Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of July 16, 2017

#5: FDA Approves Vosevi to Treat Those Infected with Chronic Hepatitis C

Those with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotypes 1-6 (with mild cirrhosis or without cirrhosis) now have a new treatment option. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a new treatment option: Gilead Sciences’ fixed-dose, combination tablet, Vosevi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a staggering 2.7 to 3.9 million individuals in the United States suffer from chronic HCV. With new infections occurring every day—particularly in light of the ongoing opioid epidemic—a new treatment option is particularly welcome.

Vosevi is a combination of 2 previously approved drugs—sofosbuvir and velpatasvir—plus a new drug called voxilaprevir. It is the first treatment approved for patients who have been previously treated with the direct-acting antiviral drug sofosbuvir, or other drugs for HCV that inhibit NS5A proteins, the FDA said in a statement.

More on the FDA’s recent approval of Vosevi is available, here.

#4: Investigators Scrambling to Find Source of Utah-Arizona E. coli Outbreak

Investigators are scrambling to identify a potential common source for an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) along the Utah-Arizona border. The latest update provided by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) confirmed that there have been 11 associated cases thus far (5 in Utah and 6 in Arizona), with “the most serious cases” involving children, 2 of which have died.

E. coli are bacteria known to cause diarrheal illness,” David Blodgett, MD, MPH, SWUPHD Health Officer commented in the official press release. He continued, “Certain types of E. coli are more concerning than others. Some of the cases in this outbreak have been identified as the O157H7 strain, characterized by bloody diarrhea and serious complications. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families who have been affected.”

Anna Scherzer, MD, Mohave County epidemiologist, reported to the Mohave County Board of Health that 7 of the 11 infected individuals were hospitalized; 4 of the 11 were children that had hemolytic uremic syndrome and 2 of those children have died. Those 2 children lived in the same multi-family complex in Hildale, Utah; however, the children “were not related,” according to Food Safety News.

Read more about the Utah-Arizona E. coli outbreak, here.

#3: New Study Evaluates Sensitivity of HIV Screening Tests

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.1 to 1.3 million individuals in 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were approximately 40 million individuals living with HIV at the end of 2015. Only 60% of HIV-positive individuals know of their infection status; the remaining 40%, which amount to approximately 14 million individuals, are unaware of their status and can unknowingly transmit the virus.

For individuals at high risk of acquiring HIV, the WHO recommends pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is the daily use of antiretroviral drugs by HIV-negative individuals to prevent transmission. Individuals are typically tested for HIV before beginning PrEP, and are continually monitored as they continue to take antiretroviral drugs. Participants are usually screened for HIV through antigen/antibody immunoassays or through antibody rapid tests, both of which are serological tests that detect if antibodies produced in response to HIV antigens are present.

In a new study published in the Oxford University Press, lead investigator Constance Delaugerre, PharmD, PhD, and her colleagues, sought to evaluate the effectiveness of multiple HIV diagnostic tests. Participants consisted of patients in the ANRS IPERGAY study which was a randomized, double-blind PrEP trial for men who have sex with men, a group considered high-risk for infection.

Continue learning about the new study on HIV screening test sensitivity, here.

#2: Pet Owners May Be at Increased Risk for Tick-Borne Diseases

About 31% of households with pets reported finding a tick crawling on a human in the household, compared with only 20% of households without pets. In addition, 19% of those in pet-owning households found a tick attached to a human in the home; this occurred in 14% of households without pets. Study authors also note that about 20% of households with pets reported finding ticks on their pets. However, when looking at the prevalence of tick-borne diseases, the research team found no difference between pet-owning and households without pets—both reported 20% verified tick-borne illness.

“It makes sense that people who have pets, especially dogs, are more likely to be around fields or areas where ticks could be hanging out,” said Bruno Chomel, DrSc, DVM, MS, PhD, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, who was not part of this study. “Pets can bring these parasites into the human environment, especially if they sit on couches or sleep in beds with owners.”

Besides owning a pet, researchers also believe that certain characteristics of properties may correlate with the difference in numbers, such as owning a vegetable garden, compost pile, or log pile.

Read more about the risk of tick-borne diseases in pet owners, here.

#1: How Clean is Your Stethoscope?

Most practitioners do not give the cleanliness of their stethoscopes much thought, but the results of a new study from the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) are going to want to make them rethink their disinfection practices.

Hand hygiene remains the main focus of many infection control and prevention programs; however, according to the AJIC study, “microbiology data have shown that stethoscope contamination after a single exam is comparable to that of the physician's dominant hand.” The types of bacteria the scope could be contaminated with can include: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Clostridium difficile, and even vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

Previous studies have shown that hand sanitizer used to clean clinicians’ hands between encounters is also able to effectively clean stethoscopes. Still, “healthcare providers rarely perform stethoscope hygiene between patient encounters, despite its importance for infection prevention, [and the fact that] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that re-usable medical equipment, such as stethoscopes, must undergo disinfection between patients,” according to a recent email press release on the study. In fact, a previous study the researchers highlight found that stethoscope hygiene was performed in, “an observed rate of 4.6% of trainees at 3 academic medical centers for nonisolation rooms over an 11-month period.”

Learn more about the pathogens that could be on your stethoscope, here.