Bipartisan group asks Trump to continue support for Zika battle

A bipartisan group of 47 lawmakers sent a letter to President Trump yesterday, asking him to continue support for a comprehensive response across US government agencies to the Zika virus threat.

According to the letter, posted on the Web site of Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), 43,485 Zika cases have been reported in 49 states and 3 US territories, and preventing the spread of the virus should be a national priority. Most of the cases are from the territories, but about 222 were locally acquired on the US mainland—216 in Florida and 6 in Texas. With the nation entering mosquito season, federal support for vector control, diagnostic testing, and public awareness are critical for curbing Zika, the letter said.

"Until we have a vaccine, Zika virus will continue to threaten American families with increased risks of birth defects, with the most serious cases presenting life-long challenges and high healthcare costs," the group wrote, urging the President to ensure timely distribution of funding to help battle the spread of the virus and to expedite vaccine research.
Apr 5 bipartisan Zika letter to Trump

In other Zika developments, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today said 2 more babies in the United States were born with Zika-related birth defects, raising the total to 56. The number of pregnancy losses related to congenital Zika infection remained at 7.
Apr 6 CDC Zika pregnancy outcomes update


New Saudi MERS case linked to indirect camel contact

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case of MERS today, in a man who had indirect camel exposure.

The patient is a 62-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh who is in critical condition after presenting with symptoms of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). The MOH said the man had indirect exposure to camels, a risk factor for contracting the virus.

The new case brings Saudi Arabia's total to 1,585 MERS-CoV cases, 659 of them fatal, since the virus was first detected in humans in 2012. Seven people are still being treated for their infections, the MOH said.
Apr 6 MOH report


Austria reports H5N8 in poultry, wild birds

Austrian veterinary officials today reported 24 highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu outbreaks, 1 in backyard poultry, 22 in wild birds, and 1 at a zoo, according to two separate reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The poultry outbreak began on Jan 17 in a flock in Burgenland state on the country's eastern border. The virus killed 49 of 108 chickens and turkeys in the flock, and the remaining ones were culled as part of response measures.

The other outbreaks involve wild birds found dead from Jan 12 to Mar 7 and span seven states across a wide part of Austria. One of the locations is a zoo in the city of Wien, where the virus killed 1 of 22 Dalmatian pelicans. The outbreaks struck 11 different bird species, but most were mute swans.
Apr 6 OIE report on H5N8 in Austrian poultry
Apr 6 OIE report on H5N8 in Austrian wild, zoo birds


Novel monoclonal treatment cures Marburg and Ravn viruses in animals

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported today that a novel monoclonal antibody treatment for Marburg and Ravn viruses had a 100% success rate in guinea pigs and rhesus monkeys, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine.

The treatment, MR191-N, protected all the animals against the deadly viruses, which are related to the Ebola virus. The experimental drug worked even when administered 5 days after infection. The research was funded by the NIH and conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., and Vanderbilt University.

According to the NIH, monoclonal antibodies are immune system fighters designed to bind to an invading virus or bacterium. MR191-N was derived from a person who survived Marburg disease. The animals in the study received two injections of MR191-N up to 5 days post infection, and all displayed immunity against the deadly viruses.

"The level of protection observed by Dr. Geisbert's team with this antibody is very impressive. We plan to advance this product towards human safety testing as quickly as possible," said Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., in a UTMB press release. He was referring to Thomas Geisbert, PhD, senior author and UTMB professor of microbiology and immunology.
Apr 6 Sci Transl Med study
Apr 6 NIH press release

Apr 6 UTMB press release


Spanish researchers find carbapenem-resistant bacteria in urban river

A Spanish study yesterday in PLoS One noted the presence of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) in a river ecosystem in the Barcelona metro area, the latest in a string of environmental detections of "superbugs."

Researchers collected 11 sediment and 12 water samples from the Sant Joan Despi station of the Llobregat River in Catalunya. The river receives wastewater treatment and industrial effluents along its course in the Barcelona area, but the impact of animal fecal contaminants is very low, according to the study authors.

The scientists identified eight CPE isolates of different species: Escherichia coli, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Klebsiella oxytoca, and Raoultella ornithinolytica. Drug-resistance enzyme included 6 KPC-2 types, 2 VIM-1, and 1 IMI-2, but no OXA-48-type. One additional strain was positive for both KPC-2 and VIM-1 enzymes.

The authors conclude, "These findings support the high dissemination potential of the carbapanemase-encoding genes and reinforce the idea that the environment is another reservoir that may play an important role in the capture, selection and dissemination of carbapenem resistance genes."
Apr 5 PLoS One study

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