NEWS SCAN: More bad news for proposed BSL-4 lab, dengue in Asia, cost of drug resistance, Africa flu surveillance, meningococcal-Hib vaccine

Jun 15, 2012

Updated risk assessment of Kansas BSL-4 lab gets more low grades
An updated risk assessment of a proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas still has a number of deficiencies and inadequately assesses risks, a National Research Council (NRC) report released today determined. The NRC said the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) latest risk assessment for the site shows "substantial improvement" over the agency's original 2010 version but is "technically inadequate in critical respects and is an insufficient basis on which to judge the risks associated with the proposed NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas." The NBAF would be the world's fourth biosafety-level 4 lab capable of large animal research, replacing the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off Long Island, N.Y. It would study highly transmissible animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and other dangerous pathogens. In 2010 the NRC found the original DHS risk assessment inadequate because of flawed methods and assumptions. In response, Congress mandated that DHS revise its assessment to address the NRC-noted shortcomings, which it did on Mar 2. Today's NRC report said many of the shortcomings have been addressed in the updated assessment but that revised risk analyses were misinterpreted and misapplied and that questionable and inappropriate assumptions led to artificially low risk estimates. A separate NRC committee is exploring alternative sites for an NBAF facility, according to an NRC press release today. DHS selected the Kansas site for the new NBAF after an extensive site-selection process
Jun 15 NRC report
Jun 15 NRC press release
Mar 2 CIDRAP News Scan on updated DHS assessment
Mar 20 and Feb 15 CIDRAP News Scans on proposed lab budget issues

Dengue cases up in Southeast Asia, WHO reports
Most Southeast Asian countries have seen increases in dengue cases this year in spite of a regional campaign to combat the mosquito-borne disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, according to The Nation. Dengue cases more than quadrupled in Cambodia, with 4,052 so far this year, compared with 862 for the same period in 2011. Laos reported 778, up from 526 in 2011, and Malaysia logged 10,352 cases, up from 8,720. The total in the Philippines through Jun 2 was 32,193 cases, up from 30,989 for the same stretch in 2011, but dengue-related deaths were down from 201 to 195. The WHO reported, however, that Singapore and Vietnam have seen fewer cases this year. "Dengue remains a serious public health threat with the Asia-Pacific region bearing 75% of the current global disease burden," the WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office said in a statement.
Jun 15 The Nation story
Jun 14 WHO regional office statement

Study: Drug-resistant pathogens add significantly to hospital costs
Drug-resistant infections cost almost $10,000 more to treat than do their drug-susceptible counterparts, according to a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Columbia University researchers in New York analyzed 5,699 hospitalized patients who developed healthcare- or community-related infections from 2006 to 2008 that were caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecium or E faecalis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or Acinetobacter baumannii. After controlling for multiple confounders, they determined that infections by drug-resistant strains cost an average of $25,573, compared with $15,626 for the drug-susceptible strains. Drug resistance was also associated with longer hospital stays for community-associated illness and higher death rates for healthcare-associated illness.
Jun 14 Clin Infect Dis abstract

Project boosts flu surveillance in Africa
A 1-year project to enhance flu surveillance in several sub-Saharan African countries wrapped up at the end of 2011 and yielded useful lessons, according to a report yesterday from AlertNet. The project, called the Strengthening Influenza Sentinel Surveillance in Africa (SISA), focused on establishing new systems in Angola and Sierra Leone and strengthening existing ones in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Zambia. The project was a collaboration between Agence de Medecine Preventive and WHO. Researchers. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic exposed weak surveillance systems in that part of the world. One of the SISA program leaders said an important lesson was to keep sentinel surveillance systems, such as the new one in Sierra Leone, small but functioning.
Jun 14 AlertNet story

FDA approves meningococcal-Hib combo vaccine for young kids
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday approved a GlaxoSmithKline combination vaccine to protect infants and toddlers against meningococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae. The vaccine, Menhibrix, is designed to prevent Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y and H influenzae type b (Hib) in children 6 weeks through 18 months old, according to an FDA release. "There is now a combination vaccine that can be used to prevent potentially life-threatening Hib disease and two types of meningococcal disease in children. It is the first meningococcal vaccine that can be given starting as young as 6 weeks of age," Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the release. The agency said the effectiveness of the vaccine was based on immune response in several hundred US infants and toddlers. The FDA said in the release that, for the Hib component of the vaccine, immune responses were "comparable to immune responses in infants and toddlers who received an FDA-approved vaccine against invasive Hib disease." For the meningococcal component, it said Menhibrix produced serum antibodies "considered to be predictive of protection" against the two meningococcal serogroups. The vaccine is given in four doses at 2, 4, 6, and 12 through 15 months of age.
Jun 14 FDA news release

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