News Scan for Jun 30, 2021

News brief

WHO certifies China as malaria-free

Following China's 70-year battle against malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that the country has been awarded a malaria-free certification. In a statement, the WHO said that the achievement is notable, given that China reported about 30 million cases each year in the 1940s.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said, "Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal."

China is the first country in the WHO's Western Pacific region to receive malaria-free certification in more than 30 years. The certifications before that were awarded to Australia, Singapore, Brunei, and Darussalam. Overall, 40 countries have achieved malaria-free certification, most recently El Salvador.

The WHO said China used innovative solutions and was one of the first to test the use of insecticide-treated nets, which it distributed to more than 2.4 million people nationwide in 1988, driving down malaria transmission. Stepped up training, staffing, lab capacity, treatment, and mosquito control further reduced China's cases. The country applied for malaria-free certification in 2020 after reporting 4 years with no locally transmitted cases.
Jun 30 WHO statement


WHO, Global Fund sign agreement to cut AIDS, TB, malaria burdens

The WHO and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have signed a cooperative and financing agreement to battle the three diseases over the next 2 years, the WHO said today in a statement. The effort is also designed to strengthen health systems.

In the statement, the WHO said the agreement will address some recent challenges with AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria and protect hard-won gains from new challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new agreement consists of 10 strategic initiatives, including, for example, expanding preventive TB treatment for people living with HIV in nine African nations. Also, the efforts will speed the introduction of innovative treatments for multidrug-resistant TB through research in Eastern and Central Europe.

Mubashar Sheikh, MD, with the WHO's director-general's office, said, "This agreement supports countries to develop more effective responses to the HIV, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics and build the resilient health systems they need to reach the most vulnerable."
Jun 30 WHO statement

COVID-19 Scan for Jun 30, 2021

News brief

Study: Obese men not at increased risk for COVID-19 ICU death

A new meta-analysis of 58 studies shows obese men are not at increased risk of death from COVID-19 when admitted to intensive care units (ICUs), but those with a history of smoking, diabetes, or kidney disease were at increased risk.

The study, published yesterday in Anaesthesia, contradicts other published findings that have linked male sex and obesity to worse COVID-19 outcomes.

The 58 studies included a total of 44,305 patients, of which 29,889 (68.9%) were men. The authors say medical frailty—not sex or weight—is the most important factor to consider when looking at increased mortality risks.

Compared with patients without underlying illnesses, patients were 40% more likely to die if they had a history of smoking, 54% more likely with hypertension, 41% more likely with diabetes, 75% more likely with respiratory disease, and 91% more likely with cardiovascular disease.

Other, more severe conditions were also linked to mortality, including organ failure, mechanical ventilation, and elevated white blood cell counts.

"The findings confirm the association between diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory comorbidities with mortality in COVID-19 patients. However, the reported associations between male sex and increasing BMI are not supported by this meta-analysis," the authors concluded.
Jun 29 Anaesthesia study


Some wildlife species may harbor SARS-CoV-2 and pose risk to people

Inoculation with SARS-CoV-2 resulted in viral shedding in deer mice, bushy-tailed woodrats, and striped skunks but not cottontail rabbits, fox squirrels, Wyoming ground squirrels, black-tailed prairie dogs, house mice, or raccoons, according to an Emerging Infectious Diseases study yesterday.

The researchers chose these animals based on their peridomestic status in the United States. In other words, because these wild animals are often in close contact with humans, they may present future danger if SARS-CoV-2 is able to infect them, evolve, and then cross back to humans.

While protein analyses of amino acid residues of molecules such as the animals' spike protein may suggest potential SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers say that specific species susceptibility is difficult to predict, especially in diverse groups such as rodents.

Biosamples were collected from the animals pre- and post-inoculation, and necropsies were performed after they were euthanized. Deer mice, bushy-tailed woodrats, and striped skunks shed the virus orally, nasally, or both up to 7 days post-infection. Specimens from the three species developed neutralizing antibodies, but none showed clinical signs of disease.

The researchers note that the relatively high titers in some of the infected woodrat tissues (5.2log10 plaque-forming unit per gram of lung) indicate that a predator-prey transmission scenario may be possible.

"Our results and the results of others indicate that so far, most exposed wildlife species show development of mild to no clinical disease and either did not shed virus or shed low levels for short durations," the researchers write.

"However, results of this study and results of others, combined with the dramatic response to infection seen in certain species, such as mink, indicate that SARS-CoV-2 might infect infecting [sic] wildlife, establishing a transmission cycle, and becoming endemic in nonhuman species."
Jun 29 Emerg Infect Dis study

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