News Scan for Nov 29, 2016

News brief

Trump taps Georgia legislator-physician as HHS secretary

President-elect Donald Trump announced today that he will nominate US Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon, as his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), NBC News reported today.

HHS plays a key role in the nation's public health, with activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health under its umbrella.

Price is known for his work on legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act and chairs the House Budget Committee, according to the NBC report. The HHS secretary is a cabinet-level position that requires Senate confirmation.
Nov 29 NBC News story


Canadian lab worker released from Ebola quarantine

A lab worker in Winnipeg exposed to Ebola virus earlier this month has been released from 21-day quarantine and is healthy, The Globe and Mail reported today. The man was exposed while working with pigs infected with Ebola at the National Center for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The worker had noticed a 1-inch rip in his protective clothing while showering on Nov 7 after working in a high-containment lab with the pigs.

Ebola virus is highly contagious and killed thousands of people from 2013 to 2015 during an outbreak in West Africa. Since then, several government and private labs worldwide have ramped up research on the disease.
Nov 29 Globe and Mail story

Flu Scan for Nov 29, 2016

News brief

H5N1 strikes two Nigerian states; H5 identified in Japanese outbreaks

Nigeria's agriculture ministry yesterday reported two more highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu outbreaks, both of which began last week, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The virus struck a farm in Bauchi state in the northern part of the country, killing 274 of 514 layers and cocks. The other event occurred in backyard mixed poultry species in a city in Kano state, located in the north central part of Nigeria, killing 33 of 431 birds. In both instances authorities culled the remaining poultry to curb the spread of the virus.

Nigeria is among a handful of African nations that have seen a recurrence of H5N1 in poultry since 2015.
Nov 28 OIE report

In other avian flu developments, Japan's government said today that tests on samples from two poultry outbreaks in separate prefectures are linked to a highly pathogenic H5 strain, but so far the N-type has not been identified. The H5N6 subtype was found earlier in a wild bird and environmental samples in Japan and has been recently linked to outbreaks in South Korea.

In a report to the OIE, authorities said an outbreak at a duck farm in Aomori prefecture killed 10 of 16,500 birds and an outbreak at a layer farm in Niigata prefecture killed 130 of 315,590 birds.

Culling is under way at the two farms, and other steps such as shipment restrictions have been ordered.
Nov 29 OIE report


Animal trials reveal potential for new antiviral against flu

Tests of a new type of antiviral medication—verdinexor—in mice and ferrets experimentally infected with influenza showed that the drug reduces viral load and inflammation in the lungs, a promising step in its evaluation as a potential drug for humans. A research team based at University of Georgia, which included scientists from Karyopharm Therapeutics, the Massachusetts-based company developer of the drug, published its findings yesterday in PLoS One.

Verdinexor is a novel selective inhibitor of nuclear export (SINE) compound, a drug class originally developed to treat some types of cancer. An earlier in vitro study in mouse lungs infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus suggested that it reduced virus burden and limited inflammation, raising the possibility of another drug that could be used for flu strains that are resistant to current antivirals. The new study also used the 2009 H1N1 virus.

The findings suggested that verdinexor inhibited influenza A replication and reduced disease markers in the animals, even at suboptimal levels and when given late following an infection, which the authors said might have advantages over oseltamivir (Tamiflu) if the new drug is successful in human trials.

The investigators said a phase 1 clinical trial in healthy people has revealed that the drug appears to be safe and well tolerated and that it might be useful for treating other viruses.
Nov 28 PLoS One abstract

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