"May 29, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A 19-year-old Chinese soldier is being treated for H5N1 avian influenza, while a woman who was diagnosed with the disease in February has left the hospital after months of treatment, according to reports from China.
China's health ministry announced the soldier's illness 3 days ago, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The soldier started having symptoms, including fever, cough, and pneumonia, on May 9 and was admitted to an army hospital on May 14, where he continued to receive treatment, China Daily reported yesterday. If his case is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), it will be listed as China's 25th. The country has reported 15 fatalities.
The health ministry did not say where the soldier was stationed or if he had contact with birds, China Daily reported. However, Joanna Brent, a WHO official in Beijing, said China's health ministry told the WHO the soldier was stationed in the southern province of Fujian."
Fujian? Does he have Fulian-type H5N1? No, he couldn't... China denies this substrain exists! It would be nice to get the full story from China... did he come into contact with birds or not? What was he doing as a soldier? I guess they don't feel the need to flesh out such minuscule details...
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Where's the beef? NewsLocale has the answer:
Fears of widespread E coli contamination forced a Michigan-based beef firm to recall over 129,000 pounds of beef, the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service confirmed today. The massive beef recall follows an inspection by the Michigan Department of Community Health, where it identified E coli O157:H7 as the source of illness in many people recently. USDA said the recall was underway in 15 American states.
David Creek Meats of Kalamazoo, Michigan, processed the suspect beef between March 1st and April 30th this year. Beef stamped with USDA Establishment number 1947A are subject to recall and no other products are implicated.
Escherichia coli or (E. coli) is a bacterium normally found in the gut of human beings. Under normal circumstances, the bacteria play an important role in waste processing, vitamin K production, and food absorption from the large intestine.
However the E. coli strain O157:H7 is associated with a host of illnesses in man. Prime among these diseases are food poisoning, urinary tract infections, peritonitis, meningitis and septicemia.
The current recall is underway in centers where beef was distributed by Gordon Food Service. The states where the beef is being recalled include Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Hey everybody, you know what's a lot cheaper than massive recalls and public humiliation for a company? Installing irradiators in processing plants!
The American public could care less about dying from colon cancer by ingesting such high quantities of red meat, but are terrified of electrons and photons being shot onto their meat, which leave no residual radiation.
Oh well... maybe I can someday I can get an irradiator manufacturer to give me an interview...
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/17/2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
A couple of Mumps cases in Nova Scotia has ballooned to 300 cases in Toronto. Once again I'm left with the question, "didn't we all get a vaccine against mumps?"
Looks like North America needs its booster shots... Here's the full story from Reuters:
"TORONTO (Reuters) - Health officials have issued a warning on an outbreak of mumps that has already infected three people in Toronto and could hit hundreds more, the city's public health agency said on Wednesday.
The three confirmed cases occurred after two university students returned to Toronto from the east coast city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and passed it to one of their friends. That person then unknowingly exposed about 300 others to the virus at a busy downtown Toronto bar last week, Toronto Public Health officials said.
The health agency has issued a warning for those people to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of the disease.
A serious mumps outbreak in Eastern Canada has prompted health officials there to look into plans for a vaccination program.
The mumps is not usually a serious illness, but it can cause meningitis, hearing loss and orchitis (inflammation of the testicles). Women who get the illness in the first three months of pregnancy can also miscarry.
The highly contagious disease has previously broken out in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest.
Canada's outbreak began in Nova Scotia in February where so far 222 people have been infected. Overall, nine cases have been confirmed in Ontario."
So, before this there was no mumps vaccination program? What the hell is the MMR good for if you don't use it? Not that it appears particularly good anyway, seeing as it seems to wear off just as you're gaining your freshman fifteen...
Now that all the old diseases are coming back, I think we should start giving them the good ol' names as well. I think we should start calling mumps "the French Canadian Disease." French Canadians can call it "the American Disease" and the British can call it "the Colonial Disease."
Now all we need is some drug-resistant syphilis and a return to Imperial rule! Weeee! Break open the scotch boys, we got some spirochetes to engineer!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/16/2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I'm still working on some statistical equations to try and predict how long until it mutates. Unfortunately, I know nearly nothing about genetics... (But I can do the stats!) Anyway, the mighty FluForcast program has shown that it's predictive powers are indeed impressive, as while the leading virologists were saying H5N1 would behave itself in 2006, FluForcast said otherwise. Here's the story from News-Medical.net:
"When H5N1 was thought to be quiescent in 2006, in a prospective open trial, FluForecast, a software program which measures virus gene proteins, predicted high human mortality H5N1 outbreaks to come.
