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News Reports for March 1, 2013

by: NewsDiary

Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 19:49:43 PM EST


Reminder: Please do not post whole articles, just snippets and links, and do not post articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Thanks!

Cambodia
• Cambodian PM Orders "Strict Measures" to Curb Bird Flu Outbreaks (Link)

China
• Recalling the past, looking to the future (Link)

Portugal
• Swine flu returns, though less deadly than last year (Link)

United States
• Four More Okahomans Die From Flu; Total Now at 30 (Link)
• Vaccine, 'cocooning' recommended to reduce flu (Link)

Research
• Mutation altering stability of surface molecule in acid enables H5N1 infection of mammals (Link)
• Scientists Sift For Clues On SARS-Like Virus  (Link)
• Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Uncovering How Deadly Bacteria Trick the Immune System (Link)
• Mutation Enables Bird Flu Infection of Mammals  (Link)
• Study: A Single Mutation In H5N1 HA Enhances Replication In Mice (Blog and study)

General
• A novel coronavirus capable of causing fatal disease (Link)
• Emerging deadly virus demands swift action (Link)


• H (Link)

NewsDiary :: News Reports for March 1, 2013

News for February 28, 2013 is here.


Thanks to all of the newshounds!
Special thanks to the newshound volunteers who translate international stories - thanks for keeping us all informed!

Other useful links:
WHO A(H1N1) Site
WHO H5N1 human case totals, last updated February 15, 2013
Charts and Graphs on H5N1 from WHO
Google Flu Trends
CDC Weekly Influenza Summary
Map of seasonal influenza in the U.S.
CIDPC (Canada) Weekly FluWatch
UK RCGP Weekly Data on Communicable and Respiratory Diseases
Flu Wiki

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Scientists Sift For Clues On SARS-Like Virus
http://www.npr.org/blogs/healt...

by MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF
February 27, 2013 1:58 PM

[big snip]

So where are people catching the new coronavirus? "That's the million-dollar question," Bermingham says.

The virus's genetic code matches most closely to a coronavirus seen in bats, but she says there's no evidence of direct bites from a bat.

She thinks there's an another animal that passes the virus from bats to people. But what that could be is a mystery. One patient from Qatar owns a farm with sheep and camels. "He did go to his farm before he got sick, but he didn't leave his car," Bermingham tells Shots.

The Saudi Arabian health ministry's Stevens says another puzzle is why so few women have been infected. Of the 13 known cases, 11 of them have been men - and the one mild case was woman.

Back in November, the virus infected three men in a large Saudi Arabian family, but never spread to the women and children, Stevens said at the meeting. "The women taking care of the men that were infected never got ill. They were face to face with patients every day but never fell ill."


A novel coronavirus capable of causing fatal disease

Ben Johnson on February 28, 2013 at 5:30 am - 0 Comments
In September 2012 a patient in Saudi Arabia died of acute respiratory illness and kidney failure due to an unknown infectious agent. A novel species of coronavirus was later identified and shown to be the cause of this and eleven subsequent cases, which were spread across the Middle East and the UK. A timely review, published today in Virology Journal, summarises the outbreak and timeline of events so far.

The most common initial symptoms were reported to be fever, cough and shortness of breath, which developed to severe pneumonia and in some cases renal failure. Interestingly, all other known human coronaviruses cause mild respiratory disease and contribute to the common cold, with the exception of the SARS coronavirus, which can also cause fatal respiratory disease. It is possible, indeed likely, that in some cases this coronavirus is associated with a mild respiratory tract infection that goes unnoticed, as only patients with severe disease seek medical attention. So far, there is limited evidence of human-to-human transmission.

This novel coronavirus is the sixth known human coronavirus and the third to be isolated in the last ten years, showing how much more we have to learn about this family. It is striking that the coronaviruses that cause SARS and this new outbreak are both closely related to those found in bats. The bat genome has only just been sequenced, which will greatly help research into this source of human infections. Until then, we must remain ever vigilant for the next potential pandemic.

NOTE:
This is a rapidly evolving situation, with one patient still in intensive care in the UK. We therefore encourage all those with an interest in this outbreak to provide notes on new cases using the Comment facility, thereby providing a useful resource for the community.


Link to above article:
http://blogs.biomedcentral.com...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


[ Parent ]
Mutation altering stability of surface molecule in acid enables H5N1 infection of mammals
A single mutation in the H5N1 avian influenza virus that affects the pH at which the hemagglutinin surface protein is activated simultaneously reduces its capacity to infect ducks and enhances its capacity to grow in mice according to research published ahead of print today in the Journal of Virology.

"Knowing the factors and markers that govern the efficient growth of a virus in one host species, tissue, or cell culture versus another is of fundamental importance in viral infectious disease," says Charles J. Russell of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, an author on the study. "It is essential for us to identify influenza viruses that have increased potential to jump species, to help us make decisions to cull animals, or quarantine humans." The same knowledge "will help us identify targets to make new drugs that stop the virus... [and] engineer vaccines."

