News Scan for Sep 26, 2022

News brief

Monkeypox vaccine 79% effective, according to Israeli preprint study

According to a new non-peer reviewed study out of Israel, the Jynneos vaccine is 79% effective against monkeypox infection.

The study was based on patients eligible for monkeypox vaccine seen in the Clalit Health Services system between Jul 31 and Sep 12, 2022. Of 1,970 subjects eligible for the study, 873 (44%) were vaccinated with Jynneos and completed at least 25 days of follow-up.

Fifteen unvaccinated subjects and three vaccinated participants contracted monkeypox during the study, with vaccine effectiveness estimated at 79% (95% CI [confidence interval], 24% to 94%).

In related news, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 274 more monkeypox cases, raising the total to 24,846. So far, 3,233 have been treated with the antiviral Tpoxx, and 684,980 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States.

Siga, the company behind Tpoxx, announced $16 million of international procurement orders, including $10 million from Europe and $6 million from Asia. The company said it expects to deliver on the orders before the end of the year.

Because the virus has been circulating in the United States for 4 months, more and more monkeypox patients are technically immune after infection but may have lingering scars, anxieties, and fears, according to NBC News. Monkeypox scarring can be disfiguring, especially in the genitals, and some men are complaining of lingering proctitis (inflammation of the lining of the rectum).
Sep 26 Research Square Israeli preprint study
Sep 26 CDC update
Sep 26 CDC Tpoxx update
Sep 26 CDC Jynneos update
Sep 26 Siga press release
Sep 25 NBC News story


Department of Defense funds research of monoclonal antibodies for plague

German pharmaceutical company Evotec SE announced last week that its US subsidiary (Just – Evotec Biologics) has received nearly $5o million in funding from the US Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a monoclonal antibody (mAB)-based drug against bubonic plague.

Under the $49.9 million contract, Just – Evotec Biologics, of Seattle, will develop a mAB-based drug product prototype from sequence discovery through completion of phase 1, first-in-human clinical trials, with the aim of producing an accelerated supply of safe and effective mAB medical countermeasures against plague, which is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Plague is one of the targets of the DOD's Accelerated Antibodies Program.

"We are delighted to support the DOD with this work of strategic national importance, and which we feel represents a clear validation of both the efficiency and speed our leading science, technology and expertise offers our partners," Craig Johnstone, PhD, Evotec chief operating officer, said in a press release.
Sep 20 Evotec press release


High-path avian flu strikes more poultry in 9 states

Nine states reported more highly pathogenic avian flu in poultry, which mostly involved backyard poultry, though four states had more outbreaks in commercial flocks, one of them a large layer farm in Colorado, according to the latest updates from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

In Colorado, the outbreak struck an egg producer in Weld County that houses 1.15 million birds. Other states reporting events at commercial farms include Idaho, where the virus hit a game bird producer in Gooding County that has 9,000 birds. Minnesota reported outbreaks at two more turkey farms, one in Otter Tail County and one in Roseau County, that taken together led to the loss of 118,000 birds. South Dakota also reported an outbreak at a turkey farm, which is located in McPherson County and has 15,000 birds.

Seven states reported more outbreaks in backyard birds: Delaware, New Hampshire, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas.

Since the H5N1 outbreaks in poultry began in early February, backyard and commercial poultry operators in the United States have lost 46.4 million poultry across 40 states. A small but steady stream of activity in poultry occurred over the summer but has gained steam over the past month, especially in the Midwest and West.
USDA APHIS poultry outbreak updates

A number of European countries have also reported new H5N1 outbreaks, including a new event in Italy that involves backyard birds in Veneto region, according to a notification from the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH). The outbreak—the country's first since April—began on Sep 21 in Treviso province, killing 10 of 30 birds.
Sep 26 WOAH update

COVID-19 Scan for Sep 26, 2022

News brief

Omicron subvariants linked to reinfections

A new study based on COVID-19 patients in France shows high reinfection rates among people with different Omicron subvariants, including BA.1, BA.2, and BA.5. The study is published as a research letter in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The research group conducting this study, from Aix Marseille University, previously found reinfection rates were 6-fold higher during the Omicron surge than in previous variant surges. In this study, the authors used a computerized alert system that identified positive case samples with primary Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 subvariant infections followed by reinfection with any Omicron subvariant.