In addition, FluForecast technology predicted that the leading country in which these outbreaks would occur would be Indonesia. Both predictions have now been found to be correct. The basis of these predictions, that unique virus structures relate quantitatively to high host mortality, has now also been demonstrated independently in laboratory experiments.
The FluForecast software program, developed by Replikins Ltd. to give advanced warning of influenza outbreaks, measures quantitatively the concentration of a new class of virus peptides, called Replikins, shown to be related to rapid replication and epidemics. FluForecast has been used to identify, or isolate 'in silico,' the area of the virus genome which contains the highest concentration of replikins; this area is now called the Replikin Peak Gene. It has now become possible to measure quantitatively the replikin concentration (Replikin Count, or number of replikins per 100 amino acids) in the Replikin Peak Gene (RPG) of all H5N1 virus isolates whose amino acid sequences are published annually in PubMed. It is now possible to determine whether the RPG gene in a given virus isolate is relatively 'quiescent' or more active, i.e. 'upregulated.'
While the Replikin Count of the whole virus had previously been found by Replikins, Ltd. to correlate with virus epidemics and outbreaks, the RPG gene, with a four-fold concentration of replikins, magnifies the differences. It is also now possible to compare the RPG in different hosts. The H5N1 virus RPG in humans has increased nine-fold from 2004 to 2006, and in 2006 was found to exceed the RPG in other hosts, eg. goose, duck and chicken. Similarly, it was possible to compare the RPG in each country, for each host. In this way it was found that the RPG upregulation in Indonesia for human H5N1 in 2006 was more than double that in Thailand and three to six times that in Japan, Russia, China and Vietnam. Thus the data in 2006 predicted both higher H5N1 human mortality rates, and that this would occur predominately in Indonesia. Both predictions have been realized in 2007.
In addition to these epidemiological studies, the hypothesis that host mortality rate can be predicted by virus Replikin Count has now been tested and confirmed in the laboratory. For each of four strains of Taura syndrome virus of shrimp, the Replikin Count was determined and compared by FluForecast. Separately, the laboratory determined blind, that is without knowledge of the order of virulence predicted by replikin analysis, the comparative actual mortality rates in shrimp achieved by each of the four virus strains. In the laboratory, these four strains were found to have increasing mortality rates in the following order: Venezuela, Hawaii, Thailand and Belize. Point-to-point linear statistically significant correlation was found between the Replikin Count and the mortality rate of each of the four strains.
Thus for two different viruses, H5N1 and Taura, acting in two different hosts, human and shrimp respectively, a quantitative correlation of virus Replikin Count and host mortality rate has been found. To our knowledge, this is the first time that this type of quantitative relationship has been demonstrated. These proof-of-concept experiments, added to those previously reported, further confirm the relationship of this new class of virus peptides, replikins, to rapid replication, to epidemics, and to mortality rates. The data also illustrates the use of FluForecast to provide advance warning of, and thus permit better control of, virus outbreaks."
Obviously a slight reworking of a Replikins Inc. Press Release, but the facts are all there. Whatever the hell replikins are they are, analysis of them is useful in predicting the epidemiology of viruses.
It also demonstrates why samples of high-path H5N1 from every country NEED TO BE SENT TO HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS!!!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/12/2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Ok so this is a press release, but it makes the case that emerging strains of tuberculosis could be used effectively in bioterror attacks. From PR Newswire:
"BOCA RATON, Fla., May 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It sounds crazy at first, but Dr. Kanti Daya, a credentialed, respected infectious disease specialist, believes that new strains of tuberculosis (TB) could be a devastating weapon in the hands of suicide terrorists.
"I am convinced that the absence of a viable program against tuberculosis being used a weapon compromises our state of national security," says Dr. Kanti.
Dr. Kanti isn't the only one sounding the alarm. An Interpol official warned of a bioterror threat, based on evidence from captured terrorists. And the CIA has listed TB as a potential bioterror weapon.
Despite widespread belief that tuberculosis has been conquered, deadly new outbreaks have recently been reported in England and South Africa. A recent AP article cited one man in Phoenix who has been locked up because he is infected with a "virtually untreatable" strain of tuberculosis, a strain that the WHO has been warning the public about.
"At least one-third of the world-two billion people-is infected with TB. Here in the U.S. we barely hear about these diseases, but ... we're starting to feel their impact because of immigrants," says Dr. Kanti.
Tuberculosis has been dubbed "Captain of the Men of Death," an apt sobriquet as the disease kills two million people each year-almost four people per minute.
