Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for April 2017

In case you missed them, here are last month's Top 5 news articles from Contagion®.

As flu season comes to an end, one of the top trending articles for the month of April discussed a major surge in flu activity in the northeast region. In addition, sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV, HIV, and Herpes, dominated the news this past month. Finally, the top spot goes to a case report on the first human case of Powassan virus identified in a boy in Connecticut last year.

#5: Study Shows First Statistical Evidence for Herd Protection from HPV Vaccine

A study spanning over 11 years aimed to assess the efficacy of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in females, as well examine herd immunity, according to Sara Oliver, MD, MSPH.

Dr. Oliver presented her findings at the 2017 Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 24, 2017.

Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the research team examine HPV prevalence from 2003 to 2014. This was broken up into 3 eras: 2003 to 2006 was the pre-vaccine era, 2007 to 2010 the early vaccine era, and 2011 to 2014 the recent-vaccine era. Patient information regarding medical history, sexual behavior, and “demographic information that allowed them to use weighted logistical regression models to adjust for race and poverty,” was collected through home interviews and other methods of data retrieval. Study subjects submitted self-collected cervicovaginal swabs for testing, which were collected in a mobile examination center.

Swabs were collected in approximately 85% of study subjects from the three vaccination eras. Those who chose to not submit swabs claimed to either have never engaged in sexual activities (oral, vaginal, or anal), or to have had more than 3 encounters, which “balanced out” the non-submitting population.

To read the study findings, click here.

#4: NIH Uncovers Another Piece to the Puzzle That is Herpes

There are two different viruses that can cause herpes: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), and herpes simples virus type 2 (HSV-2), and contracting either means infection for life. Herpes infection often leads to oral cold sores, genital lesions, and serious eye conditions, to name a few. In addition, HSV infection puts individuals at greater risk for becoming infected with or transmitting HIV. The virus is also known to cause neurologic complications in infants.

Previously, researchers from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, working alongside researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health came to an alarming discovery. These researchers found that infants born to women who had active genital herpes infections in the early stages of pregnancy are at increased risk of autism spectrum disorders.

More recently, researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH) were able to identify “a set of protein complexes that are recruited to viral genes and stimulated both initial infection and reactivation from latency.” In addition, the research team noted that some environmental factors can also reactivate the virus. Using mouse models, this group was able to pinpoint the exact compound that reactivated components of HCF-1 protein complexes, which may help initiate infection reactivation.

Read more about the NIH’s research here.

#3: MRI Scans Can Help Identify HIV Persistence in the Brain After Treatment

HIV spreads to the brain in some infected patients, and can only be detected using invasive methods. However, new findings from University College London (UCL) may change the game.

According to Ravindra K. Gupta, professor of infection and immunity at UCL, honorary consultant in infectious diseases at The Hospital for Tropical Diseases, UCLH Foundation Trust, and senior author of the study, detecting HIV in the brain is significant because, before treatment was available to stop the progression of infection to AIDS, many individuals who reached this stage often suffered from dementia, “and other problems in the brain.” In addition, researchers from University of California, San Francisco note that HIV can also have harmful effects on the central nervous system. Although antiretroviral therapy has helped decrease the prevalence of HIV-associated dementia, neurocognitive disorders are still common among HIV patients. In addition, Dr. Gupta explained that, HIV spreads to the brain in 10% to 15% of patients, “but in most cases the symptoms are down to other causes.”

Now, however, researchers from UCL recently published a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases which outlines how MRI scans can be used to detect if the HIV virus is present in brains of patients who are receiving “effective drug treatment.” Prior to this finding, HIV was detected in brains using lumbar puncture. This method involves “inserting a needle into the back to draw out the spinal fluid and test it for HIV,” which requires patients to stay in the hospital for hours.

Read more about how MRI scans can be used to detect HIV in the brain here.

#2: Spring Surge in Flu Activity Hits New England

A late surge in influenza activity in New England may have affected your favorite baseball team.

Although the major flu strain in circulation this year has been influenza A (H3N2), some states have reported a rise in influenza B cases. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than half of flu cases in the thirteenth week of the season were influenza B cases.

While the flu season did wind down in the rest of the country, two states continued to see an increase in influenza B activity, with thousands of cases being lab-confirmed. In addition, 9 players for a Major League Baseball team were sidelined due to the severity of their illness.

Healthcare experts recommended individuals in New England continue to receive the flu vaccine, even as the season comes to an end.

To read more about the flu and the affected baseball players, click here.

#1: Connecticut Reports its First Human Case of Powassan Virus

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common tick-borne infection in the United States is Lyme disease; however, another may be on the rise.

In November of last year, a 5-month-old male infant was diagnosed with Powassan virus, which caused him severe complications. Researchers described the case in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published April 21, 2017.

Powassan virus is an emerging tick-borne disease, and researchers are not yet aware how prevalent it is in humans in the United States. The CDC reports that from 2006 to 2015, there has been an average of 7 cases reported per year. It is believed that the virus is most often found in the Northeast, however, cases have been reported elsewhere.

On average, it takes 36 to 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease; however, the infant’s parents reported that, 2 weeks before the infant started presenting with symptoms, a tick had been attached to him for no more than 3 hours. The infant was reported to have been a “previously healthy male,” prior to experiencing fever, facial twitching, and seizures “that included rightward eye deviation and right arm stiffening,” for which he was hospitalized.

After several tests, and an MRI scan of the brain, which showed results consistent with encephalitis, the infectious diseases specialist suspected Powassan virus. After diagnosis and receiving seizure-controlling medications, the infant was sent home. However, the infant experienced complications again after a month of initial symptom onset.

This was the first case of Powassan virus reported in Connecticut. Healthcare providers in tick-endemic areas should consider testing for Powassan virus in patients who present with encephalitis.

Read more about this case here.