News Scan for Jun 14, 2019

Southern Hemisphere flu rise
Polio in 3 countries
Prion disease 'mini brain'
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WHO: Early flu rise for some Southern Hemisphere countries

The Southern Hemisphere's temperate countries are experiencing an earlier-than-average start to the flu season, including Australia, Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week in its latest global flu update. The Southern Hemisphere's flu season typically runs from May to October.

H3N2 is the predominant strain in Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, and 2009 H1N1 is most common in South America, according to the report.

In Southern and Southeast Asia, flu is mainly at low levels, except for in Bangladesh and Cambodia. In East Asia, flu levels are up a bit in China and Hong Kong but are still below baseline thresholds.

In the Northern Hemisphere, flu has returned to interseasonal levels, except for Saudi Arabia, where flu activity continues, but at a decreasing pace.

Globally, for the second half of May, influenza A viruses predominated, making up 59.7% of flu positives. Of the subtyped influenza A strains, 69.5% were H3N2 and 30.5% were 2009 H1N1.
Jun 10 WHO global flu update


Niger, Afghanistan, Pakistan report polio cases

This week Niger, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all reported new polio cases, according to an update today from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

The new infections raise the total number of wild poliovirus (WPV) cases detected in 2019 to 29, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) cases to 12. In all of last year officials confirmed 33 WPV cases and 104 cVDPV cases.

Afghanistan has one new WPV type 1 (WPV1) case reported in the past week in Kunar province. The patient experienced an onset of paralysis on May 8 and represents the eighth case recorded in Afghanistan in 2019.

In neighboring Pakistan, two WPV1 cases were reported in Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, with paralysis onset on May 14 and 19, bringing the number of Pakistan cases this year to 21. The GPEI also said the country had 16 positive WPV1 environmental samples reported across the country last week.

Finally, in Niger, officials detected a cVDPV type 2 (cVDPV2) case in Diffa province with an onset of paralysis on Apr 3.

"It is the first cVDPV2 case from the country in 2019 and the total number of cVDPV2 cases in 2018 remains ten. The outbreak is genetically-linked to the cVDPV2 outbreak originating in Jigawa, Nigeria," the GPEI said.
Jun 14 GPEI


NIH scientists create first 'mini brain' to study prion disease

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) used human skin cells to create the first cerebral organoid system, or "mini brain," for studying Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a prion disease, according to a study today in Acta Neuropathologica Communications.

CJD is a rare and deadly neurological prion disease, caused by the misfolding of proteins in the brain. Human cerebral organoid systems are human brain cells used to study nervous system diseases in controlled environments.

In the study, researchers infected an organoid system with cells taken from two humans with different subtypes of CJD. Within 1 month, they observed a seeding process indicative of prion disease activity.

"Human cerebral organoids are a promising new system for modelling prion disease in cell culture. Organoids take up prion infection, influenced by the prion seed to which they are exposed, and generate new seeding activity," the authors conclude.
Jun 14 Acta Neuropathol Commun
Jun 14 NIH press release

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