News Scan for Aug 12, 2019

News brief

CEPI announces support for fourth Nipah virus vaccine

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Public Health Vaccines (PHV), LLC, have announced a partnership agreement worth up to $43.6 million to support the development and manufacturing of a Nipah virus vaccine.

In a statement today CEPI said it will fund preclinical studies, clinical studies through phase 2, manufacturing, and an investigational stockpile of the vaccine candidate.

PHV, based in Cambridge, Mass., will work with a team from Crozet Biopharma, based in Devens, Mass., to develop the vaccine candidate. Ology Bioservices, headquartered in Alachua, Fla., will develop and scale-up the manufacturing process and will produce the stockpile for use in a Nipah virus outbreak and in clinical trials.

The vaccine uses a weakened version of the recombinant vesicular stomatitis (rVSV ) that expresses a Nipah virus protein on its surface, which prompts protection against the virus. The rVSV-Nipah vaccine's backbone is similar to the VSV-EBOV vaccine being used in the Democratic Republic of Congo Ebola outbreak. It was developed by a group led by Heinz Feldmann, MD, PhD, at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

CEPI was founded in the wake of West Africa's Ebola outbreak as a novel way to fund and speed the development of new vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, especially Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Nipah virus, and Lassa virus. CEPI has so far committed to investing $456 million in vaccine development, including 19 candidates against its priority pathogens, four of them against Nipah virus.

Richard Hatchett, MD, CEPI's chief executive officer, said the group is pleased to be working with the three groups on another Nipah virus candidate. "Nipah virus poses a real threat to global health security—it has multiple modes of transmission, causes significant morbidity and mortality, and has shown that it can cause significant societal and economic disruption. The world is in desperate need of a vaccine against this deadly virus."
Aug 12 CEPI press release


Nigeria probes yellow fever cluster in Ebonyi state

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said an investigation is under way into a suspected yellow fever outbreak in Ebonyi state, located in the southeastern part of the country. In an Aug 10 statement, NCDC said three cases have tested positive for the virus since Jul 31.

State health officials are leading the response, with help from the federal government and the World Health Organization (WHO). Investigators found that illnesses in the area between May 1 and Aug 7 were meeting the case definition and that 20 deaths have been reported in the Izzi local government area, signaling that the outbreak may have been going on undetected for a few months.

NCDC has deployed a rapid response team, and talks are in advanced stages to apply to the international vaccine stockpile to pave the way for a reactive vaccine campaign in Ebonyi in response to the cluster of cases.

Since September 2017 Nigeria has reported suspected yellow fever cases in all of its states. So far this year, as of Jul 31, it has recorded 78 lab-confirmed cases.
Aug 10 NCDC press release


Malaysia reports dengue increase as part of global trend

Over the weekend Reuters reported Malaysia is seeing a rising death toll from dengue, as cases this year are expected to double 2018's total.

Malaysia joins several other countries in Southern Asia, including Bangladesh and the Philippines, that are documenting increasing dengue counts in 2019. 

As of Aug 3, there have been 113 dengue-related deaths in Malaysia, compared to 70 cases in the same period last year, Reuters said. The total number of dengue cases from January through August is 80,000, twice the number of cases compared with the same time period last year.

Several countries in South America are also reporting increased dengue cases, according to the latest update from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

"The number of cases reported as of EW [epidemiological week] 30 (2,029,342) is higher than the annual totals reported during the most recent two years (2017-2018 ) and, to date, is lower than the annual totals reported during the 2015-2016 epidemic cycle," PAHO said.

Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua have declared epidemiological alerts at the national level because of rising dengue counts, and Brazil is also tracking an increase in dengue activity, PAHO said.  
Aug 10 Reuters story
Aug 9 PAHO report


Saudi Arabia prepares for hajj with new disease monitoring system

As Saudi Arabia anticipates the arrival of more than 2 million pilgrims this month for the observance of hajj, the country's ministry of health announced they will be using the Health Early Warning System (HEWS), which ensures the early detection of and timely response to health threats and emergencies related to mass gatherings.

The WHO's Middle Eastern regional office detailed HEWS in a recent article.

"The system is being applied electronically in 17 hospitals and 96 health facilities in vicinity of hajj areas, including Makkah, Madinah, Mina, Arafat and Mozdalefah, as of early August 2019," the WHO said. "It is expected to help health authorities receive pre events signals and alerts, take immediate action and thus contribute to avoiding or reducing morbidity and mortality rates. It will also help policy-makers to better plan health interventions and services for future hajj seasons."

The system is based on both syndromic and indicator-based surveillance, and it is well adapted to spot the diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections that are liable to occur during mass gatherings, the WHO said.

So far, the system has not detected any major outbreaks.
Aug 10 WHO report

This week's top reads