News Scan for Dec 18, 2019

Additional Ebola cases in DRC
MERS in Saudi Arabia
New rapid Lyme test

Two new Ebola cases recorded in DRC

According to the World Health Organization (WHO's) Ebola dashboard, two new cases of the viral disease were recorded today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), raising the outbreak total to 3,351 cases including 2,217 deaths.

Officials are still investigating 519 suspected cases

In the latest situation report on the outbreak, the WHO said 24 new cases of Ebola were recorded from Dec 9 to 15, marking a resurgence of the virus in the wake of widespread violence in Beni.

At least 24 new cases in Mabalako and Beni are linked to a single transmission chain, based on one case-patient who suffered a relapse of Ebola within a 6-month period. It was not known if the patient had suffered a relapse or was re-infected, but genetic sequencing suggests the virus relapsed in the patient, the WHO said. 

"The majority of recent cases are coming from a single chain of transmission that is linked to a suspected relapse of EVD in an individual," the WHO said. "Although this has led to a number of secondary cases, efforts are being made to closely monitor the cases and their contacts to reduce the risk of tertiary transmission. It is thus of paramount importance that all areas of response are functional and fully resourced to bring an end to this outbreak."
WHO Ebola dashboard
Dec 17 WHO situation report   


WHO details November MERS cases in Saudi Arabia

The WHO today offered new details on 10 MERS-CoV cases recorded in Saudi Arabia in November, half of which were connected to camels. 

The cases were reported in six different regions, and five involved contact with camels or camel products, a known risk factor for MERS-COV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection. Four cases were recorded in Riyadh, two in Medina, and one each in Mecca, Taif, Asir, and Al Qassim.

All the patients were men, and none were health workers or secondary cases. One patient, a 38-year-old man from Riyadh, died from his infection.

The WHO said that, from 2012 through Nov 30, 2019, a total of 2,494 laboratory-confirmed MERS cases and 858 associated deaths have been recorded, the vast majority in Saudi Arabia.
Dec 18 WHO update


Inexpensive paper-based test detects Lyme bacteria in early stages

A new inexpensive paper-based test can detect antibodies against the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium in serum samples, which means it could quickly and accurately identify Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that affects up to 300,000 American each year. The test is meant for use in the first 30 days after a tick bite, when the telltale "bull's eye" rash may or may not appear.

Authors writing in the journal ACS Nano describe the point-of-care (POC) handheld test as containing a sensing membrane for bacterial antigens and a synthetic peptide. If B burgdorferi bacteria are present, the antigen spots turn different colors. Results appear within 15 minutes.

Fifty blood samples from people with and without early-stage Lyme disease were tested using the paper-based device, and the assay showed a specificity of 96.3% and sensitivity of 85.7%.

Current two-tier tests for Lyme disease catch only 50% of Lyme cases in early stages, the authors said, and cost more than $400 per test, with results typically read in more than 1 day. The new paper-based test costs $0.42 per test.

"The multitarget and portable POC nature of the computational xVFA [multiplexed vertical flow assay] make it uniquely suited for [Lyme] diagnostics, presenting major advantages in terms of time, cost, and performance when compared to (first-tier) EIAs [enzyme immunoassays] with single antigen targets as well as standard two-tier testing methods that are rather costly (e.g., >$400/test) and slow (>24 h for results)," the authors conclude.
Dec 18 ACS Nano study

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