News Scan for Jul 12, 2022

News brief

Nevada reports its first avian flu outbreak in poultry

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently announced Nevada's first highly pathogenic avian flu outbreak in poultry, which struck a backyard flock in Carson City housing 40 birds.

Outbreaks involving the H5N1 strain have now been reported in 37 states and have led to the loss of more than 40 million birds.

In related developments, APHIS also reported 170 more H5N1 detections in wild birds, raising the total to 1,805, as the virus continues to circulate over the summer months. Most of the new detections were in the Northwest, especially Alaska, as well as in the Midwest, the Northeast, and Florida. Waterfowl and raptors are still among the hard-hit groups, but several detections involve nonmigratory shore birds, including gulls and terns.

The UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in a recent outbreak assessment noted an unprecedented shift of the virus from migratory birds to native sedentary wild bird species, including seabirds, which it said poses an ongoing risk to poultry populations.
Jul 8 USDA APHIS statement
USDA APHIS poultry outbreak page
USDA APHIS wild bird outbreak page
Jun 20 DEFRA avian flu risk assessment


Moderna begins clinical trial of mRNA Nipah vaccine

Moderna today announced that first participants have been immunized in a phase 1 clinical trial of its candidate mRNA vaccine against Nipah virus.

In a statement, the company said the vaccine was developed with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive officer, said the NIH collaboration is part of a plan to advance 15 vaccine programs by 2025 that target emerging or neglected infectious diseases. "Since Nipah virus is a deadly pathogen for which there is currently no vaccine or treatment, Moderna is eager to bring our mRNA expertise to this partnership with the hope of halting the virus' pandemic potential to protect the health of our global citizens," he said.

Nipah virus can spread from animals through consumption of contaminated food or directly from infected people. Acute respiratory symptoms can occur alongside encephalitis that may produce coma or death. It is considered a pandemic threat with bioterrorism potential. It is designated as a high-priority pathogen by the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Jul 12 Moderna press release

COVID-19 Scan for Jul 12, 2022

News brief

Better brain function, fewer long-COVID symptoms after hyperbaric oxygen

Long-COVID patients in Israel who underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) saw improvement in brain function and cognitive, psychiatric, and physical symptoms, according to a report published today in Scientific Reports.

Researchers from the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research conducted the randomized, controlled trial of 73 patients who had long-COVID symptoms for 3 months or more after acute infection.

In HBOT, patients enter a special chamber in which they breathe pure oxygen in air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than usual to maximize blood oxygen levels to repair tissues and restore healthy body function.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 40 daily HBOT sessions (37 patients) or sham treatment (36) and were evaluated at baseline and 1 to 3 weeks after their last session.

The HBOT group saw moderate improvements in global cognitive function, attention, and executive function, as well as energy level, sleep, psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety, odor detection, and pain. These outcomes were linked to significant improvement in both brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) perfusion (blood flow) and small structural changes in symptom-related brain regions.

No significant differences in any reported adverse effects were observed between the treatment and sham groups.

"These results indicate that HBOT can induce neuroplasticity and improve cognitive, psychiatric, fatigue, sleep and pain symptoms of patients suffering from post-COVID-19 condition," the authors wrote. "HBOT's beneficial effect may be attributed to increased brain perfusion and neuroplasticity in regions associated with cognitive and emotional roles."
Jul 12 Sci Rep study


Myocarditis, pericarditis linked to both mRNA COVID vaccines

A Kaiser Permanente–led study reveals that both mRNA COVID vaccines are associated with a slightly increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis (heart-related inflammation) in 18- to 39-year-olds, with the risk slightly increased in Moderna recipients.

The study was based on electronic health records from eight integrated healthcare-delivery systems in the Kaiser network, and outcomes seen in the week following vaccination with either the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) or Moderna (mRNA-1273) vaccines. From Dec 14, 2020, to Jan 15, 2022, there were 41 cases of either myocarditis or pericarditis after 2,891,498 doses of Pfizer vaccine, and 38 cases after 1,803,267 doses of Moderna vaccine.

Within 7 after dose two of Pfizer, the incidence of the inflammatory conditions was 14.3 (confidence interval [CI], 6.5 to 34.9) times higher than the comparison interval, amounting to 22.4 excess cases per million doses. After Moderna, the incidence was 18.8 (CI, 6.7 to 64.9) times higher than the comparison interval, amounting to 31.2 excess cases per million doses.

For both vaccines, most cases occurred in males (88% post-Pfizer, 84% post-Moderna) and after dose two (83% post-Pfizer, 76% post-Moderna), with median symptom onset ranging from 1 to 2 days after vaccination, the authors said. The median ages were 22 (Pfizer) and 23.5 (Moderna).

"These results indicate that both mRNA vaccines were associated with markedly elevated risk of myocarditis and pericarditis in 18–39-year-olds and that the risk during the 7 days after vaccination was modestly greater after mRNA-1273 than after BNT162b2," the authors concluded.
Jul 12 Vaccine

This week's top reads