"The disease is communicated via airborne droplets. It has no color, odor or heat content that would alert you to avoid breathing. For example, an effective infection with anthrax requires between 8,000-10,000 particles. TB infection only requires an inoculum of 2-3 particles," explains Dr. Kanti."
Well, of course, 2 or 3 particles innoculating a human and causing a serious illness is a bit of a stretch, but XDR-TB does exist and it appears to be encroaching on the USA -- this is a serious matter of public health. Even worse, its quite feasible to easily procure some regular old killed-by-penicillin TB and kill culture after culture with various antibiotics until you end up with some XDR-TB. However, that scheme sounds a little too crazy and dangerous for even terrorists to attempt.
Maybe BARDA can get some people to get off their asses and come up with a real TB vaccine. That would be nice, and also maybe a mumps vaccine that actually works after you hit 20.
Which reminds me I really should get my MDaT booster...
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/03/2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
From The Oregonian:
"AVI BioPharma Inc. on Tuesday said the company's experimental influenza drug proved effective against two strains of flu virus in animal studies.
Treated mice suffered less weight loss and lung injury after exposure to the viruses and were more likely to survive compared to untreated mice or those given a placebo. And virus levels were also significantly reduced in treated mice, researchers reported at the an international conference on antiviral research. The experiments were conducted at Tulane University School of Medicine and the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
AVI is developing the drug as a treatment for type A influenza viruses, including those with potential to cause pandemics. The company said it intends to evaluate its compounds in additional animal models to test their potential efficacy against the highly pathogenic bird flu, or H5N1 influenza."
See, this is where BARDA is supposed to step in and hand AVI a wad of cash. C'mon BARDA, this is exactly what you were created for. The HHS gives money to glaxo-smith-big-pharma-phizer, and BARDA's supposed to help out the little guys with the big ideas. Step up to the plate BARDA, the more antivirals we have the better.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/01/2007
Or at least so says the Press Release... I think this is some really fresh news, so consider this another SuperStrain Scoop. Or, a repost of a press release... whichever. Anyway, here's what it says via EurekaAlert:
"A St. Jude study shows intramuscular injection of peramivir for eight days protected mice from lethal H5N1 influenza virus infection and inhibited virus replication, supporting the use of this drug to control influenza during a pandemic.
The antiviral drug peramivir might offer humans significant protection during a pandemic of the avian influenza virus H5N1, according to results of mouse studies conducted by investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Peramivir, an antiviral drug, blocks the ability of influenza viruses to use an enzyme called neuraminidase, thus preventing the release of new virus particles and their spread from one infected cell to another.
The St. Jude team studied different approaches to treating infected mice according to duration of administration (one day versus eight days); route of administration of peramivir (intramuscular injections alone versus intramuscular injections followed by oral administration) and frequency of administration on the first day of treatment (once versus twice). In all cases, the investigators administered peramivir to mice one hour after nasally administering a lethal Vietnam strain of H5N1 influenza virus.
The researchers reported 100 percent survival among 10 infected mice given intramuscular injections of peramivir daily for eight days. The drug also inhibited replication of the deadly strain of H5N1 virus in the lung, brain and spleen. The key to the high survival rate was treating the infected mice within 24 hours after infection with H5N1 and continuing the treatment for eight days. In contrast, a single intramuscular injection resulted in a 40 percent survival rate, while two intramuscular injections increased the rate to 60 percent. The single intramuscular injection did not completely inhibit H5N1 virus replication in the lungs and spleen, but did decrease the spread of virus to the brain.
"Peramivir should be given as soon as H5N1 infection is suspected, since onset of symptoms in infected humans can be delayed," said David A. Boltz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Robert G. Webster in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude. "The drug could also be given as a preventive measure during an outbreak to decrease the risk of infection," he said. Boltz is first author of a paper, which was presented April 30 at the 20th International Conference on Antiviral Research in Palm Springs, Calif.
"We were surprised to see a 40 percent survival rate among mice after just a single dose of peramivir," said Elena A. Govorkova, Ph.D., a scientific manager in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude. Govorkova is the paper’s senior author.
"Our findings support the use of peramivir during a pandemic, and we are currently studying the emergence of H5N1 variants that are resistant to this drug and may occur in the course of treatment," said Natalia A. Ilyushina, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Webster’s laboratory. Ilyushina is a co-author of the paper."
Let the Peramivir vs. Tamiflu battle begin. Just remember though, in Indonesia the Tamiflu does nothing.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 5/01/2007