News Scan for Oct 24, 2019

CWD in North Dakota
New Saudi MERS case
Flu challenge trial launch
Potential gonorrhea vaccine

Chronic wasting disease found in 2 North Dakota deer, 1 in Badlands

Officials in North Dakota confirmed chronic wasting disease (CWD) in two mule deer hunted in McKenzie County in the Badlands and in Divide County on the Canadian border. The former represents the first documented CWD case in the Badlands, while the disease was first detected in Divide County last fall.

"This is an iconic place to hunt big game where people travel to from across the state," said Charlie Bahnson, DVM, of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, in a press release, referring to the Badlands. "By no means does this first detection spell doom for hunting in this area, as long as we are proactive in trying to keep infection rates from climbing. We also need to reduce the chance of CWD spreading to new areas."

CWD is a fatal neurodegenerative prion disease that affects cervids, including deer, elk, and moose. Its been detected across North America, South Korea, Finland and Norway.

Although CWD has not been found in humans, researchers worry the illness could mirror other prion diseases, as happened with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow" disease), and transmit to humans who eat CWD-infected game.

North Dakota does not currently have carcass transportation restrictions in place for unit 4B in McKenzie County, where the deer was harvested, but Bahnson recommends that hunters submit their deer from that area for CWD testing.
Oct 21 North Dakota Game and Fish press release


Saudi Arabia reports new MERS case as study examines death predictors

Saudi Arabia today reported another MERS-CoV infection, the ninth in October.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient is a 73-year-old man from Al Muzahimiyah in Riyadh province, which is located in the central part of the country. The man's exposure to MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) is listed as primary, meaning he wasn't likely exposed to another patient. His exposure to camels, a main source of the virus, is unknown.

The World Health Organization said recently in an update of cases through September that since the first human illnesses were detected in 2012, it has received reports of 2,468 cases, at least 851 of them fatal.
Oct 24 Saudi MOH statement

Meanwhile, in research developments, a team from Saudi Arabia who analyzed a cohort of patients hospitalized for MERS-CoV to assess factors associated with death found that septic shock or organ failure on admission was a significant predictor, according to a study in BMC Infectious Diseases.

The study included 63 people with lab-confirmed MERS-CoV infections who were admitted to Buraidah Central Hospital in Al Qassim from 2014 to 2017. The mean age was 60, and most (47) patients were men. All but 2 were treated with ribavirin and interferon.

Mortality was 25.4%, and those with septic shock and or organ failure on admission were more likely to die than those admitted with pneumonia and/or acute respiratory distress syndrome. The researchers added that age, sex, and underlying conditions weren't significantly linked to death.
Oct 22 BMC Infect Dis abstract


NIAID announces launch of human flu challenge trial

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced yesterday that, with its support, scientists have begun a human flu challenge trial—which is a polite way of saying that volunteers are willingly having flu viruses sprayed up their nose in the name of advancing scientific knowledge about influenza.

The first doses of challenge virus were administered to 5 volunteers earlier this week. Up to 80 people aged 18 to 50 years will be enrolled in the trial at four Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs). The NIAID is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In an agency news release, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said, "These trials provide a powerful tool to study many aspects of influenza disease progression and also can help to efficiently assess new treatments and vaccine candidates. Expanding the capacity to perform human challenge trials is a key goal in NIAID's strategic plan to support the development of vaccines that confer broad and durable protection against influenza. This new trial at the VTEUs will help us achieve that goal.”

Volunteers will receive a nasal spray containing a carefully engineered seasonal flu strain. NIAID scientists developed the challenge virus to reliably produce mild to moderate flu. It has been administered to about 400 participants in four previous similar trials conducted by the NIH.
Oct 23 NIAID news release


Investigators to study meningitis vaccine for gonorrhea prevention

The NIAID awarded researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) up to $10 million to investigate the possible use of Bexsero, a licensed meningococcal vaccine, against gonorrhea, according to a UAB news release yesterday.

The 3-year grant begins with $3.5 million this year, with the possibility of up to $10 million to be used by UAB to conduct a clinical trial at UAB and two additional sites.

"Vaccines represent a crucial path forward to ensuring the health of the population in the United States, and a vaccine for this infection could enhance the reproductive and sexual health of millions of people globally. It's really exciting," said Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH, director of UAB's division of infectious diseases and the principal investigator of the study, in a press release.

According to UAB, there are more than 580,000 newly diagnosed cases of gonorrhea in the United States each year and increasing rates of treatment-resistant infections. Currently, only one class of antibiotics, cephalosporins, is used to treat gonorrhea.

The phase 2 study will include about 2,000 volunteers at risk for gonorrhea; some will get Bexsero, while others will get a placebo injection. The volunteers will be observed and followed to assess their risk of contracting gonorrhea over time.
Oct 23 UAB press release

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