Various influenza viruses are spreading around the globe among wild birds, but fortunately, few gain the ability to jump to humans. However, those that do, and are able to then spread efficiently from person to person, cause global epidemics, such as the infamous pandemic of 1918, which infected one fifth and killed an estimated 2.7 percent of the world's population. Occasionally, one of these viruses is exceptionally lethal. For example, H5N1 has killed more than half of the humans it has infected. The specter of such a virus becoming easily transmissible among humans truly frightens public health officials. But understanding the mechanisms of transmission could help microbiologists find ways to mitigate major epidemics.

When influenza viruses infect birds, the hemagglutinin surface protein of the virus is activated by acid in the entry pathway inside the host cell, enabling it to invade that cell. In earlier work, Russell and collaborators showed that a mutant version of the influenza H5N1 virus called K58I that resists acid activation, loses its capacity to infect ducks. Noting that the upper airways of mammals are more acidic than infected tissues of birds, they hypothesized, correctly, that a mutation rendering the hemagglutinin protein resistant to acid might render the virus more infective in mammals.

(Snip) the investigators found that K58I grows 100-fold better than the wild-type in the nasal cavities of mice, and is 50 percent more lethal. Conversely, the mutant K58I virus failed completely to kill ducks the investigators infected, while the wild-type killed 66 percent of ducks, says Russell. "A single mutation that eliminates H5N1 growth in ducks simultaneously enhances the capacity of H5N1 to grow in mice. We conclude that enhanced resistance to acid inactivation helps adapt H5N1 influenza virus from an avian to a mammalian host."

(Big Snip)

The journal carefully considered whether to publish the paper, because it raised issues of "dual use research of concern" (DURC), writes Dermody. Continued: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


China: Recalling the past, looking to the future
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/c...

Updated: 2013-02-28 07:35 ( China Daily) CommentsPrintMailLarge Medium  Small

[Note: Question and answer article about the SARS outbreak in China. Best read at link]

Zou Zhongpin / China Daily
Zhong Nanshan

Editor's note: Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease and academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, talks to Jiang Xueqing.

[snip]

Q: Looking back on the measures to combat SARS 10 years ago, do you have any regrets?

A: I think the biggest regret for me is the bias that the government, society, the public and the media had against medical staff.

During SARS, our medical professionals risked their own lives to save patients and won the respect of society. Doctors and nurses were honored as "angels in white". But soon afterwards, their reputation fell sharply, and the doctors became "tigers in white" in the eyes of the public. The same thing happened during and after thedevastating earthquake that struck Wenchuan county in Sichuan province in 2008.

Many cases have shown that most of our medical professionals are fulfilling their obligations to heal the wounded and rescue the dying, even at a risk to their own lives.

People blamed medical staff for a lack of professional ethics, but the reason behind the bias was actually China's healthcare system. Many people believe that the system is too heavily geared toward profit and not public welfare, and it still lacks government funding. As a result, medical services have been forced to become market-oriented.

Q: You have said that air pollution poses a greater danger than SARS, because no one can escape it. How big a risk does it pose to health?

A: The biggest risks that air pollution poses to public health are ailments such as pharyngitis, bronchitis and conjunctivitis, but what is more damaging is the cumulative negative effect in the long run.

I am collecting information relating to air pollution and trying to find evidence to prove the relationship between a high PM2.5 index and illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and lung cancer.

The most direct impression is that the incidence of lung cancer has risen by 60 percent in Beijing in the past decade, but some statistics suggest the number is 59 percent. Of course, the high smoking rate is the direct culprit, but that has not changed much during the past 30 years. Meanwhile, the number of patients with lung cancer has risen significantly.

While collecting the information, I hit a few obstacles, because some of the studies were carried out in countries where air pollution is far less serious than in China.

However, this is how the data correlates: As the PM2.5 index rises, hospital outpatient and admission rates increase greatly. The current air quality in China is really worrying. We need to conduct further studies in this field to obtain more conclusive information.

Q: Do you foresee the outbreak of any acute infectious diseases?

A: If there is an outbreak, I think it will be flu. The outbreak of a contagious disease usually occurs via the respiratory system. Flu spreads through the air and has greater potential to become a pandemic compared with other transmission routes such as food. The flu virus has many variations, but we only have a limited number of medicines to tackle it.

When we were conducting research in 1998 and 1999, we found the SARS corona virus antibody in the serum of blood donations. It meant that the virus may have existed in the human body for a long time.

