the country. The virus killed 105 of 460 susceptible birds, and the rest were destroyed. The source of the virus hasn't been determined, but health officials suspect the purchase of adults birds from an unknown source. Nigeria has reported sporadic H5N8 outbreaks since the first of the year.

In Pakistan, the agriculture ministry reported two H5N8 outbreaks involving wild birds, both in Islamabad. One outbreak began on Jan 2 and the other started on Feb 7. Affected birds include mallards, Guinea fowl, wild swans, and house crows. Between two events, the virus killed 64 birds, and officials euthanized 5 additional infected birds. The detections are Pakistan's first since February 2018.

Elsewhere, Taiwan reported four more H5N2 outbreaks at poultry farms, three in Yunlin County and one in Changhua County. Native chickens and turkeys were affected. Taiwan has been battling H5N2 outbreaks since early 2015, and these latest ones began from Jan 26 to Feb 19. Of 65,496 susceptible birds across the four farms, the virus killed 4,260, and the remaining ones were destroyed to curb the spread of the virus.
Feb 27 OIE report on H5N8 in Nigeria
Feb 26 OIE report on H5N8 in Pakistan
Feb 27 OIE report on H5N2 in Taiwan

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