They found 188 (0.7%) cases of reinfection out of 27,972 patient samples that tested positive for Omicron from Nov 28, 2021, to Jul 22, 2022. Of the 188 cases, 181 were first infected with the Omicron BA.1 subvariant. Of those, 82 patients were reinfected with Omicron BA.2, 14 were infected with Omicron BA.4, 84 with Omicron BA.5, and 1 with a BA.1 and BA.2 recombinant subvariant (XAC recombinant lineage).

The median age of patients was 32, and 70% were women. Time between two infections was less than 90 days for 50 patients (26.6%) and less than 60 days for 28 patients (14.9%).

"Our findings indicate that the time between confirmed primary infections and reinfections with different Omicron subvariants is frequently shorter than the 90-day definition of reinfections used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]," the authors concluded. "Furthermore, the time can be shorter than the 60-day definition of reinfections used by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control."
Sep 23 Emerg Infect Dis study


Pfizer/BioNTech asks FDA to authorize bivalent COVID booster for kids

Pfizer and BioNTech have asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize a bivalent COVID-19 booster for kids ages 5 to 11. The booster, already approved for adults, is meant to better protect against Omicron variants of the virus.

Moderna has also submitted a request for approval to the FDA of their Omicron booster for kids ages 12 to 17 and kids 6 to 11. Only 4.4 million adult doses of the bivalent vaccines have been administered in the United States.

The 7-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is 50,749, with 398 daily deaths, according to the Washington Post tracker. In the past week, new daily cases fell 11%, hospitalizations fell 5%, and deaths fell 3%.

Late last week, the CDC published new guidance that says hospitals and nursing homes in counties with low COVID-19 transmission don't have to require patients or staff to wear masks, CBS News reported.
Sep 26 FDA booster Reuters story
Sep 23 CDC guidance
Sep 23 CBS story


Vaccines protected pregnant women against severe COVID for 3 months

Pregnant women who received two or three doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were well protected against Delta- and Omicron-related hospitalization and emergency department (ED) and urgent care (UC) visits for more than 3 months, but protection appeared to wane to zero by 4 months, shows a US test-negative case-control study published today in JAMA Network Open.

The CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response Team led the study of 975 hospitalizations and 4,517 ED/UC visits by pregnant women for any cause from June 2021 to June 2022, a period that spanned the predominance of the highly transmissible Delta and Omicron variants. Of the 975 hospitalizations, 34.3% were for confirmed COVID-19, compared with 19.6% of the 4,517 ED/UC visits.

The women were seen in a network of 306 hospitals and 164 ED/UC facilities in 10 states. They had received a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days earlier or a third dose at least 7 days earlier or were unvaccinated.

During Delta, estimated VE against COVID-19 hospitalization was 99% for two doses after 14 to 149 days, 96% for two doses given at least 150 days before, and 97% for three doses after 7 to 119 days. Estimated VE against ED/UC visits was 84%, 75%, and 81%, respectively.

Amid Omicron, estimated VE against hospitalization was 86% for two doses after 14 to 149 days, 64% for two doses after at least 150 days (but the 95% confidence interval ranged below 0), 86% for three doses after 7 to 119 days, and −53% for three doses given at least 120 days before. Estimated VE against ED/UC visits was 3%, 42%, 79%, and -124%, respectively.

The authors noted that COVID-19 during pregnancy is linked to an elevated risk of hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, preterm birth, and stillbirth. Yet, despite current guidance from the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, COVID-19 vaccine uptake remains low among pregnant women.

The researchers said that the results "suggest that mRNA vaccine administration during pregnancy does not alter vaccine performance despite immune differences between pregnant and nonpregnant people."
Sep 26 JAMA Netw Open study

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