[snip]


Portugal: Swine flu returns, though less deadly than last year
Swine flu has returned and so far four people have died out of 27 people who have been hospitalised in Portugal because of the potentially fatal virus. Despite these deaths, the National Health Board has said they are within expectations and lower than last year. (Snip) there is a group of "watch-hospitals" keeping an eye on the number of hospitalisations in intensive care units (Snip).

(Snip) "compared with the same period of last year, there are fewer deaths" than in 2012. According to Ms. Freitas, during the previous flu season there was a very sharp peak which coincided with a greater incidence of flu.

In contrast to 2012, this year "flu activity is moderate, we are reaching the peak of the flu [season] but it is not explosive, that too is moderate", she said.

Regarding the reported deaths, Graça Freitas explained that the cases are sporadic and the victims had other health complications which lead to their deaths. "This is normal and there is no reason for alarm, they are people whose base-situation wasn't good to start with, people with a greater vulnerability than a healthy person", she added. Continued: http://www.theportugalnews.com...

(Note: Hmmm, a 14% CFR among hospitalized flu patients seems high to me.)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Four More Okahomans Die From Flu; Total Now at 30
March 1, 2013
http://newsok.com/four-more-ok...
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:  Four more Oklahomans have died from the flu, bringing the total number of state residents who have died since September to 30, the state Health Department reported This is the most Oklahomans to die from the flu since the 2009-10 flu season, when the H1N1 pandemic caused 48 deaths in the state.
(snip)
Of the 30 residents who have died this flu season, 24 were 65 or older. Almost half of the people in Oklahoma hospitalized with the flu this year were 65 or older.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that this year's flu vaccine was found to be largely ineffective among people 65 and older.
(more)


"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson

Cambodian PM Orders "Strict Measures" to Curb Bird Flu Outbreaks
March 1, 2013
http://www.nzweek.com/world/ca...
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia:  Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday ordered all relevant ministries and institutions to take "strict measures" to prevent and eliminate the spread of Avian Influenza H5N1 virus, which has killed 8 people so far this year. In a circular signed on Friday, Hun Sen said during the first two months of 2013, the H5N1 virus has broken out and infected nine people, eight of them died.

"Even though there are preventive measures by relevant institutions, the spread and death toll from the virus are still alarmingly concerned," he said.
To ensure the safety for people more effectively, the premier ordered the ministry of agriculture to continue strengthening necessary and urgent measures to prevent and eliminate the spread of H5N1 virus.

"The ministry must thoroughly and constantly inspect poultry' s health throughout the country, and carry out bio-safety and sanitary measures at all poultry farms, slaughter-houses and markets," he said in the circular. "The ministry must promote broader awareness of bird flu virus to the public."
(more)

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson


Vaccine, 'cocooning' recommended to reduce flu
http://www.journalgazette.net/...

March 1, 2013 11:46 a.m.

Statement as issued Friday by the Indiana State Department of Health:

INDIANAPOLIS - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that this season's flu vaccine is less effective than previously reported - showing 56 percent overall effectiveness for children and adults up to age 64 and only 9 percent effectiveness for adults 65 and older. Sixty-one flu-related deaths have now been reported in Indiana, the vast majority of them individuals 65 and older, according to the latest weekly influenza report from the Indiana State Department of Health.

"We know the flu vaccine will not prevent all flu and it's not perfect, but it is still the best defense we have for preventing flu," said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. "The new information about the effectiveness of this season's flu vaccine might seem discouraging, but it's important to note that getting the flu vaccine can significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even if it doesn't protect from flu in all cases. This is especially critical for those 65 and older, for whom influenza can be a very serious disease."

Overall, the CDC estimates that 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in individuals 65 and older due to human defenses becoming weaker with age. Individuals in this age group are urged to seek treatment quickly if they develop flu symptoms including cough, fever, sore throat, and body aches. To help protect older community members, State health officials recommend that all individuals older than 6 months of age get vaccinated.

"The concept of 'cocooning' is useful with many vaccines, including influenza," said Dr. VanNess. "Cocooning means that everyone in the family would be vaccinated to help prevent the disease, in this case flu, from getting into the home. This helps protect more vulnerable family members like parents, grandparents and immunocompromised individuals from getting sick."

[continued at link]


Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Uncovering How Deadly Bacteria Trick the Immune System
http://www.sciencedaily.com/re...

Very interesting article...well worth reading the whole thing

Feb. 28, 2013 - An outbreak of tuberculosis in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles may have exposed up to 4,500 individuals to the bacterium that causes the deadly disease and has left federal officials scrambling to intervene.

The outbreak is occurring during winter, when homeless individuals are driven to crowded shelters, when influenza is peaking and when people's vitamin D levels, typically boosted by sunlight exposure, are low. A new UCLA study offers critical insight into how various bacteria may manipulate such factors to their advantage.
In a study published online Feb. 28 in the journal Science, UCLA researchers demonstrate that certain cunning bacteria -- including the type that causes tuberculosis -- can pretend to be viruses when infecting humans, allowing them to hijack the body's immune response so that they can hide out, unhindered, inside our cells. The findings may also help explain how viral infections like the flu make us more susceptible to subsequent bacterial infections such as pneumonia.

The study is particularly relevant to tuberculosis, which kills 1.4 million people worldwide each year. In the case of the recent Los Angeles outbreak, the findings could provide clues as to how the flu and a lack of vitamin D may have given the tuberculosis bacterium an edge.

"With 8.7 million in the world falling ill with tuberculosis each year, a better understanding of how these bacteria avoid our immune system could lead to new ways to fight them and to better, more targeted treatments," said senior author Dr. Robert L. Modlin, chief of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics in the UCLA Division of Life Sciences.

[continued at link]


Mutation Enables Bird Flu Infection of Mammals
http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2013/03/mutation-enables-bird-flu-infection-mammals

Another excellent article- recommended read

Fri, 2013-03-01 10:41

Photo: Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in MDCK cells (seen in green).(Source: CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith)

A single mutation in the H5N1 avian influenza virus that affects the pH at which the hemagglutinin surface protein is activated simultaneously reduces its capacity to infect ducks and enhances its capacity to grow in mice, according to research published ahead of print in the Journal of Virology.

"Knowing the factors and markers that govern the efficient growth of a virus in one host species, tissue, or cell culture versus another is of fundamental importance in viral infectious disease," said Charles J. Russell of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, an author on the study. "It is essential for us to identify influenza viruses that have increased potential to jump species, to help us make decisions to cull animals, or quarantine humans. The same knowledge "will help us identify targets to make new drugs that stop the virus... [and] engineer vaccines."

Various influenza viruses are spreading around the globe among wild birds, but fortunately, few gain the ability to jump to humans. However, those that do, and are able to then spread efficiently from person to person, cause global epidemics, such as the infamous pandemic of 1918, which infected one fifth and killed an estimated 2.7 percent of the world's population.

Occasionally, one of these viruses is exceptionally lethal. For example, H5N1 has killed more than half of the humans it has infected. The specter of such a virus becoming easily transmissible among humans truly frightens public health officials. But understanding the mechanisms of transmission could help microbiologists find ways to mitigate major epidemics.

[continued at link]


Emerging deadly virus demands swift action
http://www.tradearabia.com/new...

Another excellent article.

London, 1 days ago
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

[snip]

"What we know really concerns me, but what we don't know really scares me," said Michael Osterholm, director of the US-based Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a professor at the University of Minnesota.

[snip]

"Partly because of the way the field has developed post-SARS, we've been able to get onto this virus very early,"
said Mike Skinner, an expert on coronaviruses from Imperial College London. "We know what it looks like, we know what family it's from and we have its complete gene sequence."

[snip]

Yet further work by a research team at the Robert Koch Institute at Germany's University of Bonn now suggests it may have come through an intermediary - possibly goats.

In a detailed case study of a patient from Qatar who was infected with NCoV and treated in Germany, researchers said the man reported owning a camel and a goat farm on which several goats had been ill with fevers before he himself got sick.

Osterholm noted this, saying he would "feel more comfortable if we could trace back all the cases to an animal source".

If so, it would mean the infections are just occasional cross-overs from animals, he said - a little like the sporadic cases of bird flu that continue to pop up - and would suggest the virus has not yet established a reservoir in humans.

Yet recent evidence from a cluster of cases in a family in Britain strongly suggests NCoV can be passed from one person to another and may not always come from an animal source.

[snip]


Study: A Single Mutation In H5N1 HA Enhances Replication In Mice
http://afludiary.blogspot.com/...

This is an excerpt from Michael Coston's blog at Avian Flu Diary. This blog is a great blog, worth a daily stop.

Credit CDC PHIL

# 6975

A study today - authored by Hassan Zaraket, Olga A. Bridges, Charles J. Russell - links a single mutation (lysine-to-isoleucine at position 58 in the H5N1 HA2 subunit) to increased replication in mice.

And not by just a little . . . by a hundred fold or better.

The study, which is scheduled to be formally published in the May issue of the Journal of Virology , can be accessed at the following link:

The pH of Activation of the Hemagglutinin Protein Regulates H5N1 Influenza Virus Replication and Pathogenesis in Mice
Hassan Zaraket, Olga A. Bridges, Charles J. Russell5
Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Department of Microbiology, Immunology & 8 Biochemistry, College of Medicine, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center  http://www.asm.org/images/Comm...

This is a fairly technical paper, and so non-virologists who find it tough sledding may wish to move on to the accompanying editorial and the press release.

The editorial, which is somewhat less daunting, is available at:

A New Determinant of H5N1 Influenza Virus Pathogenesis in Mammals
http://www.asm.org/images/Comm...


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